Fear and Open Doors


On Thursdays I don’t have to be at work until early afternoon. After three morning shifts earlier in the week, I always view the late start as an endless stretch of opportunity. Before getting out of bed I plan all the things I will do before leaving early and leisurely walking to work.

Most Thursdays I’m lucky if I accomplish one thing on my list before glancing at my watch, realizing that I’m going to be late, grabbing my purse, rushing outside, and power-walking uphill so fast that my calves ache and I’m dripping with sweat by the time I arrive.

Every week I promise myself the next will be different and then it’s not. Even the days when I’m finally keeping good on my promise and ready to leave early something gets in the way– my tortoise decides to relieve himself in the messiest of ways (I like to call it poop painting), I remember that there’s a sink full of dishes left over from lunch, or I’ve misplaced my glasses and my contacts just aren’t cooperating.

Today was no different.

R:  197 G:  255 B:  110 X:42052 Y:17088 S:    0 Z:  271 F:  252

I slung my purse over my shoulder, slipped my cell phone in the back pocket, and felt around for my keys. My keys that I always place in the unzipped back pocket so they won’t end up lost. I fished around blindly for a few moments before I realized they weren’t there.

A moment of panic. If the one thing that I accomplished on my list this morning hadn’t been an extra long yoga and meditation session I probably would have spiraled out of control and begun pacing around frantically trying to find them. Instead I paused and asked myself when I saw them last. Had I gone back out in the evening after returning home the day before? I remembered immediately.

My boss had brought me a handful of fresh mint with the roots still on the day before. I’d remembered the bag of compost that I’d bought weeks before and forgotten in my seldom-used trunk and decided to put some around the mint after I added it to my garden. After planting the mint I’d gone back into my house, reached into the back pocket of my purse for my keys, carried them out to my trunk, lifted up the bag of compost, closed the trunk and checked to be sure it was secure, then left my keys lying on the lid clearly visible so that I wouldn’t lose them or forget to bring them in.

I forgot to bring them in.

As it occurred to me this afternoon I set down my purse and ran out to my driveway. My car was still there (good sign). I pleaded silently the whole way, “Please be there… please be there…please be there.”

They were there, sitting on the top of the trunk just as I’d left them, catching the sunlight.

DSCN4469I wish I could say that was the first time I’d left my keys in a compromising position, but it’s not. I’ve left my keys inside the door lock of my house overnight so many times that it’s the first place I look when I’ve lost my keys. It’s happened where I am now and in houses I’ve lived in before. It is both the best (easy to find, right where you need them) and worst (come on in, the door’s locked but here’s the key!) place to lose a set of keys.

If you read my last post you’ll know why I’d be extra concerned about anyone having access to my keys (and my home). If you know me well you probably know how border-line obsessive I can be about safety.

I don’t just lock my door, I turn the handle to make sure it’s secure and then turn it again before going to bed for the night. I look over my shoulder regularly wherever I’m walking. I sit facing the entryway with my back to the wall in restaurants and meeting rooms. I prefer the exit row on airplanes not because of the extra leg room, but because I trust myself to take action in an emergency. While everyone around me plugs away on their phones before the plane takes off I study the laminated trifold in the seat pocket and watch the flight attendants review the safety procedures even though I could perform them from memory.

It’s my first June in my current home and my first full summer in North Carolina. It’s been in the 80s for weeks. My tiny cottage that stays closed up during the day while I’m at work feels like a sauna by the time I get home. I push open the windows (the ones that open that is) and the back slider for little relief. I’m not complaining, the weather was one of the main reasons I decided to move from Massachusetts, I’m just noticing that it’s hot.

DSCN4470Every night for weeks just before I go to sleep I’ve been engaging in an ongoing conversation with myself. My home was built on a hill. My entry door is ground level, but the other side of my house that faces the street is about eight to twelve (gauging distance is not a strength of mine) feet off the ground. The sliding back door opens up to a porch that overlooks the parking lot below and the mountains in the distance. It’s a beautiful view.

Every night I stand by the slider door and debate whether or not I should close and lock it for the night. I stand on the threshold feeling the coolness from outside contrast with the humid indoors. I walk barefoot out onto the porch and look down, assessing the distance. I could climb the long poles from the ground up, I surmise, and someone else wanting to get in could too. At least that’s how it looks from above. I’ve long wanted to test my theory and attempt to climb up in the day time, but not wanted to risk injury for the sake of proving the crazy, prepared-for-disaster part of myself right.

Every night I decide that though it’s significantly hotter with the slider closed, it’s safer. An open door seen from the street could be an opportunity to someone willing to scale up the long porch poles and into my house.

Which leads me back to the irony of my keys in the door or on the trunk of my car. I’ve left them out in the open regularly and (luckily) never had someone let themselves in. Could it be that, unlike an open door, keys are harder to detect from a distance? Is it that both of the entry doors on the homes I’ve lived in were in the back of the house, hidden from the street, accessible only from the driveway? Or is it that the amount of people who would see a set of keys or an open door as an opportunity to commit a crime are few even though the media would have us believe they are many?

What drives someone to commit theft, assault, or murder? Is it premeditated or spontaneous? Are there people who drive around neighborhoods at night looking for open windows and doors or do they target at random out of desperation despite how difficult or easy it is to get in? Am I trying to simplify something that cannot be simplified? Each person who commits a crime is an individual who cannot be stereotyped into a certain set of attributes.

I have more questions than answers. More fear than I’d like to admit. I’m not naive enough to believe there will be a day when we can all sleep soundly with our doors and windows wide open, but I’m weary enough to wish it were a realistic expectation.


3 thoughts on “Fear and Open Doors

  1. John S. Caruso

    As usual your writing kept me in suspense as to what was to become of your house keys. It was a relief to read things worked out OK. As to climbing up to your deck it’s not worth the risk of injury to see if you could make it. Like your brother once said locks on doors and windows keep out the honest people only. If a thief wants in they’ll find a way but most thief’s look for there easiest prey which are the least possibility of them being caught breaking into a car or house or even robbing someone!
    Boris looks good by the way he seems to have enjoyed your traveling very well. Once again Thanks to the pleasure of reading your writing it made my day

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