Monday, November 21, 2005

Won't you be my Neighbor?

I told myself last August that once I had a blog, I'd post this story. So pull up a chair and let me tell you a tale called: 27 Hour Police Standoff in My Neighborhood (A True Story).

Saturday, August 13, 2005. 10 pm. J and I return from a family outing with little more on our minds than watching some mindless late-night television. (Sadly.) What luck! Humanoids from the Deep is on one of the commercial-free channels.

11 pm. I notice a squad car parked across the street from our house. What's going on? A police officer wanders the sidewalk near our house, apparently searching for something. For love, his lost childhood, a dollar that blew from his open car window--only he knows for sure. I kneel on the carpet, spying between the 4-inch gap between our windowframe and the shade. I'm excited. And so is Jason, because Humanoids from the Deep features full-frontal nudity, it turns out.

11:30 pm. Another squad car pulls up a few houses away. And another. And we begin to hear this: a spiraling siren, kind of like that annoying car alarm loop, followed by an amplified behest from the local police department asking a particular gentleman to exit his house with his hands up. I don't know what house this is yet--perhaps ten houses down on the next block?

12:30 am, August 14. More squad cars show up, one of which blocks the street near our intersection. The cruiser blocking the street is left running with the flashers on. What a waste of gas! I grow bored with the whole ordeal, even though the officers shouting from their PAs have added a few new sound effects.

1 a. We go to bed. But sleep proves elusive, as the flashing lights from the squad car parked near our corner have turned our bedroom into a disco that reeks of cruiser exhaust, and I again reflect on what a waste of gas it is to leave a car running like that all night.

2 am. We fall asleep. Somehow.

4 am. We are jolted from bed by the sound of a bomb going off. For a minute I think I'm in Baghdad. J tells me this is something called a "percussive grenade," meant to startle Standoff Man from his house. I start to think Standoff Man is dead, maybe.

10 am. I haul my groggy self from bed, convinced that the whole ordeal will have resolved itself overnight. But no. And now, there is a new development: the swat team is here! And the neighborhood has converged around our house. Our retaining wall has the best seats--and the best view--in the neighborhood. I meet a friendly neighbor named Kelly. I call as many people as I can so they can hear about the latest craziness in my life.

noon. I make a pizza and joke with the neighbors about selling them beer and snacks. The whole standoff thing is turning into a great excuse for a block party. I eat my pizza on the porch so I don't miss anything. The swat team comes and goes. I have no idea what errands they're running.

1:30 pm. The power and water people come to cut Crazy-Standoff-Man from the grid. Maybe without ice cold Coors and sandwich fixins', he will crawl defeated from the house. I am even more convinced that he's dead. The little boys in the neighborhood spy on the swat team, lying behind bushes and taking pictures of them paparazzi-style. People offer the police cold beverages, which I think is a nice touch. We joke about phoning in a pizza delivery for Standoff Man, and how this could be an ingenious way for the police to nab him.

2:30 pm. The swat team guys hold up their shields to protect themselves when they run past a spot that may be in Standoff Man's line of fire. Three minutes later, a woman walking a baby follows, unprotected. There is a rumor that shots were fired by Standoff Man in the wee hours of the morning, but nobody can prove anything.

3:30 pm. It's becoming Monty Pythonesque and I tire of the crowd on my retaining wall. I also tire of the endless siren loops, so I leave for my parents' place. For the next few hours I drink pinot noir (2 glasses, tops) and bitch about my wacky neighborhood. I tell everyone to watch the local news.

8 pm. I return home, and the standoff is still going on. My corner has become the hot spot for middle school students to hook up. They ride their bikes in loopy figure eights and text message their friends, inviting others to the Standoff.

10 pm. We're on the news! Well, not me personally, but my corner. I watch the news anchor recapping the scene on the street for a cameraman, illuminated by bright white lights. I tune into her channel and watch her saying the same things on TV at the same time. There will never be another strange moment like this in my life, I bet.

11 pm. I join the neighbors down the block and try to see what's going on in the Standoff House. The lights are all out. I tell someone he's probably dead. We learn that the news anchor interviewed Standoff Man's downstairs neighbor, who'd been in a boating accident earlier in the day. This was another event that made the local news.

We go to bed around midnight, and by 1 am on August 15, it's over peacefully. Standoff Man came out with his hands up. All that foreplay and no climax, really.

So thank you, OPD. My neighborhood is once again safe for ordinary hooligans and pumpkin smashers.

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