-- Rear Window
Working from home has vast rewards. No exorbitant gas prices to pay. No schedule on when to shower or eat or get dressed. I can visit my kiddies downstairs when I get a free moment as well as do the laundry, make some dinner, and maybe even watch a movie or show (current Netflix arrival: The Wire, Season One). As long as I get my work done, I can make my own hours. Sometimes, however, I do run into computer glitches that take a while to repair. So, while I am on hold with the help desk and imagine some Nick Burns type messing around with my virtual laptop, I can play Scrabulous, I can catch up on e-mail, and I can stare out of my window.
My window overlooks my backyard with its beautiful dogwood, two fig trees, some gourds that TP hung up as decoration, and various greenery which is quite lovely in the spring. It also overlooks my neighbor's yard on one side with its showroom quality selection of flowers, benches, and a grill atop a nice, warm wooden patio. It also overlooks my other neighbor's yard with its patchy weeds, cracked cement, and apparently an invitation for bums, vagrants, and potential thieves to come and make themselves comfortable. One day, I was privy to a youth using the fence as . . . a privy. Another day, I saw an older man root through the garbage can, take out a jean jacket, toss it back, take out a cell phone, start walking away but then tested it to see if it worked (since he spun around to throw it back into the trash, I can only assume that it did not). Yesterday, I saw a dread-locked dude slowly saunter up to the fence, pause, move forward to the garbage can, pause, and then disappear from my view because he approached the house itself and possibly over to the back porch. I was still on hold and therefore kept watching outside until the guy walked back across the alley, past the playground, and around the apartment complex. I sighed and went back to work.
After a short while, however, a movement outside caught my eye. When I looked down, I saw the dude returning, this time with a knife. He took no pains to conceal it. He moved forward with purpose. I stood up and got as close to the window as I could without falling out of it. I had the phone in my hand and was debating whether I should call 311 to report the suspicious activity when the dude must have sensed someone was watching because he looked up and saw me. He stood there for a moment like a deer caught in the headlights. I moved a fraction of an inch closer to the window and brought the phone to my ear. I knew he could see me and he knew I could see him. He finally broke the look by lowering his head. He moved towards the house for a moment and then, with some detritus (was it a pipe? a tube?) in his hand, crossed the alley and did not return.
My 80-something old neighbor had some medical condition (heart attack?) that required an ambulance to whisk him away sometime in the cold months (February? this is how I remember things now - not by dates but by seasons). His family reported that he is unable to take care of himself alone in this house and thus is not returning. As a result, they came by a few times every week to clear the house out to (a) get his new place set up with this stuff and (b) potentially sell it. It has been a long time, however, since anyone has checked up on it and the area has fallen into disrepair. I went ahead and called 311 to report the incident on the chance that the dude returned but there was no follow up, no call back, nada.
I couldn't help but think of the Broken Windows concept which I had first heard of when reading The Tipping Point. I really hope it doesn't come to that. I mean, we have a brand-spanking new Harris Teeters, we have easy access to TWO, count 'em, TWO metro stations, and new businesses popping up every other day in Adams Morgan. At the same time, we have teens loitering noisily at all hours in the front and back, shady characters populating the alley and the playground at night, and all of the bars on 18th street spewing drunkards and criminals onto the streets. For every beautiful arrangement of front yard foliage I hear a story of a shooting or mugging. Is it time to put money into renovating our basement and installing a nice patio in the back for some BBQ? Or is it time to put money into the bank and start thinking of moving out to the 'burbs?