Monday, June 3, 2013

Front Porch Hospitality

Living where we do gives us interesting access to all sorts of people. Students and employees walk, bike, and skateboard by. Families walk up the sidewalk, having parked on a side street to visit some campus attraction. Older couples park here to walk to a church near campus, one with limited parking on site. Homeless people wander by. Lots and lots of homeless people wander by.

I don't blame them. Compared to the bustle of Guadalupe, our street is an oasis of quiet and calm. There are a lot of older houses with big porches, many of which are businesses and are closed on the weekend. There is a dentist's office down the street with a rather roomy porch that is deserted on Saturday and Sunday, and I've seen people sleeping there often during the day. Apparently, our house was a popular hang-out at some point. A gentleman told James this: that he remembers spending a lot of time on our porch before it got the fancy tile treatment.

Our bedroom is at the front of the house, and equal distance from the street as the front of the porch. This means it is about 3 feet from the sidewalk. I've been surprised how many people have telephone conversations at 3:00 AM. But they do. And sometimes, they pause, chat, laugh, and spend entirely too much time and volume on their conversations just feet from where we are trying to sleep. Also, I've heard two or groups of people walking by and chatting animatedly at 4:00, and other weird hours of the night. Once, a girl was trying to convince a guy that what he was wearing looked cute and was a good choice. At 4:00 AM. He should have been wearing pajamas! Or stumbling by, barely conscious. Nope. They were quite chipper.

James has met several interesting people on the porch. There was a homeless girl who'd been refused a seat on Megabus because of what she insisted was her service dog, and whose boyfriend had already been allowed onto the bus and left her. James ended up walking around the neighborhood with her, trying to figure out where she dropped her boyfriend's heavy bag.

Then there were Kenneth and Veronica, an expecting homeless couple whom James thought might be a good bet to live in my trailer after I moved. We ended up referring them to a place that specializes in 20-something families, but those encounters led to the decision to donate the RV to Mobile Loaves and Fishes.

In fact, when I came home yesterday, James was sitting on the porch talking to Kyle, a tall, tan man with a grey-white mane and shocking blue eyes, who had drawn up a sound wave schematic and had a plan of what to do with it if he could just get to Montreal... or Arizona.

When James and I were bike riding Saturday, a lady "about Nana's age" knocked on the door and asked Daphne (whose computer is right at the window, so it's difficult to pretend not to be here) if she could please throw a small bag of garbage in our trash can since she was helping someone across the street move out and they'd already taken the trash can.

This morning, I woke up at about 3:15, hearing what sounded like someone hammering at something about three times, then stopping, then going again. In my brain, I pictured someone with a nail on the sidewalk, but then when I tried to make sense of it, I wondered if it weren't someone with a nail trying to break our bike chains. That's a crazy thought, however, because my bike is garbage and no one would want to steal it. (James' is better, but it still seemed unlikely.)

After this went on for a few minutes, I got up and looked out the window. The sound stopped, and I didn't see anyone out there. I looked sideways to the porch and the only thing moving was a shadow on our carrot planter. It was organic-looking enough that I thought it might be the trees beside the house.

I came into the living room and looked out one window, seeing nothing. I checked the front door... and it was unlocked. Before we'd gone to bed last night, I had locked the door. James went to the door about three minutes later and I thought he was giving me a hard time by locking it "better" than I did, but I guess maybe he didn't notice that I locked it, and he just unlocked it in trying to lock up for the night. So I engaged the deadbolt and the knob and went back to bed.

Then the sound started again. Tink, tink, tink. Tink, tink, tink.

This time, James heard it. (I'm a light sleeper, but he only tends to wake up if I'm restless or wake him.) He got up and came into the living room. He looked out the other window and said, "There's someone on our porch."

When this happens at 3:30 AM, it's scary and there's not a lot of time to decide whether to think rationally or to call 911. Some glass broke right then, and I called 911. They asked whether I needed police, fire, or EMT. Then I told them that someone had just broken glass on our porch. How many windows were broken? I don't think it was a window. It might be the porch light. I don't know. What does he look like? I can't see him. Then James said he was just chilling on the porch. He had sat in one of our chairs and was hanging out.

I saw him get up and walk off, so was able to tell the dispatcher what he was wearing and where he was headed. Then she asked questions about weapons (yeah, we have knives... Like table knives? Uh. No. Not unless you're feeling extremely excessive about cutting stuff.) and pets (we had to lock the cats in our bedroom and they did not enjoy that) and said the cops were here and would announce themselves.

I hung up, but a good two minutes passed with nothing. We turned on the porch light, which worked, went outside... and just as I was about to call 911 back so that the police didn't charge an unsuspecting house, they came up the alley.

They had gotten the guy, and just wanted a little information from us. They reminded us what James had already been told, that this was a former transient place, and that old habits die hard.

When I went out to sweep this morning, I could see that he'd drunk and smashed two Corona bottles. He'd hung out in the chair and smoked a cigarette, enjoyed a drink, then decided to break the bottles. I get that the sound is satisfying, but that's pretty thoughtless in case any of his peers came by with less-than-stellar shoes.

Still, we weren't in danger at any point, so that's a relief. And Daphne slept through the whole thing, which, coupled with safety, is a big reason we put her in the back corner of the house.

Honestly, the majority of the time, it's pretty quiet on our side street. But it's rarely dull.



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