My greatest fear as a homeowner, aside from undertaking a do-it-yourself plumbing project and being swept away in the resulting flood, is being arrested at gunpoint for breaking into my own house.
I recently found out that I could have ended up in the penitentiary after talking with an alarm company technician who nearly had the same thing happen to him.
“I once set off a panic alarm in a house where I was working,” said Tim, who was working at my house. “It was a silent holdup. I went outside and there were two cops with guns. I said, ‘Don’t shoot me, I’m only the alarm guy.’ I had to show them proof.”
“If that happened to me,” I said, “it would be because I locked myself out. And I wouldn’t have proof that it was my house.”
“You’d end up in jail,” said Tim, who had come over because the company ran a test on the alarm system and found that, unbeknownst to me and my wife, it hadn’t been working for a month and a half.
“If someone broke in - like you, for instance - the alarm would have gone off in the house, but it wouldn’t have registered in the control center, so we wouldn’t have known something was wrong,” Tim explained.
“So burglars could have made off with all our valuables?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Tim answered.
“The bad news is that we had no idea we weren’t protected,” I said. “The good news is that we don’t have too many valuables.”
It was news to me that, according to Tim, the phone company was to blame. After he inquired about our landline and I told him that we’d had trouble with it and that someone had come over and supposedly fixed it, Tim said, “I see this all the time. They unplug stuff and don’t even tell you they did that. It disconnects the alarm and you don’t know it.”
When Tim reconnected the alarm, it screeched at a decibel level that almost blew out the windows. He jumped. I nearly lost kidney function.
Tim pressed some buttons on the keypad and the screeching mercifully stopped.
“There,” he said with a sigh of relief. “You’re all set.”
When I told Tim that the phone was still acting up, he fixed that, too. But just to make sure, he called my cellphone from the landline. We stood five feet apart. The conversation went like this:
Tim: “Hi, Jerry.”
Tim: “Yes. Does the phone work?”
Tim: “Does the phone work?”
Me: “Who is this?”
Tim hung up and said, “It works.”
“You’re really handy,” I told him.
“I like to solve problems,” said Tim.
“I like to cause problems,” I noted.
“You could keep me employed,” Tim said. “It’s like the old saying - job security for guys who don’t know what they’re doing.”
Tim, who’s 53 and has been in the alarm business for 33 years, said his first job was as a bill collector.
“I hated it,” he said, adding that he used to repossess cars. “One guy came out yelling. Shortly after that, I quit. But I’ve had my share of crazy customers in this job, too. Like the guy who kept a gun under his bathroom rug.”
After determining that he’s made more than 50,000 service calls, Tim said, “I looked on my log and saw that I was here seven years ago. I knew your name rang a bell.”
“A bell?” I said. “Good one!”
Tim smiled and said, “Your house is safe. You don’t have to worry about being arrested.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Now I can tell my wife there’s no cause for alarm.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is the author of five books. His latest is “Every Day Is Saturday.” All are on Amazon. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.