Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time to lock up


By JOELLEN COLLINS

After more than a generation of living in this valley, I have finally decided to lock my doors. I don't know whether this signals a change in our community or a change in my naivete in thinking that I would never have to do this in our town.

I have often joked that if someone really wanted expensive goodies, there are many more places to find them than in my rather humble abode. Surely, a third-floor condominium with loads of neighbors would not attract someone as easily as one of the area's many empty mini-lodges. Surely, also, as I have aged, I'm not the kind of bait that might appeal to a rapist or someone with a grudge. I felt safe years ago with my kids when we lived in East Fork and I could look out my window and see them running in the fields with their friends. Actually, I have bemoaned the change in play venues for this current generation, remembering when we felt fine as kids running out at night in our neighborhood to play kick the can. I'm not sure whether the fear many current parents feel is due to the omnipresent coverage by the media of abductions and violence, or whether, indeed, danger has escalated to the point where we must be constantly aware of potential threats.

In thinking about my disappointing decision, I do remember being afraid as a young girl and adult of home "invasions." As a teenager, I lived off an alley in Burbank, Calif., parallel to a thoroughfare of much traffic and on a street prone to rumors about people choosing that path to escape whatever misdemeanors they had committed. I hated babysitting, even next door, imagining every rustle of a leaf as that of an evil footstep. When my mother and I were alone for a couple of weeks while my dad traveled, we set a "man-trap" over the front door—a cleverly rigged bucket of water placed on a ladder and attached on a rope to the doorknob. For several nights we huddled together and waited to hear the rush of noise as the supposed perpetrator of recent rapes in the neighborhood tried our door. Short of being able to dial 911, we did have the local police number taped to the phone by my mother's bed.

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So I understand the fear of someone encroaching on our sanctuaries. There are times when that trepidation is justified. Years ago, Richard Ramirez, a rapist-strangler, terrorized Los Angeles, and when I visited there, I experienced the same anxiety as others by keeping my windows locked up, even in a heat wave. The difference now is that I live in Ketchum and have always enjoyed the laissez-faire attitude of its residents and the ease at which I walk alone at night to various events.

Several months ago, my neighbor was burglarized in the middle of the night. These expert bicycle thieves came in the moonless dark and, out on the street where anyone might see them, they managed to cut the locks and get away with taking my neighbors' prized bikes. I never even heard the scrape of metal on metal, a tribute to their expertise or my solid sleeping. So I believe my children when they remind me that it is time to be cautious.

Oddly, the reason I am now carrying extra keys with me has nothing to do with robbery. I, "sweet and wonderful person I am," have incurred the wrath of someone who has threatened to come into my home and get even with me. I don't know entirely what that means, but if someone did enter my condo and let my dog out, that would probably be revenge enough. I don't think she would survive the highway nearby, as I always keep her on a leash.

Paranoia aside, I do realize I should obey my daughters' warnings, while I just bemoan the change in my consciousness. I have always wanted to welcome people to my home, not lock them out. I have bragged about our valley where we have experienced a sense of trust about our neighbors and other residents. However, a community where everyone watches out for each other may also act too quickly to prevent "interlopers" from joining us. Perhaps we should try to maintain a community where we are also wary of whom we keep out in the name of security.




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