Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Backyard surprise


It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

The house alarm had just ceased its loud pulsating screech, when we were surprised to see her walking through the side yard of the house next door. She was my peer age-wise, probably in her sixties, casually and nicely dressed in dark pants and a button-down blouse. She called out to us at our backyard party, noticing our stares - "Have you seen any work being done on this house? I'm with DC xyz" and she flashed a nominal badge at us, opening and holding up her cellphone case and turning it our way to inspect. We were too far away to make out the details. I am so unfamiliar with DC bureaucracy, I did not grasp the acronym she tossed out, but I could tell she was all business, definitely investigating something amiss.

I moved closer towards the fence, intent on chatting with her; I'm around here a lot and have watched the construction over many months. This is the house next door to my son and daughter-in-law, and I'm frequently visiting, to babysit. This day was different, it was this past Sunday and we were having a beautiful Easter brunch in the backyard, on an absolutely perfect spring day. 

Easter Sunday, hmm - that seems like a strange day for a DC employee to be out and about investigating something regarding the house next door, which is under construction.

My son quickly responded to her official question, before I could speak -

"What's up?"

She continued, "There's a stop work order on this, I need to know if there's been work going on recently."

My son continued discreetly, cautiously, "I'd have to think . . ."

"Well, let me know. Contact us if you have any information." She disappeared back through the side yard and to the street as quickly as she arrived.

I was immediately confounded. It's my instinct to just share, overshare really, to trust people and tell them what they need to know. I was going to her all about the building process I've been watching with my granddaughters, it's been fun and exciting to watch. Truly, I felt surprised that my son wasn't more forthcoming. I looked at him quizzically - "What was that?"

My son quickly explained to all of us, "So that was weird. Plus, someone broke into the house [the one under construction] and stole tools just a week or two ago."

My son immediately phoned the contractor of the house, who we've all befriended through this process. Hard to miss a new home being constructed next door, when everyone is home for a pandemic. We've watched the house grow. 

In fact, there is no stop work order. 

In all likelihood, this woman was actually 

deceiving us
covering her tracks
keeping us off-guard
a fraud

Oh my!

Yes, when the alarm went off at the outset, the woman must have realized we had noticed her and she offered a plausible, fast-talking cover story. 

I guess I've never really thought about what a 'goldmine' an empty house under construction can be.

My naivete amazes me. I was so ready to make small talk with her, have a happy little neighborly conversation. I wonder if I was at ease because she was basically my age? I've always believed we old gals are virtually invisible to the rest of the world - the perfect time to stage a heist! 

I always want to assume the best of people. This really stunned me.



  1. Oh My is right! We had that happen a year ago in a house down the block. The folks tried staying in the half build house for the weekend but were confronted by one of the work men who cam by to do a bit of extra work on a Saturday. We are learning to be careful just like you!

  2. What a story. It is strange for a government worker to appear on Easter. Do t they typically close shop before lunch on Fridays? The contractor needs to install surveillance equipment and not leave tools on his building site. It’s disarming to have one’s faith in people shaken.

  3. Marlene, what a great retelling of this story. Your son was so wise to be suspicious! I would so totally have started a conversation with her exactly like you planned to. I'm glad this time, the heist was thwarted!