Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Tale of Woe

Elizabeth Zelvin

A house in the Hamptons—how glamorous it sounds! Our flimsy little house (800 square feet—yes, that’s two zeroes—in its half acre of crabgrass, sand, and rocks (“For this, my grandfather left Ireland?” my husband said when we first tried to dig a garden twenty years ago) is about as far as you can get from a celebrity mansion on the dunes. That’s probably why it was targeted and broken into over the winter, as we found when the plumbers came to turn the water on in April. No massive doors, no live-in caretaker, no electronic security system. We think the thieves may not have been too bright, because it seems they didn’t realize that a house this cheap would contain nothing worth stealing. They broke a window, jimmied two locks, and they were in. They opened a few drawers, left a once-expensive camera and its lenses lying on the bed—not digital, so why bother?—and got away with my jewelry (one pair of earrings I didn’t like much and a bunch of costume jewelry that I bought at yard sales) and my husband’s work boots, for which he paid $40 at Kmart fifteen years ago.

So we had more visitors at the house that weekend than we’ve had in years: first the cops, then the locksmith and the glass guys (who might or might not charge enough for us to make our deductible on the homeowner’s insurance, which covers vandalism but not theft), and the specialists we needed to fix all the other problems that materialized while the house was closed: the refrigerator guy who confirmed that our fridge (old enough to vote but until now reliable) had died and the cable guy, who restored our service after a tense twenty-four hours of Internet deprivation. We also did more visiting than usual: to one neighbor to leave our milk in their refrigerator and pick it up each morning, to another to leave the key to our new deadbolt locks. Once we could get online, we had to shop for refrigerators, which cost a bundle and, according to the repair guy, break down after three years nowadays. We have to replace a broken hinge on the gate to our deer fence, but after studying the nibbled-down shoots of daylilies in the garden, I concluded that the deer, not the human intruders, are to blame for that bit of vandalism. Did I mention that we closed the house and drained the water to save money and avoid winter damage? Well, the pipes didn’t burst this year—but I’m not at all sure we came out ahead.

On the glass half full side, the vandalism didn’t get ugly, as could easily have happened. We didn’t lose anything of value (the TV also being old and cheap and the computer having spent the winter in the city). The garden is filled with daffodils, the forsythia are in bloom, and I’ll be only a ten-minute drive from the beach all summer.


Sheila Connolly said...

Can I hate you? I love beaches. Spouse, having been born and raised in Indiana, doesn't get it.

When we lived in the Bay Area years ago, our house was broken into several times. We lived on the fringes of a "bad" area, and also across from a BART station and its large parking lot. The last time we probably interrupted them in the act, since we found our television sitting by the front door.

Now we live in a Victorian, and I joke that anyone with a dull butter knife could open a window (authentic period latches) and get in. No need to break anything.

Glad it wasn't any worse for you!

Sandra Parshall said...

Having someone invade your home -- or second home -- must be one of life's most frightening experiences. I'm glad it wasn't worse, and I'm glad it didn't happen while you were in residence. (And I envy you for your closeness to the water too.)