Several weeks ago, I woke up to the sound of gunshots outside my bedroom window. I jumped out of bed and peered out the window to see what was going on. Police vehicles surrounded the house next door, including one of those black SWAT vans, and police in body armor prowled the yard, converging on the home with their guns raised. Now, the house next door had actually been vacant for a few weeks, so my first thought was that someone had set up a meth lab inside or something. But no police officer had knocked on our door that morning. Surely if we were in danger the police would have informed us. I called the police department.
A woman answered the phone. “How may I help you?” she asked in a very flat tone.
“Yes,” I said, “I was wondering if you could tell me why there are a bunch of police cars surrounding the house next door?”
Same flat tone. “Where do you live?”
That question caught me off guard because it kind of implied that a) the reason for the presence of armed police officers in riot gear depended on my location, but more importantly, b) there were MULTIPLE possible answers. Meaning there were police officers in riot gear elsewhere in my relatively small city?
“Uh…” I said.
“Sir, what is your address?”
I gave her my address.
And then I was listening to the police department information line, which provided all kinds of useful tidbits like, “If this is an emergency, please do not wait on the line. Hang up and dial 9-1-1.” So I started to wonder, is this an emergency? Should I wait on the line or hang up and dial 9-1-1? And then I started to wonder why it was taking her so long. Then she was back.
“It’s a training exercise.” Still the same flat tone.
In fact, I think she would have sounded exactly the same if she had instead told me that police had tracked the most dangerous serial killer in the world to the house right next door to mine.
“A training exercise?” I asked.
“Can I help you with anything else?”
No goodbye. No have a nice day. Just, click.
So the events next door went from scary to entertaining. I got ready for work, and listened to the breaking glass, the mini explosions, the banging, the shouting, and watched the officers race about from my window. When it was all over, I went and took some pictures of the aftermath.