Why I Lock Up My House


Copyright 2002 by Jon Bondy, All Rights Reserved

You may send copies of this to individual friends, but you may not publish this work without permission

Jon Bondy, jon@jonbondy.com


I grew up in the suburbs, near New Haven, Connecticut.  The lot next to mine was a cow pasture until I was in high school, so I guess you would call it semi-rural.  We locked our house religiously, so I always figured that was the correct drill.

I went to college near Philadelphia, and when I rented an apartment, and even when I bought a house there, I also locked up every time.  It was funny, moving into that house.  For the first few weeks, I locked the house, and I locked the car; I’m sure I would have locked up something else if I’d had it.  But after a month or so, I relaxed, and at least I stopped locking the car.  I don’t know why it seemed safer after a few weeks, but it did.  Strange how one’s mind works at times.  Sometimes I’d return home to discover that I’d forgotten to lock the house; once, I even returned to find my keys in the lock.  I entered the house tentatively, wondering if there’d be any furniture left at all.  Somehow, the thieves (who I imagined living in the bushes in front of my house) were never quick enough to take advantage of my mistakes.  I was one lucky guy.

I moved to rural Vermont about ten years ago. I now live less than an hour south of Canada, and about 30 minutes north of Burlington.  My nearest neighbor is about ½ mile away; the next nearest is almost a mile away.  I like it that way.

I live on an unmaintained dirt road, which starts out pretty rough and becomes impassible just a little bit past my house.  True, the hyper-testosterone types with their huge 4WD trucks manage to get up that road, in good weather, but only one or two of them manage it each week. Each year, during mud season, at least one truck gets stuck in the mud up to all four hub caps when an over-optimistic young stud pushes Muthah Nature one time too many.  I’m always amused that driving a truck through mud is seen as some sort of stunning achievement by the yokels, but, then again, I’m a Flatlander, and I know not of what I speak.

Things are pretty quiet up my way, and I like it like that.

When I first moved to Vermont, I didn’t know whether I should lock my house up any more, or not.  Most of the neighbors never lock their houses.  They just trust each other.  That doesn’t mean that you just walk into strangers’ homes, though.  In Vermont, you don’t need a license to own a gun, and you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed handgun, so everyone knocks and calls out pretty loudly before going into someone’s house.

I even went so far as to ask my insurance agent whether my insurance coverage would suffer if the house was robbed but I had failed to lock it up.  He said that they didn’t care about that kind of thing up here.

If you lock a house up in the winter, and someone breaks a window to get in, you can end up with some pretty serious damage if the pipes freeze.  I figured I’d leave the house unlocked, just like my neighbors, and be grateful that the door was not broken, the windows were not broken, and the pipes had not frozen, even if the house had been burglarized.  Of course, there always is the question of whether you should take a different approach each season, where you lock during the summer, but not during the winter.  But then it is not clear exactly when the transition occurs between summer and winter.  Rather than fine-tune those increasingly complicated rules, I just adopted the no-lock policy, and stuck to it.

I recently decided to acquire the machines to build a metal shop.  I have an old 20x30 foot shed across the driveway, and I started filling it with tools.  A small lathe/mill.  I returned that and bought a “real” lathe.  Then a drill press.  Returned that and got a bigger drill press.  A mini mill, returned for a larger mill.  A band saw, returned for a larger band saw. A grinder, a belt sander, another band saw.  You get the picture.

When I was in the mood, I would start a fire in the wood stove in the shed, give it an hour or so to take an edge off of the chill, and head on out there.  I’d be there 2, 3, even 4 hours, and then come back into the house.  I’ve built two Stirling engines so far, with two others in the works.  I have one sitting on my wood stove all winter, blowing the warm air across the room.

One day, I wandered into the house, having spent a few hours out in the shed.  It was a cool and rainy day during hunting season, in November.  It was not a day I would have wanted to spend out in the woods, but, as I said, I’m a Flatlander.

Eventually, I went into the bathroom, and glanced at the toilet bowl.  It was full of turds.   No toilet paper, but turds.

My first reaction was the kind of revulsion one feels when confronted with a pile of shit.  I mean, it’s not one of my favorite things.  I flushed.

I turned away, but then began to wonder about the origin of the fecal mass.  As I’ve grown older, I have become increasingly forgetful, but I could not, for the life of me, imagine how I could have “forgotten” about such an event.  Sure, you can forget to flush, but can you forget to wipe?  There had been no toilet paper in that bowl.  What had started out as an unpleasant incident began to bother me.  Where had that crap come from?

At first, I wondered about the cat.  Roo is a huge cat, bigger than any other I’ve known.  Everyone who meets him comments on his size.  But he seems to be pretty much addicted to pooping out of doors, or, in a pinch (meaning, when it’s cold out), he will use the cat litter box.  The cat litter was right next to the bathroom in question, and I’d never seen him jump up on the toilet seat to take a dump, so I was loath to attribute the pile to him.  I was beginning to wish I’d preserved the specimen, so I could perform some DNA analysis on it.  Perhaps all I needed to do is train Roo to flush, and the question of the Phantom Turds would never have arisen.  Maybe.

OK, so it probably was not the cat.  Could it have been a hunter?  Maybe I surprised a hunter as I approached the house, and he ran out the back door, back into the woods, pants down, butt besmirched.

Interesting theory.  There is no way that anyone sitting on that pot could have seen me approaching the house.  And that bathroom is right next to the door I entered from the shed, so it’s not as if the Phantom Shitter would have had time to hear the door open and make his stealthy escape, pants around his ankles, poopy butt wiggling..

Maybe I didn’t surprise him.  Maybe he came into the house and took a dump, but left without wiping, not by accident, but on purpose.  Sure.  That’s a likely scenario.  We’re yokels out here, but there are limits to the kind of rural fun we are prone to.

The whole thing began to prey on me.  For days I would run different ideas through my head, trying to figure out what had happened.  I even began to doubt my own recollection of the events.  I wished I had saved samples, or at least had taken photographs.  So, it has come to this: I am berating myself for not taking close-up photographs of some turds in the bowl.  Sheesh.

I finally decided that a policy change was required.  Now, when I leave the house, I lock it, even if I’m just going across the driveway to the shed. I don’t want to take any chances.  Because if someone is insane enough to have performed the Phantom Shit, who knows what other depraved acts he might commit.  I mean, clearly this person does not live life by the rules that the rest of us adopted when we were young.

Sometimes I wonder whether it was one of those thieves, who managed to follow me from Philadelphia, out from under that bush.  Maybe they’re annoyed that they missed the opportunity when I left those keys in the lock, years ago.  There’s lots of cover in my 25 acres of woods, so I don’t even try to watch for them any more.