Saturday, February 02, 2013

Long Wait, Longer Story: All is Well (an Explosion-Free Post)

Yeah, so this happened, but don't tell my mother, okay?

At 5:30 tonight, I was at Starbucks with Lady J., Ander was being dropped off from an all-day rehearse-for-Forensics-Competition-and-hang-out, and Aliza was home with Dubbadad.  

We should all have ended up at home together by six p.m.


I received a call from Ander on his friend's mom's cell phone saying they were having trouble getting to our house due to "all the police action."  Unfazed (I am such an Angeleno these days -- there is always something going on in nearby Hollywood), I told him I wasn't at home, and to please call Dubbadad to coordinate his drop-off.  

Lady J drove me three blocks west towards home, and at that point -- just before turning down our street -- I received a call from Dubbadad saying, you can't come home, we aren't at home, the police have evacuated us from the house, meet us in front of Radio Shack."

It seems that when he came out to fetch Alexander -- around the corner from the house, because the police had blocked off our street -- the police didn't want to let him back into the house to get Aliza.  He had to explain that she was eight, that he couldn't "call her on the phone" and have her meet him at Radio Shack (as they strongly suggested) because his phone was IN THE HOUSE with his EIGHT YEAR OLD CHILD.  They let him go get her, and get his phone.  He was freshly-showered, and only wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and slipper-boots.  Aliza didn't have time to grab a jacket.

Lady J let me off down the street from Radio Shack and I ran to my family.

The police said a "concerned citizen" had called in a report of a "suspicious package" directly in front of our house (outside the hedge, in the gutter).  They were going house to house and making sure nobody else left their homes -- apparently only our house was within the possible blast radius.  Swell.

Very, very quickly, long stretches of two main streets near our house were closed to traffic.  Yellow police tape and two police cars barred entrance to our side-street.  There was a weird, parade-day atmosphere, with about 15 uniformed police officers milling around, chatting, unspooling more yellow tape.  

The weather had turned cold and gusty, with spitting, sporadic showers.  We made our way across the main street to the pizza joint.  Along the way we met up with a clatch of hairstylists from our neighborhood haircuttery.  They were off work, but couldn't get to their cars beyond the yellow tape.  They were funny and exasperated, and complimented Ander on his stripe-y-sweatered-ever-Hatted outfit.  One of the hairstylists piped up and said, shyly, proudly, "You know, he's actually my client." 

We were an odd bunch of refugees who piled into the pizza joint.

We ordered pizzas and salads and macaroni and cheese, and assured Ander and Zaza that it was going to end up being nothing, and not to worry, and hey maybe there would be a bomb squad robot.  

Dubbadad and I took turns running across the street for updates.  

First report (Dub's turn): 
the bomb squad vehicle that had arrived first did not have the requisite x-ray equipment (???), and now everybody was waiting around for the bomb squad vehicle that did in fact have an x-ray machine on-board to make its way from the freeway during Friday night rush-hour.  

The second bomb squad vehicle (pictured above) finally arrived.  

By then it was seven thirty.  We had given in and let A&A watch "Phineas and Ferb" on Dubbadad's cell phone.  Batteries were running dangerously low.  Ginormous chocolate chip cookies were ordered.  Our favorite waiter sent over free soft-serve.  I started to wonder if I should call friends to drive us to Poppy and Grandma's for the night.

The hairstylists drank beer in their booth across the joint.  

Second report (my turn): 
the x-ray seemed to show something mechanical but not necessarily explosive. 

Just as I was about to run back across to the pizza joint, the good-humored, lanky police officer I was talking to heard something over his radio, said, "It's over," and started to walk away.  

I said, "Wait, what????  You're not going to tell me what it was???"  

Lanky Cop said, "I'm not allowed to tell you."  

I said, "WHAT???!!!!" 

Lanky Cop paused, and thought, and thought, and said, "It's law-enforcement-related.  It's kind of, um, spy stuff."

As I stood there, in front of the Radio Shack that backs our property, I had a very clear image in my mind of a brown cardboard box, slightly dented, chock full of Radio Shack security cameras and Radio Shack walkie-talkies and a Radio Shack Kids' 'Spy' Gear Room Alarm (tm)...

Lanky Cop told me everything would be wrapping up pretty quickly and that once I saw the police-car-barricade break up, we could go home.

Back to the pizza joint.  (I kept the hairstylists posted.)

Eventually the tape came down and the bomb squad SUV and one of the police cruisers drove away.  We made our way back across the street, finally heading home after a three hour 'dinner.'  

As we passed Radio Shack, Lanky Cop rolled down the window of the remaining cruiser and said (a bit gleefully?), "I can tell you what it was now!"

It was: 
a metal box -- fitted with strong magnets so as to hold onto the undercarriage of a car -- filled with "drug paraphernalia."


Apparently it fell off a car as it turned the corner past our house.*

Looking into my tired, worried face, Lanky Cop told me it could have happened anywhere, in any neighborhood, and that we are living in a good, safe place.

And oddly perhaps, I believed (and do believe) him. 

I felt very lucky to have been the accidental recipients of such a rapid and full-fledged response.  There had been nothing in our gutter when I stepped over it at four-thirty p.m.  A total stranger saw something fall off a car, and then made a call that sent out a lot of person-power to keep my family and my neighbors safe.

Plus, I didn't have to make dinner.  (Dubbadad wondered out loud if our home-owner's insurance covers our pizza joint bill.)

*update:  A friend of mine tells me that similar-sounding magnetic drug-caches are employed by police while training drug-sniffing dogs.  Wouldn't it be funny (?) if it had fallen off a police car? 


  1. My goodness! Glad it was all ok in the end, I can't imagine how stressful that must have been.

    1. Weirdly, not stressful. Weirdly -- dare I admit this? -- exciting.

      Maybe it was because Edward was so unflustered (if slightly perturbed). Maybe it's because I'm a Libra, and I tend to get mellow when everybody else is freaking out (and vice versa). Maybe it's because I am one of those odd people who feel comforted and safe around police and doctors and nurses. Maybe I just knew it was going to be nothing. (Maybe it WAS nothing! The whole thing could have been a drill!) Or -- most likely -- I knew I couldn't be freaked out with Alexander and Aliza looking on.

      Still: wishing for a cabin on a lake to be willed to me by a long-lost relative I never knew...

    2. Yeah, I can relate to not freaking out for the kiddos' sake. I'm generally good in an emergency (except for the time someone woke us up in the middle of the night knocking on our door and asking us to call the police because someone was breaking into the house behind ours and we stood there for a minute trying to figure out if breaking into an empty house warranted a 911 call or if there was a nonemergency number we should use. In our defense we were young and half asleep.)

      Glad it all turned out ok!

  2. What an evening - glad it all ended calmly and safely for everyone. And at least it's nothing that is specific to your street / house / neighbourhood - just one of these random things that could have happened anywhere - that's always a relief to know.

    1. Thanks for the soothing words, Ruth! (Every time something scary happens in America, Aliza asks when can we move to the U.K.????)