My car alarm went off today in the most in opportune time.
It’s always embarrassing when all those beeps and sirens and horns sound, but even more so when it happens outside Einstein’s Bagels where a group of people are enjoying a quiet breakfast while sitting on the outdoor tables.
As I struggled to silence the alarm, I tried to look on the bright side. I remembered times that had my alarm gone off would’ve been three times as embarrassing. Like at the Swap Shop’s Drive-in movie. Like at my father’s burial. Like at the hourly rate motel.
Funny how the mind plays a memory association game. One small action sets off a series of thoughts. One thought leads to another, which leads to a memory and before you know it you’ve traveled back in time, when you used to sneak out of your house without your armless aunt suspecting any foul play.
Well, at least that’s how my mind works.
My parents worked from home. They would wake up, have breakfast, get dressed up in formal business attire, walk out the front door, walk half way around the house and walk in a side door that led to their office. They worked all the time. Their clients came over all the time, at any time. They walked back outside and through the front door for lunch and dinner and bathroom breaks – even though the office had a full bath. The monotony of their routine was so boring that I just bored myself re-telling it.
To shake things up, my parents purchased a second home. Nothing says let’s be adventurous like, let’s just getaway to our other house. They were accountants. What more could you ask for?
Anyway, my parents would leave Friday afternoons and return Sunday mornings and I would go with them – until I became of age. However, this didn’t mean I was left alone – no, of course not. This only meant I was left under the loose supervision of one great-aunt – the one that is missing an arm.
The armless, as I affectionately call her, would sleep over my house. In effect, killing my ability to stay out or have wild parties. I mean I guess I could have, but she was such a hassle. So much explaining. I remember the one and only time I stayed out and didn’t come home, she paged me at 3:30 in the morning. I was in no condition to speak to anyone, but I called her anyway. I thought she might’ve set the house on fire or couldn’t remember the number to 911 or both. After all, she was a recent immigrant. Turns out all she wanted was to ask me if I was coming home. I said no and the next morning, my grandmother – her sister – was waiting for me on the porch of my house.
Now, let me explain something. My grandmother is never to be bothered. Ever. Especially for crap like, I didn’t come home last night. There is nothing more horrifying than your Miami Beach grandmother, who has now missed her Saturday morning swim so she’s not happy, sitting on the steps of your front porch while you fall out of your car with smeared mascara and a broken heel in your hand.
From that moment on I knew that (A.) the armless was never to be trusted and (B.) I had to devise a plan that would allow me to sneak out of my house undetected.
And, I did. I was quite proud of it, too.
The plan would begin at or around midnight. That would be the time the armless would start snoring. I could hear her clearly from my room. At first it was a light snore, like a gargle and then it would turn steady and loud, like someone turning on and off the garbage disposal. That was my cue to leave my room.
With flip-flops on my feet and dress shoes in hand, I would close the door to my room behind me. The armless was never allowed to knock on my door while the door was closed. My temper made her nervous. And I believe I had threatened her with the several guns in the house previously. So, closing the door was key.
I couldn’t just walk out the front door because that door was dead-bolted from the inside out. If the armless would get up in the middle of the night or if I wasn’t home by the time she woke up, she would know I was out. The only option I had was to use the back door.
My childhood dog lived in my backyard. He was a 100 pound Rot-Shepard mix and tended to yelp if he saw you leave. My solution was to toss him half a box of milky bones as I crept around the house and through the front yard. That bought me just enough time to walk to the corner where a trusty friend would be waiting for me in his or her car. This was in the event that I wasn’t coming home that night. I would leave my car in the car port, so as not to raise suspicion with the armless.
Her routine was always the same. She would wake up in the morning, feed the dog. She would notice that the sliding glass door was unlocked, but would rack it up as nothing more than just an oversight, as the rest of the gates and doors were locked. I’m sure as she walked toward the front of the house, she’d look at the door to my room and imagine me in there, sound asleep, because my car was safely sitting under the aluminum roof. She would leave the house and walk to the Flea Market, where she had a weekend job selling all sorts of crap for some people who would pay her “under the table.” She wouldn’t be back until dinner time, making my great escape incredibly successful.
But, that wasn’t the real challenge.
The greatest escape was when I had to drive. All of the steps were the same until I ended up in the front yard of my house. I would run over to the electric gate and open it manually. Then, wait there, with my alarm clicker in hand, until an airplane would pass over head. It was only until jet noise was at its peak that I would click the remote so the double beep would not be heard. Finally, with the key in the ignition and the door slightly open (so the alarm wouldn’t set) I’d pop the car into neutral and roll out of the drive way and push it two houses down before turning it on. I’d then run back to the gate and close it, manually.
The trick was to be back home before 6 AM. And the secret of making the whole thing work was doing what I just described backwards, while completely wasted. At first it was challenging, of course. But, then it became a monotonous routine. So, I too got a second home.