Ah, the sweet, sweet sound of a circling police helicopter. Nothing prevents sleep for me more than that sound. Not Vivarin. Not Red Bull. Not the fact that Paris Hilton actually has a SAG card.
The neighborhood where I've been living for the last 2 years is generally thought of, in a knee-jerk sort of way, as being in a "dangerous" part of town. Nonetheless, I have found my particular little area to be quite quiet and low-key. Only a couple of times have the hovering chopper blades kept me awake any length of time. Last night was one of those times.
I took Pudge out to the backyard around midnight for his last little potty trip, and spent some time loving on my backyard stray, who despite my fears to the contrary after orchestrating her incarceration and surgery, is now ALL about the lovin'. (Yes, I said yesterday I wouldn't mention it again today, but I lied. So sue me.) I heard a few sirens in the general vicinity, but didn't think anything about it. As soon as I got inside, though, that most hated of sounds started--the whirling sound that instantly says to me "They're looking for a desperate criminal...and he's in your yard." They don't bring out the choppers for traffic violations, is all I'm sayin'. I turned off all the lights, the better to peek surreptitiously out the windows, and then went on to bed, phone near at hand in case I needed to call 911. (You never know, right?) I didn't see any activity outside, no police cars or sirens, but that helicopter was practically on the roof of my house. Nothing keeps you from relaxing into sleep like that, I'll tell you. Finally, 20-30 minutes later, the sound faded away and I drifted off. Panic over.
For almost 11 years before I lived in this house, I lived in an area of town that is generally considered quite desirable. Many people, when given the option between the two, would pick my old neighborhood in a heartbeat. But not me. In the years that I lived in "fashionable" Brookside my car was broken into 6 times. Once someone tried to break in through a window, and only the barking of my dogs stopped them. And the police helicopters? All the friggin' time. I'm sure it had something to do with the large amount of retail/restaurant/bar business in the area, but it had just gotten out of hand, for me. Add to that the skyrocketing rents in the area, and I was happy to move north.
The worst experience with the whirlybirds, and the real reason I'm so freaked out by them, came several years ago. It was summertime, and I was out watering my plants about midnight. (Yeah, I know, I probably should stop hanging around outside at midnight, but sometimes that's when I can get things done, and I just refuse to live my life afraid to go out after dark.) I heard some sharp, loud noises coming from nearby. Were those gunshots? Oh, surely not. I finished up my watering and went inside. And then it came. Oh my word, did it come. Suddenly there were police helicopters (more than one, it seemed) in the air, and honest to god, that searchlight seemed pointed directly at me. Sirens were screaming in from all directions, and police cruisers (every one in town, it seemed) began going up and down the street. The circle of the helicopter tightened until it truly felt like they were searching MY yard specifically. The cruisers slowed down their manic dashing, and slowly, slowly drove up and down the block, shining their spotlights into the windows of the houses. It went on for well over an hour and a half. Obviously those WERE gunshots, I thought, but who was shot? What the hell happened to keep them this focused for so long? The backyard in that house was quite overgrown, full of trees and shrubs--plenty of hiding places for someone trying to elude the police, certainly more than any of my neighbors' yards. I went from merely scared to full-on panicked. Well, I thought, if they try to get inside, they won't get me without a fight. I got a butcher's knife from the kitchen, slipped it under my pillow, and lay quaking in the bed with the dogs until the sounds finally faded, a lifetime later, and eventually I nodded off. The next morning I awakened, less than completely refreshed, yawned and stretched and, you guessed it, sliced my finger on the butcher knife under my pillow! I was so thankful to have awakened alive that I didn't even mind. (It wasn't much of a cut, more like a really bad paper cut.)
Of course I couldn't wait to turn on the news and find out what I'd lived through. Turned out a policewoman lived around the corner from me, and she had returned home during her shift to use the potty (perfectly legal, they said, since she lived in and patrolled the same area) only to interrupt a robbery in process. The burglars now had possession of two of her personal handguns, (which she obviously did not keep secure, as one would hope someone in law enforcement would do) and shots were exchanged. One of the burglars was wounded, and they both escaped the house. They followed the blood trail of the wounded one to a neighbor's garage, but the second one managed to get away, and it was him they were searching for all night. Scary stuff!
And gets scarier. They caught the second guy fairly soon after, and the next day published pictures of the two. Wait a minute, I thought, and a bell rang in my mind. Earlier that week, a couple of young men had stopped and knocked on my door, asking if I needed my lawn mowed. Not an uncommon occurrence in that neighborhood, but I remember thinking it odd that they didn't have a mower in tow. My dog Sadie, who HATED for anyone to just stand on the porch and not come in, was seething down below the see-through part of my screen door (which I had not opened, of course) and finally had all she could take. She threw herself snarling at the door, and the look on those faces was priceless. I've never seen eyes open so wide, and one of them literally threw himself off the porch in his haste to get away. (Good girl, Sadie.) I can't be 100% sure, but those guys looked an awful lot like the guys pictured in the paper, and I think they had been casing the neighborhood, and quickly crossed me off the list of possibilities when they saw Sadie's sweet, snarling face!
And that's why I hate the police helicopters. They're a visceral reminder that just outside my home, my haven, the place I generally feel safe and warm, there are sometimes bad guys shooting at cops and crawling though yards and into garages to get away. I hate that fluttery, scared feeling. I prefer to think of the world as a mostly lovely place, and the thwack-thwack-thwack of those propellers reminds me it ain't, always.
So I try to be careful and cautious and prudent and pay attention to my instincts, as all the books tell you to do, but....BUT, I still reserve the right to go outside at midnight occasionally and water a flower or pet a cat. I just can't live my life THAT scared. And, of course, I plan never to be without at least one great big dog at my side.