Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Attentifs ensemble

This evening as I was heading out to attend a vernissage in the Marais, I walked down the apartment building stairs and saw, to my horror, my ground-floor neighbor's door hacked off at the bottom. Clearly it had been burglarized.

Immediately I knew what had happened.

I stopped by the gardienne's apartment to let her know. When I rang, a little nose peeped from behind the curtain and I could hear someone say "It's pour toi, Tina. C'est une dame." I told my nice gardienne about what I had just seen. Evidently they were aware of it and had just called the police. What they didn't know was that I had met the burglar earlier.

I work in my apartment. At around 3 o'clock this afternoon my doorbell rang. Not the intercom, which buzzes from the lobby, but the doorbell in the hallway right outside my door. I'm normally pretty vigilant; however, last week when this happened one afternoon it was in fact my teddy-bear real estate agent who was stopping by for a question and some good news. I had been so mean/paranoid about demanding, "Who is it?" through the closed door before opening for him. So today I softened, feeling sheepish about being such an overcautious American again.

This time, I opened the door without even using the safety latch. Mistake number one. Immediately I regretted this: an agitated young man who clearly doesn't live in my 7th arrondissement neighborhood was asking breathlessly, "Je cherche Maitre Pumbledolforoflo." Something unintelligible.

I responded sternly to him, "I don't know who that is but, you don't ring on doorbells, you go ask the gardienne, " and was frankly happy to have been able to slam shut my door without further incident.

Only vaguely rattled, I went back to my work and didn't really give it much more thought. But he did look a bit like the guy who came by at Christmastime trying to sell calendars who clearly wasn't a Pompier look for etrennes.

Then fast forward to my late afternoon discovery of the neighbor's apartment door chopped off, her belongings in who-knows-what state.

Was I in part responsible? Should I have alerted someone right away when a person of a suspicious nature rings my doorbell in the afternoon? When is it paranoia and when is it being friendly to strangers? Does or should race play a factor in being kind vs being suspicious?

My gardienne said, "Those guys get into the building because some stupid people simply buzz anyone in without asking. Then these voyous ring all the doorbells to see who is home and who isn't. Quand meme, I'm surprised that no one heard all the banging when he destroyed the door."

And I explained, "But madame, there are travaux all day long in this building and those all around us. If we complained or noticed every loud banging noise, you would have no peace. That's probably why he picked an apartment three floors away from mine - - he knew that I wouldn't hear."

She said that she would have to give my name and number to the police, that they will probably ask me to file a report.

Oh joy.

So I got home back tonight and they had at least covered the trashed door corner with a huge piece of plywood. Oh boy. City life.

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