Non-Braking and Entering

My wife and I were at a friend’s house Saturday night. Just us. Certainly not the friend who owned the house.

A few weeks ago, our Tivo missed taping a double episode of 24, but our friend had it and had made a tape of it for us on Friday. She lives far out in the Chicago suburbs, and she told us the house was never locked. She’d leave the tape just inside the door so we could just come by whenever we wanted and take it.

We didn’t drop by that night, but on Saturday morning we called and said we were coming over to get the tape. It turned out the taping didn’t work right. It had somehow recorded what was on live rather than what the Tivo box was playing. She’d try to get one of her kids to fix the problem and try again later. That evening, we were ready to go get the tape. We called ahead and no one answered. So we decided to drive over and see if someone showed while we were on our way.

When we got there, there were three vehicles parked in the driveway, but no one was home. But my wife, who knows these folks better than I do, went inside and found the tape. It just felt wrong, but I went in too.

That was unreal. I live in a condo in Chicago. I double-lock the door when I go to the basement to do my laundry, and here we were just walking into these people’s house one fine evening.

I read a lot of crime novels, including Lawrence Block’s series about Bernie the burglar. Walking around their house, I felt a strong urge to toss the place, just because I knew I could. Start in the bedroom and run through the nightstands and dresser drawers for cash, jewelry, and other valuable items. Find the house’s office area and look for new credit cards, financial records, passports. Grab a few portable electronic items—check the kids’ rooms for those. Search the closets for weapons and other valuable sporting goods. Finally, just take the whole Tivo instead of making the tape. Grab the SUV keys off the shelf by the door, toss everything inside, and away we go.

Instead, we just checked the tape and it was still the bad one. I checked the cabling to the Tivo and VCR and the problem was exactly what I thought it was: The signal path went through the Tivo and VCR in the wrong order. So I swapped the cables around, then we set up the recording and left. We left the television on with a note attached, so they’d know we’d been there and what we’d done. We went for a late dinner, and two hours later, we came back to get the tape. They were home this time.

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