An Alarming Situation

TO WIT

November 15, 1992|By DAVE BARRY

The man was standing right outside our master bathroom. He couldn't see Beth and me, standing in the hallway, but we could see him clearly. His face was covered with a stocking mask, which distorted his features hideously. He was dressed in black, and he had a black plastic bag stuck in his pocket.

He was using a screwdriver to open our sliding glass door. You always wonder what you're going to do in a situation like this. Run? Fight? Wet your pants?

I'm not experienced with physical violence. The last fight I had was in eighth grade, when I took on John Sniffen after school because he let the air out of my bike tires. Actually, I didn't know that he did this, but he was the kind of kid who would have, and all the other suspects were larger than I was.

The man outside our house was also larger than I am. He jerked the screwdriver sideways and opened the door. Just like that, he was inside our house, maybe six feet from where Beth and I were standing.

Then he saw us. For a moment, nobody spoke.

"Cut!" yelled the director.

"Way to go, Ozzie!" I said to the stocking-masked man. "Looking good! Looking criminal!"

As you have guessed, Ozzie wasn't a real burglar. He was part of a production crew that was using our house to shoot a promotional video for the company that installed our burglar alarm.

I like having an alarm in our house, because it gives me the security that comes from knowing that trained security personnel will respond instantly whenever I trigger a false alarm. I do this every day at 6 a.m., when I get up to let out our large main dog, Earnest, and our small emergency backup dog, Zippy. I'm always in a big hurry, because Zippy has a very fast digestive cycle, and I need to get him right outside.

So I fall out of bed and stagger to the back door, where both dogs are waiting, and I open the door and bweepbweepbweep I realize that I have failed to disarm the alarm.

Now I have a problem. Because within seconds, the voice of the Cheerful Lady at the alarm company is going to come out of the alarm control panel, asking me to identify myself, and unless I give her the secret password, she's going to cheerfully notify the police. So I stagger quickly over to the panel. But this leaves Earnest and Zippy alone out on the patio. Theoretically, they can get from the patio to our back yard all by themselves. They used to be prevented from doing this by a screen enclosure around the patio, but thanks to Hurricane Andrew, most of this enclosure is now orbiting the Earth. The hurricane did not blow away the screen door, however. It's still standing there, and the dogs firmly believe that it's the only way out.

"Go outside!" I yell at them as I lunge toward the alarm control panel. "There's no screen anymore, you morons!"

"I beg your pardon?" says the Cheerful Alarm Lady, because this is not the secret password.

L "Bark," says Earnest, who is trotting back toward the house.

"Grunt," says Zippy, as he detonates on the patio.

We do this almost every morning. We're very dependable. In fact, if some morning I didn't trigger a false alarm, I think the Cheerful Alarm Lady would notify the police.

"You'd better check the Barry residence," she'd say. "Apparently something has happened to Mr. Barry. Or else he's strangling one of his dogs."

So the alarm people have been very nice to us, which is why we let them use our house for the video. It had a great action ending, wherein Ozzie runs out our front door, and an armed security man drives up, screeches to a halt, leaps out, puts his hand on his gun and yells "Freeze!" This is Ozzie's cue to freeze and look concerned inside his stocking.

They shot this scene several times, so there was a lot of commotion in our yard. Fortunately in South Florida we're used to seeing people sprint around with guns and stocking masks, so the activity in our yard did not alarm the neighbors.

Anyway, the point is that our house is well-protected. The alarm system is there in case we ever need it, which I doubt we will, because -- thanks to Zippy -- only a fool would try to cross our patio on foot.

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