I have several opportunities, during an average week, to wonder if I've lost it completely, but never more so than yesterday afternoon.
It was an average Monday, up until about 4:20pm when my friend Kerri arrived to pick up Greta for CCD class. As Greta scrambles into Kerri's car, a large unmarked truck pulls up on the side of road at the end of the driveway. I'm giving Greta a kiss and thanking Kerri for driving, and a burly man with a large box hoisted on his shoulder walks up the driveway. As Kerri drives away the burly man looks at me and says, "are you Ellie?"
I reply that I am, and he says, "well, I've got a television for ya!" I don't really know how to reply to this, as I haven't ordered a television, but I notice it is a beautiful, large, flat screen, and my curiosity is understandably peaked. I ask him to bring it inside.
First, though, I have to run inside and wrestle with our dog, Casper. She is a very large, very loud, white dog - she looks a little like an arctic wolf. When she is agitated - which is pretty much anytime anybody comes to the house - she is a force to be reckoned with, and it takes most of my energy to hang on to her collar and instruct the man to put the box on the floor in our living room.
He's nice, this man, chatty and friendly even though Casper is behaving as though she'd like to rip his throat out. He hands me a sheet of paper with my name on it, and asks me to print and sign my name. Over the din of the barking dog I ask him if he's sure he has the right house, as I didn't order a TV. "Looks like someone's trying to surprise you for Christmas," he replies, "because that is your name and this is your address, right?"
I hand back the signed paper, and he leaves. I am smiling to myself, thinking that Steve has decided to surprise us. I need to get to the post office before it closes at 5pm, so Finn and I don't have time to contemplate it further just now. We rush out the door at 4:45pm and barely make it to the post office by 5pm. We're home again by 5:05pm, and Finn immediately looks up at me and says, "Where's da television, Momma?"
I look down, and realize he's right. Not fifteen minutes ago there was a huge box on the floor of the living room, and now it's gone. I look unhelpfully at the dog - she is lying in her usual spot smack dab in the middle of the floor, looking unperturbed. Deepening the mystery, there is a long box resting outside on our porch: curtains we ordered from Big Department Store two weeks ago have arrived.
I call my husband, who swears up and down he didn't order a TV, and two quick phone calls reveal our parents didn't either. Now the TV we didn't order is gone, without explanation, and I begin to feel like I imagined the whole thing. It hits me that I don't have any receipt from the delivery person, not one scrap of evidence to prove he was ever here at all. I call Kerri and explain what happened. She is as mystified as I am, but at least she can confirm the delivery wasn't a figment of my imagination - she saw him, too.
I decide to call the police. I'm still completely baffled about what happened, but one fact is clear - someone was in our house when we weren't home, and I'm feeling weird about it. So I dial 911, and say to the operator, "Ummm, I need to report a burglary, I think..." I give her a very brief explanation of what happened, and within three minutes there are four cop cars, with lights flashing, pulling into our driveway.
They are very thorough, scanning the yard for foot prints, combing through the entire house to be sure nobody is hiding in a closet, examining the box of curtains outside for evidence. The lead cop scratches his head. "I don't know what happened, here, but we'll get to the bottom of it," he explains. "It seems like too strange a coincidence that the TV disappeared when the curtains arrived, so I guess I'll start at Big Department Store. I gotta admit, though, this is a first for me.. investigating a theft of an item that was never supposed to be here in the first place."
After this it gets all CSI-y. "Please don't touch anything, ma'am," they instruct. "Please leave the box of curtains outside just as it is, as it may contain useful fingerprints." "Would you recognize the delivery man if you saw him again?" "Any distinguishing marks on his vehicle?" "Do a thorough search of your house and let us know if anything is out of place." This last one cracks me up - on a good day our house looks like it has been ransacked, so how the hell would I know?
An idea pops into my head: maybe the delivery guy brought us to the TV in error and came back to switch it for the curtains? I suggest this to the cops, and they think on it. "I hope that is the case, Ma'am," the lead cop says, "it is more desirable than a burglary. But Big Department Store doesn't sell TVs, the curtains weren't brought inside, and how the heck would he get past HER?" He points to the next room where I have put Casper. She is growling and throwing herself against the door. I concede that it's a mystery.
They leave, promising to get back to me tonight. My mind reels, running through scenarios. Credit card fraud? But why bother with the whole delivery charade, when he could have just stolen it? Did I order a TV and then forget about it? No, I'm sober now, and as disorganized as I can be I think I'd remember something like that. I realize how crazy the whole story must have sounded to the police; I'm grateful they took me seriously at all.
At 7:15pm the policeman is back. Big Department Store subcontracts out their deliveries, so it took a while for him to track down the driver. The explanation is simple. The delivery guy brought us the TV in error. When he got to the next residence and tried to give them curtains, instead of a big beautiful flat screen TV, he realized his mistake. He brought the curtains back to us, found the door unlocked, braved the dog and took the TV. He didn't leave a note, because he thought it would be obvious what happened. The cop says we can press charges if we want ... even though the door was unlocked it is still breaking & entering.
We don't want to press charges - what he did involved a lot of really bad judgement, but not criminal intent, and we figure a call from the cops to him, and his superior, is enough of a lesson. It still doesn't explain how he got by the dog, but it was an eye opener to me that I need to lock the door even for a ten minute trip to the post office with a huge white guard dog at home.
So it all worked out fine. Except now I mourn the loss of a flat screen TV that was never mine in the first place.