I went home in the early afternoon; I was carrying a loaf of bread because I was going to make myself a sandwich before I went out again. Since our door is missing paint in places and isn't pristine, it didn't register with me at first that we had been broken into! I mean, nothing was taken, and none of the animals had escaped, but the door had definitely been hit with an axe:
There was also a string hanging out; apparently this was how the firefighters pulled the door shut when—finding no fire (not even any smoke) and no cause for alarm—they left. I couldn't even get into my own place, because we never use the bottom lock, and I haven't carried a key for it in several years.
[Edit: The string turned out to be the shoelace from one of my Doc Marten's boots; those ingenious firemen! Good thing I didn't throw it out before I recognized it!]
The woman across the hall from me came and apologized: "I'm so sorry…I smelled smoke and your smoke alarm was going off, so I called 911."
Thanks. The firefighters got here, and first went at the door next door and bent back the plate with their axe:
then my neighbor helpfully told them it wasn't that door she was calling about; it was next door. [mine]
As with other crisis-type situations, I had adrenaline coursing through my veins the whole rest of the day. Of course, you know firefighters are adrenaline junkies, and they act before they think. When I lived on St. Mark's place, I had this crappy industrial carpeting—installed by the landlord—and I used to smoke. Well, one day I left a cigarette burning on a watercolor palette—that I used for an ashtray—by the door. I left the house, and cigarette rolled off the table onto the floor; when it started smoldering, a neighbor smelled it and called 911.
My super lived across the hall, so when the firemen got there, he was ready with the passkey and let them in just as they were set to whale on the door. They let loose on the smoldering patch on the rug, then left. I eventually patched it with more vomity-looking industrial carpet, supplied by the landlord.
So you never know. At least no one was hurt, and our neighbor has offered to pay for a new lock.
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