A couple of weeks ago I felt compelled to report some 'suspicious activity' in my neighbourhood to the police. Actually it was suspicious activity in my back yard. If I'm being really specific, which I am, it was suspicious activity on my back doorstep. In a plant pot.
Here is the story....
I live in the kind of neighbourhood where any kind of activity is suspicious. I rent a comfy and bijou slum in downtown Tampa. This is the only house on the block that does not have a drive through window for the crack addicts and other colourful characters I call my 'neighbours'. Since I moved in I have shared all of my camera equipment with my 'neighbours', who called by one night while I was out, and have developed the habit of carrying a .38 with me when I answer the door. Or go to the toilet. Or do anything else for that matter. Technically I am not allowed to own a gun but I don't, it belongs to someone else. Equally technically, I don't give a rats ass about technicalities if it saves my life.
I moved here a couple of years ago as an emergency measure after my previous home was unexpectedly swallowed by a sink hole. Or was it giant flying goats? I forget. I just remember waking up one night to find myself covered in bits of ceiling and deciding it was time to leave. Now.
The only place I could find to live in at such short notice was, let's be polite and say, a work in progress owned by a friend of a friend. I took it mostly because my few possessions and I would not all comfortably fit into a Ford Mustang and the aforementioned vehicle of my dreams had no shower, bedroom or running water. I figured that I would be here for maybe two months. I didn't factor into that equation my employer going bankrupt or the fact that I get round to most things, including looking for a new home, 'eventually'.
So, here I was two years later (did I mention eventually?), enjoying a sunny Sunday away from work writing schedules for work. I took a break and wandered out to my car. I did notice the huge upturned plant pot on the top step, I just chose to ignore it. There could be nothing suspicious about a plant pot, right? Maybe the wind had blown it there. Or maybe it had dropped off the roof? It was a plant pot. I have no interest in plant pots so investigated no further.
I developed more of an interest in the plant pot on my return journey. Approaching from the yard I noticed that it was not sat fully on the step. There was something inside it. Something green and box-like and vaguely familiar. OK, it was very familiar. It looked almost...no, exactly...like it might be....a 12 pack of Heineken.
It couldn't be. Could it? I made my way quickly to the back door. I lifted the plant pot. It was! Heineken! 'Strange', I thought. Eventually.
Actually, my first thought was 'Awesome', and I took the warm beer inside to chill in the fridge. I only thought 'strange' after I called a friend and told them what had transpired and they said 'that's strange'. And then I realized it was strange and suspicious. Who had left me one of my favourite beers on my doorstep? Why? Who knew I only used the back door? Was it poisoned?? I heard dramatic music in my head, like 'dun dun derrrrrr'...kind of. Its hard to type dramatic music.
There was only one thing I could think of to do to answer at least one of those questions. I got a buddy to come round on some pretense and casually asked, 'Would you like a beer?' He drank the proffered beer and showed no signs of being poisoned so I had eliminated that possibility. Feeling a little guilty about my ruse I felt compelled to test the rest of it myself over the coming days. It was good!
Fast forward a week or so and I arrived home from work on Friday evening and there on the back door step was...dun dun derrrrrrrrrrr...the plant pot. Upturned. No sign of beer or anything else. Could the first incident have been a lure? Was someone trying to lull me into a false sense of security? Maybe there was a bomb under there this time? I entered the house through the front door and called my friend.
As it turned out there was a gift bag under the plant pot. It contained a replica Miami Dolphins jersey. Someone was leaving me gifts!! It was then that I realized I had a stalker. DUN DUN....oh, never mind. I did also consider the possibility of the existence of the Plant Pot Fairy but even my addled mind knew that that theory was a bit of a stretch.
My head was spinning, full of questions (again). Who was my mystery admirer? Was she dangerous? Would she keep leaving me beer if I said nothing?? Would she leap out of the shadows one night as I arrived home, put a gun to my head and demand uninhibited, wanton sex??
I needed help so I turned to my friends for advice, something I don't usually do but hell it isn't every day you have a stalker. I needed to bra...errr, confide. They all told me the same thing. Call the police. Make a Suspicious Activity report aka Cover Your Ass.
Guys especially, let me tell you right now. If you EVER get the urge to call the Tampa police to report that someone is leaving you gifts...just...don't.
I made the call on the non-emergency number, told them that I wanted to make the report just so that it was on record if anything happened...asked if I should come down to the station. 'Nope, your concerns are on record,' I was told.
Alright! That was easy!
Five minutes later there was a cop knocking on my door. If I had called 911 he wouldn't have been there for an hour. Maybe more.
"You want to report suspicious activity in the neighbourhood?"
He pulled out a pad and pen.
"Could you describe it for me?"
"Someone keeps leaving stuff on my back step."
"What kind of stuff?"
At this point the cop looked at me like I was nuts. He blinked.
"What kind of gifts?"
"The first gift was a 12 pack of Heineken."
"Someone gave you beer?"
He stopped writing.
"Was there anything else."
"Yes...a replica Miami Dolphins shirt. In a gift bag. This is it."
The cop looked at the bag, looked at me and blinked again.
"Did you keep the beer?"
Now it was my turn to look at him like he was nuts. I blinked. Just because.
"Well, there isn't anything we can do except file a report."
"That's all I wanted to do, just put it on record."
"Do you want me to take the shirt as evidence?"
I looked at the shirt. Thought about it.
He hastily scribbled something in the pad, pulled out a copy and put it on the coffee table. I have no idea what he wrote on there. Cops' handwriting is worse than doctors' handwriting.
He left with a bemused look on his face. Trust me, I won't be doing that again.
And that's how it happened! (ish)
*I know the who and the why now...it was pretty freaky before I knew it though. Report this shit to your Police Department, no matter how dumb they are, if it ever happens to you even if you like the idea of uninhibited wanton sex at gunpoint.....