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I'll Be Watching You

May 5, 2014 - Diane Laney Fitzpatrick

I've had to make a lot of adjustments to city living. The biggest was facing the fact that bad guys might want to break into my house.

You might have heard that I'm from Hubbard, Ohio, a small town where everyone is either related, best friends or two degrees separated from both. I'm not saying that nothing bad ever happened in Hubbard, but if it did I didn't know about it. And neither did my mom, who raised us in a house where there were no keys to the doors. And then moved us to a house where there were locks on the doors, but we would leave the front door wide open in the summer. It gets hot in Hubbard in July and August. Plus I think we lost the keys after a week.

So when I embarked upon this adventure of moving to downtown San Francisco, I had to wrap my head around the following facts:

1. There are bad guys here. 2. Some of them were bused here from Reno. 3. Some of them might want to come into my house 4. There's no way they can know that I don't have anything worth stealing. The worst bad guy probably has a nicer TV than mine. (It certainly doesn't have a big blue line running down the middle of Jack McCoy's face.) Also I have shocked more than one insurance man with how much jewelry I don't have.

I should put a sign out front that says, "Dear Bad Guys, Yes, this is a nice house, but don't think that means there are nice things inside. Everything worth more than $50 is built-in. We spent so much on the doggone house that we don't have any money left to buy things that can fit through the front door. Have a nice day. Love, Diane."

We were told that some bad guys are not reasonable or even coherent, so instead of the giant note out front, we decided to get a bad-ass security system. (We briefly considered getting a gun, but frankly I'm afraid of what inner Pepper Anderson it might unleash in me. Plus it will break my streak of having no single thing in common with Sarah Palin.)

The new security system is very complicated and impressive. I won't go into the details here, but I do want to tell you about the one aspect of it. We've got cameras, bitches.

That's right. We can see you if you come to our front door. Or if you're a raccoon who might want to climb up on our top floor deck and wreak havoc with the fake ficus tree retirement home/purgatory/leper colony that we've established out there. Or if you are fiddling around with our tradesman's door and you're not dressed as a tradesman and have no appointment to perform your trade for us. Or - and listen carefully because this is the coolest part - if you let your dog poop on the sidewalk right in front of my house and you don't pick it up.

I was talking with our neighbor, the owner of the apartment building next door, and he told me that he has turned in people who leave their dog poop on his sidewalk. They were given warnings and will be cited if they're caught again. I don't know how he identifies them and I'm not sure I want to know, but I'm impressed that he is enjoying his security cameras. He's become a role model for me in my desire to use my security cameras for the good of the street and environment, and not just to critique the outfits of people walking to work.

I have surprised myself at how voyeuristic I am. Sometimes my husband and I will sit in front of a laptop and just watch what's happening in the front of our house. It's so much more exciting than just looking out the front window, which offers the same exact view but it doesn't have that secret spy feeling.

Sometimes my husband will watch from the app on his phone and call me from work and tell me what is happening 6 yards from where I am sitting.

He: "Someone is blocking our driveway."

Me (turning around and looking out the window): "Oh."

"OK. Talk to ya later."

So far we've only had one guy look straight into the camera and give us the finger. I think the bad guys are not happy. But they don't know how close they came to me going all Angie Dickinson on them.

~ ~ ~

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves. Her Just Humor Me column runs here on her website at


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