I typed this post about an encounter with the Novi police, while in US but could not finish and post it due to the last minute hustle and bustle. I thought that I would finish it soon after return but even that wasn’t possible. Jetlag bothers me considerably and so do the pressing jobs which have been left un attended for the last two months. It has been three days since we arrived but I have been able to open the page only today. I am attempting to complete it, but I am not in the same mood, not getting the flow and hence the writing is not satisfactory. Since I do not want to waste what is written, I am posting it. If it does not seem right, I can always blame it on jet lag. The following lines were written morre than ten days back.
Our last week in the US. The excitement associated with staying in a new place is waning. The weather and lack of independent mobility is forcing us to remain with in the four walls of the house for longer durations. The prospect of a long flight, not very pleasant, is looming large. So, we are preparing to get it over with and are longing to be back in our natural surroundings. House, clinic, friends, heat, dust and everything.
I was thinking about what I have written above and was wondering how to proceed, while I was doing my yoga exercises at five in the morning few days back. When I got up in the morning I had seen a message from my son in India asking me to call him. I called his number, someone answered and said something that I could not understand. It was not my son. I thought it must be a wrong number, disconnected the call and rang again. My son answered. I spoke with him, hung up and started with my exercises.
After a few minutes I saw some one with a flash light prowling around the house. I could not see the person clearly in the darkness. The residental areas in Michigan, (and most other places in the US) called sub divisions, do not have street lights. All the illumination you have is from the two lamps fixed next to the front door of the houses, which are just enough to indicate that there is a door. And the ground level lamps placed along the path from the street to the door are even weaker. Like candles. And in winter you can hope for some natural light only after seven. So, it is dark outside. I was concerned and went to the window for a better view. The flash light went to the side of the house, towards the garage and came to the front door. I went to the door and with lot of hesitation opened it partly. The security alarm started ringing and the person outside said “Novi police”. I could recognise the black uniform of an officer but I wasn’t sure.
I opened the door a little more. The man spoke.
“Is everything OK?”
“Saw the light in the window and wanted to check”
“That’s fine. I got up early and was exercising”
He took out his book
I gave the name of my relative.
“Date of birth?”
He probably wanted to make sure that I really was the resident of the house and not a burgler.
Both the name and DOB are recorded in the police headquarters and he can easily verify them on his computer in the car.
I was in a fix. I did not know my relative’s DOB. And it would be futile explaining to him that I was a relative, even if I could make him understand my english!
By then my sister in law, who had heard the security alarm, came down to enquire. I had set the alarm off once early in our visit, by opening a wired window and another time by opening the door to enter the house when no one else was there. The alarm at that time had set a chain reaction automatically calling my co brother, sister in law and then the security agency. So, I was wary of the alarm and people of the house were wary of my habits.
My sister in law disconnected the alarm and then came to the door. She spoke to the police officer, gave the DOB, and asked the officer whether he came there because of the alarm? He said “Yes. Got a message from the HQ”. She assred him that everything was fine, thanked him for coming, and he wished us a good day and left.
The man, the cop, had told me that he came because he saw the light in the window. But he told my sister inlaw that his visit was in rersponse to the alarm. And the alarm had started ringing only after I opened the door. We were confused and doubted whether he really was a cop? We went to another window and looked out. The flash light went to a vehicle with flashing lights, boldly marked ‘Police’. The person got in and drove off.
My sister inlaw was not at ease. She called the Novi police headquarters and informed them about the visit from the officer. The HQ told her that the visit was in response to an emergency call made from the house. We were even more confused. Who made the call to their emergency number? She asked me if I made a call, any call at all, after getting up? And then my tube light lit up and yet another foolishness of mine came to light!
To call my son in India I had to ring 011(the nation code) 91 (STD ode) followed by his number 98907….. . that is, 0119198907……….. . In my half woken state soon after gettin up, I had called 911- 91 - 98907…….. . 911 in US is the emergency number and the moment you use 911 on any phone, the call goes to the police emergency room and the rest of the numbers dialled is ignored. When I rang my son, starting with 911 instead of 011, The head quarters received the call, and an officer had answered. I knew it was not my son, could not follow the accent, thought that it was a wrong number and had disconnected the call. So, the HQ located the place of origination of the call and had informed the patrol car in the area. An officer had arrived in minutes, woken up every one in the house and had exposed yet another foolish act of mine.
This is the second time I have observed the speed with which the police in the US respond to emergency calls. The first time was during my last visit when we made a call to report a possible house break. Our own house. Somebody had burgled the house during our absence of about an hour and a half in an evening. That time, I had also experienced the follow up, arrival of additional forces, detectives, report to the insurance company etc etc. The insurance company paid for the broken door, and for the valuables lost. We even received the valuue of my wife’s wrist watch which had been taken away.
This time it was an inadvertant mistake but the response was even more astonishing to me. I don’t mind being a fool once more, for the sake of the experience!