It's interesting to discover what goes on in one's home when one is at the office or out on assignment. Such intel is easy to acquire if one has either a pocket-size magic wizard-eye crystal ball device, or perhaps one of those home security systems advertised on TV where you can link your iPad to cameras stationed throughout your home and catch tiny gnomes in the act of moving all the electrical outlets an inch and a half to the left.
Wizard-eye crystal balls would be cooler though.
I possess neither of those clever devices, but it's even easier to come by this information merely by working from home on occasion, as I sometimes do. So far today: no gnomes. But I have at least discovered why on Wednesdays
It seems that on Wednesday mornings the gardeners for the apartment building next door turn their leaf blowers up to 11 and produce hurricane-strength gusts that careen down the driveway behind our backyard fence, resulting in a meteorological anomaly in which thunderclouds of leaves and dirt brood over our yard like those black cartoon cumulonimbi that follow characters around in comic strips when someone -- say, Ziggy -- is having a really bad day. And if our rear windows are open even a crack, then our house has a really bad day.
A squirrely affair
I'll hear some scratching sounds, go to the kitchen to inspect and find him with his little flea-infested paw pressed up against the glass. He holds perfectly still, staring at me with piercing black eyes and a keen, quizzical expression as though he's trying to communicate that there has perhaps been some kind of body swap -- a la "Star Trek" Season 3, Episode 24, when the insanely jealous Dr. Janice Lester yearns to captain a starship and trades bodies with Kirk to do so. Maybe I'm Kirk and the squirrel is Dr. Lester and he/she thinks he/she is the one who's supposed to be inside all cozy with all the food and I should be out gnawing on and spitting out pieces of the strand of Christmas lights on our back fence.
Soon the staring ends, the squirrel skedaddles off into the Beijing cloud and I eat a bagel.
Call me crazy
By far the most surprising and otherwise unknown home occurrences are the many phone calls that come in on our landline, usually around lunchtime. Once in a while, a call is actually for me, perhaps my spouse calling to say hello or reminding me to buy bagels. Most often, it's not. Sometimes I'll get collection-agency calls for an Arnold Hill, and though I repeatedly tell the callers that I am not Arnold, that I do not know an Arnold except for Arnold Ziffel the pig on "Green Acres" and that there has never been an Arnold, porcine or otherwise, here for the past decade that I have held this number. Still, the callers don't seem to believe me, signing off with a skeptical "uh-huh" and a false promise to never call again. And then they call again.
And I don't know if we fell off the Do Not Call Registry or what, because we have recently received tons of automated/recorded telemarketing calls. Recorded calls are good in some ways, because as soon as the perky voice comes on the line saying, 'Hi! I'm Diane! Do you need your carpets cleaned?" I merely hang up (doesn't everybody?) without having to inflict rejection on a live human. But they're also bad because there's no actual perky Diane to whom I can say "Please don't call anymore," and to inform that I don't have carpet anyway.
Why just now I just got one that said, "Hello, did you know FBI statistics report 42,879 (or some such number of) home burglaries a year ...?" I hung up. And earlier today, there was one saying, "This is from your credit card company, and requires immediate attention ..." I hung up.
A reader recently sent in tips for dealing with live-person marketing calls. He'll say, "Let me get my wife," then he leaves the phone off the hook while he goes and makes a sandwich. Or he'll interrupt a spiel to offer his views on the Bible. The man asked to remain nameless, fearing tele-retribution. Not sure what they'd do, though. Send in the gnomes?