My brief criminal career at “B and E”

There’s a beautiful house sitting on top of a hill on my regular route through the area. (It’s not the picture above, that’s just one from the internet to set the tone.) The house I am admiring went up several years ago and every time I pass it, I wonder about it…what it looks like inside, what the view is like.

I won’t be investigating that anytime soon, however, and it’s because it always brings back memories of my brief career as a criminal “B and E” man; I believe they call it–breaking and entering.

There was a house I admired a great deal when I lived up along the Missouri River some years ago. It also was a house on a hill; a big place that I just knew had a commanding view of the river and the bluffs beyond. I drove by that house and my mouth watered, thinking what it must look like inside, and then with a sigh, I would turn towards my little house with the tiny bedrooms and the commanding view of the neighbor’s trash racks. Ah, well, such is life.

Then the day came when I received a writing assignment to interview a person I didn’t know. I was to interview her at her home. I was given the address and since these were the days before GPS, I had to rely on somewhat more vague directions and my own abysmal navigating skills. “It’s a big house, sitting up on a hill east of town…you really can’t miss it. It’s the only white house on the north side of the road,” were my boss’s instructions.

Now, I want you to know that I really did listen to those instructions, but all I really heard was “big white house on the hill over the river.” Well, of course I couldn’t miss it…hadn’t I been admiring it for years???? I could not believe my luck. The story I needed to do wasn’t that exciting, but I was finally going to see inside the house on the hill. My excitement knew no bounds.

Although a set of detailed instructions was drawn out for me, I just crammed them in the camera bag without looking at them. I knew where the house was, obviously. I drove the rather complicated side road that led up to the front door, already admiring the view from outside and prepared to gush over the whole place when I finally got to meet my interviewee.

I knocked at the door and while I don’t know what I actually heard, I expected to hear, “Come in,” so that’s apparently what I thought I heard. Turning the door knob, I found the door unlocked and I went in. Walking down a long hallway, I emerged into an astonishing great room with windows all along the wall which faced the river. I had been right; it was beautiful! I stepped to the windows, with my back to the room and just drank in the sight.

I was on the verge of pulling out my camera, when a very brusque male voice behind me demanded, “What are you doing in my house?”

I turned around in some consternation: my interviewee was supposed to be an elderly woman. The man who stood in the doorway to another hallway was middle-aged and wearing a short robe and a very hostile expression.

Confused, I stammered, “I’m sorry. I am here to talk to”…and I gave the lady’s name.

“This isn’t her house,” he said, outraged. “She lives over there, on the north side of the road.” The north side. Oh, yeah, it was the north side I was supposed to go to; I remember now and of course, this was the south side, which meant that I….had broken and entered this understandably cranky man’s house. I was standing there, admiring the house and view after having illegally entered the premises!

A friend I told this story to said I should have tried to bluff my way through–“Yes, I’m conducting a survey. How do you feel having your home invaded while you were in the shower? You don’t like it? Okay…that’s one negative response.”

I was not that cool, however. I mumbled some sort of apology, stumbled back down the hall I had entered through and ran for my car before the man decided to call the police. I made it to the NORTH side of the road and conducted my interview with the sweet lady there who lived in a much less impressive house without a panoramic view and then I had to go back to work and explain to my boss that I might very shortly be arrested for breaking and entering.

Fortunately, everyone seemed to realize that it was a careless error on my part, but it has taught me a little bit about being so single-minded that I miss all the little clues that should maybe tell me I’m on the wrong path.

That’s why I’ll never see the inside of the beautiful house on the hill this time. My brief career as a “breaking and entering” criminal has dampened my enthusiasm for house touring. I’m better off if I just admire it from the road!

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