What To Do If Your Neighborhood Is Starting To Resemble A Nearly-Abandoned Exurb Ripe For The Picking By Scrap-Hungry Tweakers

So one Sunday a few weeks back I walked outside to get the paper and noticed that one of the new hyacinths we had just planted was trampled. Of course I immediately jumped to conclusions and figured a neighborhood kid stomped on it while retrieving a ball or otherwise doing whatever it is neighborhood kids "do."

And then I noticed the paint chips.

Well, now that's odd, I thought. Where could the paint chips be coming from? So I turned around toward the house itself and saw it: Somebody stole our downspout.

Hey, wait a sec, you might say, What's a downspout? You know what they are — those pipe thingys that take rainwater from the gutter down to wherever rainwater disappears to (I think the sewer in our case, though I'm not totally sure).

And then once you figure out what a downspout is, the obvious followup is something along the lines of, What would anyone want to steal a downspout for? Good question. Though it seems hardly lucrative, apparently people steal them for scrap.

I guess the other thing is that downspouts are relatively easy to steal — after all, it's not like stealing an oil furnace or a chimney — you just rip the thing off the side of the house.

So I did what any good citizen would do: I called the cops. I reasoned that if this was part of a rash of stolen downspouts, the community needs to know about it. And if our neighborhood resembled a tweaker's savings account, then the community would need to come to terms with it: Hide your scrap metal!

So here's how it went down:

  • 9:26: Called precinct, couldn't figure out who to call so I push "0"
  • 9:28: Message cycles back to original recorded message; I try "1" instead
  • 9:29: Message cycles back to original recorded message; I hang up
  • 9:31: Call 311
  • 9:32: 311 transfers me to a 911 operator, which is exactly what I don't want to do since this is clearly not an emergency
  • 9:35: 911 sends a message saying something along the lines of an officer is assigned to the case and since they're extremely busy, there may be a delay responding to my call
  • 9:51: Cops arrive
  • 10:10: We finish marveling at the strange event with the neighbors and return inside

Which is to say, I guess with all the bad press about the NYPD sweeping crime under the rug or whatnot, I sort of expected some kind of "911 Is A Joke" response, but that totally didn't happen.

What did happen is that a squad car showed up within 15 minutes and two pleasant officers took the complaint. After I looked at the Incident Information Slip and realized there was no complaint number — actually, I seemed to remember the officer circling the blank spot and telling me I needed to call to get it later. I wondered if they would just fill out this slip and let the crime go unreported, so I called today. And . . . there's actually a complaint number. Not sure what this means, but I suppose it means that the crime has become part of the statistics for the neighborhood.

Police Incident Information Slip

Another goal of mine was to make it into the police blotter of one of the local weeklies. As far as I know, this did not happen.

When the cops showed up, several of the neighbors came out to see what was going on. Everyone was surprised that a downspout was allegedly stolen, including the cops, who sort of seemed like they wanted to make sure this was an actual theft before making a report.

Part of me wanted the entire street to have their downspouts stolen. There's something about the idea of a shared experience that somehow lessens the sting. It's stupid of course.

About a week later I was walking to the bagel store on a weekend morning and saw a downspout ignominiously discarded on the side of the road about a block from the house. It had been folded in at least three directions. This made me wonder whether we were victims of weekend vandals, which is obviously not nearly as exciting as scrap metal thieves.

A few weeks after that we saw this flier on the door, which solved an immediate problem — how to replace the missing downspout — but which also seemed a little too . . . perfect — timingwise, at least:

Roofing Company Flier

Now I'm not for a second intimating that this company made our downspout disappear. Not at all. What I will say is that there's not a chance in hell that I'd ever contact this company. Not because I think they did it — not at all! — but because if they did it, there was no way I'd want to use them. I remember reading about this a while back with some car windows on Staten Island, so it was just this company's dumb luck that they handed out a flier to us so soon after the incident.

Then, as Goober pointed out, there was the issue of the wording of the note.

One thing I think companies should never do is focus on the negative. The first thing they say is they're a "complaint free business, without paying anyone off." Dude, that's your open? You have to do a little better than that. Same paragraph: "We are not trying to say we are perfect, but we sure try to be." I appreciate the candor, but as a prospective customer, I'd like to think that you're imperfect with others and not me. Just a little psychology or whatnot.

Paragraph three: They've never gone bankrupt. To paraphrase Chris Rock, You're not supposed to go bankrupt!

Paragraph four: "What we are is real," like this is the Penthouse Letters of gutter repair.

I don't know, they seem like they're trying a little too hard. We're still trying to figure out who to call to fix the thing. I'll let you know if we come across anyone good.

Posted: April 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , ,