Call me crazy, but I blame Congress for the words I keep hearing from everyone who knows what happened to me last week. Get a gun and a dog.
That’s what everyone keeps telling me since I discovered a burglar in my house.
I am one of 800,000 federal employees who were ordered to stay home due to furlough. Sitting in my second floor home office, I at first thought a few extra days to spend writing would be great. A week dedicated to finishing the novel I was working on felt like a gift, until I heard a commotion downstairs. I have two rambunctious cats, and my first thought was that they were being particularly crazy.
I was wrong. The cats were cowering under the sofa while a man climbed through my dining room window.
I saw him come in, I was set to run for a phone, to lock myself in a room while I called 911.When he rushed at me, gesturing like he was about to pull out a gun, screaming at me to shut up, I froze.
We all like to think we’ll be brave in the face of danger. When I was a soldier, our country had been at peace and stayed that way for the decade and a half I served in uniform. I’d only had to lock and load once outside of a range during a riot in Brcko, Bosnia. At the time, I’d been surrounded by other U.S. soldiers and no one in the crowd was pointing a weapon at me. I’d felt threatened, but not afraid.
Faced with a potentially armed intruder, I shook in terror. I hated that feeling of helplessness while he walked me around my house, screaming at me with instructions, to not look at him, to go here and there, room to room as he rifled through my drawers, demanding money and getting angry when I told him I didn’t have any. Who carries cash anymore? I rarely have it in my wallet, and had only a purse full of change, a few gold necklaces and a diamond tennis bracelet. I loved that bracelet.
He took my debit card and even—while gripping the back of my neck, his fingers pressed into my flesh and warning me not to look at him—tried to call my bank to verify that the pin number I’d given him was correct. He checked my balance and liked the dollar amount he heard and threatened to make me drive him around to ATMs while he stole from me.
When he wasn’t telling me what to do, he repeatedly told me that I wasn’t supposed to be home.
No shit! I was supposed to be at work. I was supposed to be earning the pay I had sitting in my bank account. Instead, I’d been home and had surprised him almost as much as he’d surprised me.
When he threw me face down on my bed, I thought the worst. When he reached for an electrical cable, I thought he was going to strangle me. Instead he tied me up, rifled through more of my things and left.
I know I should be thankful that he didn’t hurt me. I am. But I’m also pissed at the man who took what didn’t belong to him, angry that my home was violated, furious at how fucking scared I was, at how vulnerable he made me feel. But mostly I’m pissed that I was here and I blame Congress for that.
Will I get a dog or a gun? The dog is a definite no. I’m a cat person and a dog simply wouldn’t fit my lifestyle. I’m leaning toward the gun idea, but part of me thinks a gun would have only escalated the situation and I question whether or not I’d have pulled the trigger. It’s a question I will think long and hard about, but hesitation with a gun in your hand is just plain stupid.
But stupid is how congress is acting. They tell us not to come to work, to stay home, but they vote to pay us anyway? Not that I don’t want to get paid, but it’s simply further proof that I am being told to stay home out of political gamesmanship. If they weren’t playing these games I would be hard at work earning every penny they intend to pay me anyway.
Instead, I was forced to stay home, forced to ignore the emails piling up in my blackberry and forced to be at the beck and call of a thief who robbed and terrorized me. I’ll replay the scene in my head over and over and wonder what I could have done differently. The one thing I know without doubt is that I wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t been furloughed, and I blame Congress for that.