Friday, December 9, 2011

Carol of the Dogs

It might look like an ordinary porch light, but it's magic.
“What time was the guy supposed to come?” my husband asked when we first moved into this house.

“About an hour ago,” I shrugged. 

“Well, I just got a phone call from him and he said no one was home.”

“What do you mean ‘no one was home?’ I was home the whole time,” I inform my husband, my voice an octave higher with irritation.

“He said no one answered the door when he knocked.”

Crap.  I had been upstairs and the backyard.  At that time, we only had the Uber Hundus and Jindos don’t bark.  The guy could have come and gone and I would never have known.

“We need to get a doorbell,” I sighed.

Our 1929 house has had multiple additions over the years and at some point, a two car garage was added and was later converted into the current living room/dining room.  No one bothered to put in a doorbell at the “new” front door, although I suspect someday we’ll discover a doorbell somewhere in one of the closets.

When an electrician arrived for another job, I thought I’d ask about a doorbell as well.  He went outside and examined the entry, the door jamb, felt along the clapboards, knocked on walls as the Uber Hund watched with interest.  The Jindo was an excellent supervisor.  The electrician frowned and came inside and studied the interior wall and jamb.  He flicked on the light switch to the porch light.

“This shouldn’t work,” he declared, flicking the switch on and off several times.

It was the first of many times I would hear that phrase.

“Well, it does,” I said, reinforcing the obvious.

“It shouldn’t,” he said wonder written on his face as he flicked the switch on and off again.

“It’s magic.”

Uber Hundus and I exchanged looks.  The Uber Hund gave a sniff of disdain. 

“So, can you put in a doorbell?” I finally asked, suspecting wizardry was not one of this electrician’s fortes.

“I - - , “ the electrician shook his head in marvel and flicked the switch once more for good measure.  “I don’t know how I would do it.”

The following weekend, my husband and I went to the hardware store and purchased a remote doorbell, the kind that is double-taped onto a surface and has a battery operated receiver.  It worked o.k., except that it wasn’t loud enough to be heard upstairs.  So, I bought an additional receiver, the kind that’s programmed to match the other receiver and I plugged it into an outlet.

It worked.  It worked very well.  We discovered that our neighborhood was a magnet for faux magazine and security system sales, with the occasional missionary and child asking for support of his/her school, club, or team.  There was also UPS, FedEx, and other shipping companies.  And the pizza guy.  And friends.  The doorbell rang at least once a day.

Not long after installing the doorbell, we acquired The Rockstar who, unlike the Uber Hund, does bark.  A year later, we got the Wee One, who also barks.  And bays:  “Aa-rooooooo!  Aa-rooooooo!”

In classic Pavlovian fashion, the younger dogs learned to associate the doorbell with pizza and friends.  Whenever the doorbell rang, The Rockstar and Wee One scrambled, barking and aa-roo-ing, to the door.  They jockeyed for front position, leaping and jumping, trying to out bark and out greet each other.  The Uber Hund observed cooly from a distance, it wasn’t going to be the pizza guy if it wasn’t Friday night.  If it was friends, they’d want to see the Uber Hund first anyway, so there wasn’t any rush.

Because of all the sales, faux and real, we stopped answering the doorbell if we didn’t recognize the person on the other side.  However, the dogs were ever the optimists.  They were staunch believers that whenever the doorbell rang, it could be the pizza guy or friends.  In fact, they probably believed that the more they barked and jockeyed, the more likely it would be the pizza guy or friends, because everyone else would be frightened away.

Fortunately, the police started to crack down on the door-to-door sales scams so they diminished significantly.  We lived here long enough so that the local missionaries stopped trying to recruit us.  We watched for the pizza guy and friends’ arrival and went out to greet them rather than have them ring the bell. 

The house got quieter and calmer.  It was a huge improvement.

And then the doorbell started to mysteriously ring on its own.

Once more, the dogs got whipped into a frenzy.  They’d do their routine, charging at the door, barking and baying.  But most of the time, they’d fade out in confusion since there was no shadow of a figure at the door.    I was a little confused as well.  At first, I thought it was a game of ding-dong ditch.  But there was no giggling, no scampering away as I watched from the upstairs window. 

After a while, I realized that whenever our doorbell rang on its own, the people next door had visitors.  Apparently, the neighbors didn’t have a traditional doorbell, either.  Our doorbells were on the same frequency.  Not only did we get double the ringing of sales visit, but we’d know whenever the neighbors had friends visiting.  And they had lots of friends.

I yanked out the upstairs receiver.

As a Christmas gift last year, we purchased a new front door.  My husband did the installation, pulling out the jamb and hanging and aligning the door.
Waiting for the pizza guy.

“What do you want me to do with this?” he asked, holding up the remote button to the doorbell.

I looked at The Rockstar and the Wee One who wagged their tails with giddy anticipation.

“Chunk it,” I said.

He examined the button doubtfully.  “Really?”

I went outside and stood in front of the glass panel of the new front door and knocked.  The Rockstar and Wee One burst into a joyous noise.

“Yep, really,” I said.

One less bell to answer, but no chance The Rockstar or The Wee One will let me miss any more service visits.

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