If every plan you’d originally made for your future falls apart and you’re unsure how to even begin sorting through it– it’s probably a good idea to just leave it alone for a while. Leave it alone and just start watching a lot of television.
Or at least that was my theory when all my plans sort of imploded on themselves and I moved back in with my parents where I spent far too much time googling things like, “professional trail guide” or “fun jobs for people with English degrees.”
But unsatisfied with my search results, and hoping maybe they’d change if I gave them some breathing room, I found myself a soft spot on the couch and under the guise of, “maybe I’ll write for television,” I got comfy.
It only took a few days for me to catch my TV viewing stride. And quickly thereafter I stumbled across a show called Criminal Minds to which I was instantly and wholeheartedly hooked.
For anyone who hasn’t gone through a time in their life where they’ve sought solace in formulaic hour long crime dramas –what you should know is this– no one is safe from the addictive force of these shows. They’re meant to suck you in and hold you close, but more than anything they’re made to get your brain moving in a way that is so caught up in plot development you no longer have the mental capacity to think things like: What am I doing with my life? Or, Will I be alone forever?
Instead these thoughts are overshadowed by the need to track down a serial killer in less than an hour. Save a life! Catch a villain! It’s the perfect combination of distraction and accomplishment at a time when those are the things you crave most.
So, it only makes sense that once I’d found this magical-drug-of-a-show I wanted more and I wanted it quick. I got handy with the DVR player and set it up to tape every rerun that was scheduled to play anytime in the immediate and not so immediate future. Which is, simply put, a lot of episodes.
The only problem was that the more episodes I taped, the more episodes I watched. This happens to have a pretty intense effect on a person. Or, in the very least, it had a pretty intense effect on me.
These shows are set up to make you believe you’re experiencing something as they go along. You’re given a clue a minute before one of the show detectives has it, you know a few more background details and suddenly you’re sitting there thinking that you should be doing the job of the characters on the screen, because–come on, you totally know who the killer is—and these people on screen as still bumbling around making obvious discoveries.
I don’t know who invented this model for television, but whoever did, is a total genius. They’ve also probably caused a swarm of people to legitimately believe they’d make excellent detectives. . A belief that for me was more than welcome.
And this is why one night while sleeping in my bed at my parents’ house– a house that is located in the suburbs. And I mean serious suburbs, like, –strategically planted trees and homeowners association cleared house colors suburbs, it is why—even here–, my brain was ready for trouble. So when my sleep was disrupted by what sounded like the shattering of glass I automatically assumed a crime was occurring and it was my job to investigate.
I started by looking my bedroom window where I spotted a small BMX bike resting on the driveway across the street, as a kid who could have no older than 16 and dressed entirely in black, pointed what looked like a blue laser pointer into the window of a car. I looked for shattered glass and saw none. And then two-seconds later I watched as he took his empty hand and placed it against the car window which immediately caused the glass to crumble to pieces. This was about the point I thought, “OH MY GOD I’M WATCHING A CRIME.” Which was quickly followed by: What the hell do I do now? And finally: Do I call the police?
I decided the answer was probably yes. But considering this was the first time I’d even actually witnessed a crime, I was not only shaking by this point I was also pacing around my room like a maniac. Only pausing to double check that what was happening outside my window wasn’t actually a dream I’d woken up from and believed was real life.
It wasn’t a dream. There was a criminal just outside my window and I grew increasingly concerned that if I looked too long we’d somehow make eye contact at which point he would stop breaking into cars and re-direct his focus onto simply murdering me.
But for the good of the neighborhood I tried to regain my composure long to stop imagining my dramatic death and punch the numbers 9-1-1 into my phone.
And a moment after I pressed call I was presented with an option.
“If this is an emergency press 1,” it said.
“If not, press 2.”
Now, I realize looking back at this situation that of course this was an emergency. I mean, I was literally witnessing a robbery. But you have to remember at the time my brain was all Criminal Mind-sy. All the logic and reason I’d previously possessed about what constitutes an emergency had been replaced by the idea that cops had better things to do than deal with robberies– they had serial killers to catch.
So I couldn’t decide what to do– was this an emergency?
I mean, no one was getting murdered,( or at least if I avoided window-spying eye contact) and I didn’t want to assume it was an emergency and then have the emergency operator be all annoyed and say something like, car break ins are NOT considered emergencies, Miss. You really should have pressed 2.”
So that’s what I did. I pressed 2 as the black-clothed robber began breaking into his third car.
And I was sent straight to voicemail.
So then I had to call back only this time making the correct choice.
“How can I help you?” The operator asked.
“Well, I’m currently watching a robbery from my bedroom window,” I began. “There’s a guy with a blue laser pointer and he’s breaking into cars.”
“Cars?” She replied. “ As in, more than one?”
“Yes, I think he’s on the third one now. Or the third one that I’ve seen. I heard glass breaking earlier, that’s what woke me up in the first place, so I figure he at least broke into one before the three I’ve seen. I tried to call before, but I wasn’t sure if it was an emergency or not, so I pressed 2 and then was sent to voicemail so, that’s why it took so long.”
I swear she let out an audible annoyed sigh somewhere in the middle of my monologue. But once I’d finished she asked my address and said they’d send cars over immediately.
It wasn’t long until I saw two police cars driving up and down my street. Although the lack of flashing lights was a pretty clear sign the small bike riding crook had successfully gotten away.
Not long after I woke up the next morning a neighbor came and knocked on our door.
“Hey did you hear about the car break-ins last night?” He asked.
I didn’t know how to respond, but he seemed to take my hesitation as a no and just kept going.
“Yeah, they broke into their car,” he said pointing, “and then the car next door and then they came over to our house and broke into our van and took some sunglasses. I wish I’d seen them. This stuff just gets me so mad. Anyway, just wanted to let you know in case you noticed anything missing.”
I nodded, deciding right then, I was definitely not going to tell him I’d actually seen firsthand all the events he’d just recapped.
“Well, thanks for letting us know,” I replied, “and I’m really sorry about your sunglasses.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault,” he said while walking away.
To which I just smiled and nodded as I slowly closed the door behind him.
Ideally, this would be the point in the story where I tell you how these events caused me to pursue a life of fighting crime. How I now head up f some super-secret-special unit in the FBI where I tirelessly spend my days making the safer place. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Instead, I eventually calmed down with the TV watching– or at least scaled back enough that I no longer mixed it up with reality. Although for a little while there it was a really nice distraction.