After getting into a bit of trouble on Twitter, I am now (apparently) compelled to flesh out a small adventure I had today while my husband was out running errands.
So here goes.
I was home alone, wrapping up laundry and packing to leave for Denver. But because laundry and packing are boring, and because we have (a). a big bottle of rum plus (b). some tasty ginger ale, I might have hypothetically mixed myself up a beverage despite the early hour.
In short, this is what you should picture: Me, wearing a truly appalling ensemble since everything else was dirty, toting a plastic tumbler that features a cheerful ghost announcing, “I’m here for the boos!”*
Whilst packing and looking ridiculous, I happened to glance out a window and – out of the corner of my eye – spy the door of a church down the street hanging open. It’s an old church. A largely restored 19th century church – which I’ve been meaning to check out one of these days.
As previously established – I like old buildings. In the past, I’ve been occasionally known to (cough cough) let myself inside … shall we say, “inadequately secured” old buildings … but I am a trespasser, not a breaker and enterer. I’ll surreptitiously explore abandoned properties, sure, but I don’t bother places that are occupied and/or routinely utilized. My Cunning Plan(tm) to see the inside of this particular nifty old joint had largely centered around dressing up and showing up for church, skipping the ceremony, swinging by whichever rooms were open, and then skulking out the back before the preacher hits his groove.
My interest is in vintage architecture, not fire or brimstone. So sue me.
Yes. Well. The door was still open a good 45 minutes later, and my curiosity – combined with a general sense of protectiveness re: historic properties – got the better of me. 45 minutes of an open door on a landmark structure … that was a good enough excuse to wander over there and poke my head in, right? And what if I didn’t? What if it was still open in the morning and RABID RACCOONS set up housekeeping inside?
Couldn’t let that happen. Not in good conscience. And not knowing how often the cops are called when people in this neighborhood get angry at raccoons and start shooting.**
First I checked out the block, for I’ve learned on dog-walking jaunts where people tend to park when they’re visiting on church business. I didn’t see any cars, and I didn’t see any indication that anyone was present.
The door was still swinging in the wind.
Up to this wind-swinging door I went. I knocked on it. “Hello?” I called. “Anybody here?”
No one answered. I pushed the door aside and stepped into the foyer. (Are they called foyers when it’s a church? Well, if it were a house I would’ve called it a foyer. So “foyer” it is.) The place was dead quiet, and not very big – so I could take a few steps and squint inside the sanctuary, where I saw no one. I called out again, but received no response.
Back in the foyer I found some stairs that went up to another floor, and down to the basement. I climbed the stairs, reached the top – and saw a conference-style room without anyplace obvious to hide and nowhere else to go. So, back down to the foyer.
I thought about checking the basement, but restrained myself. See, the way I figured it, what if someone had broken into this-here church? If so, you could bet the someone in question was still present, hiding. I mean, if I were an unsavory interloper and I heard someone ask, “HELLO? ANYBODY HERE?” then I would probably hide.
Does that sound crazy and paranoid? I don’t know why it should. Churches get vandalized and burgled all the time. They’re chock full of AV equipment and opportunities for youthful blasphemy. Shit happens.
Had shit happened here?
Damned if I knew.
So you’ll have to forgive me if I didn’t go all CSI on the place, looking between the pews and under the bathroom stalls. But I’m not some kind of nosy monster, so I frisked the foyer for some scrap of contact information for anyone who might have some interest in whether or not the church was unattended and open to the public.
On a table full of pamphlets I found a leftover church bulletin from last week, and when I flipped it over, I found the cell phone numbers for an assortment of promising parochial personnel. The pastor’s number was at the top, so I called him first.
He answered. And then I had a moment of “OH SHIT what do I tell this guy?!!!” at which point I launched into something that I’d like to believe sounded mostly sane and not at all IM IN UR CHURCH GRAFFITING UR BIBLEZ LOL. I told him my name, and that I lived near his church, and that I was standing inside it because the front door had been hanging open like a frat boy’s fly for the better part of an hour.
I might not’ve said that part about a frat boy’s fly. Or maybe I did. I don’t remember.
I was suddenly having trouble explaining myself, overthinking everything because I’ve been picked up by the cops for trespassing a A SMALL HANDFUL of times, and the LAST time this happened the cop told me that if found me anywhere else inappropriate in Hamilton County (WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW) then I’d go to jail and no amount of eyelash batting would save me.
In my defense, I was still in college at the time.
But that uniformed dude’s words were RINGING IN MY EARS whilst simultaneously this confused but very pleasant pastor was asking questions and I was wondering OMG WHAT IF THE COPS WANT TO KNOW WHY I BROUGHT MY CELL PHONE TO CHECK THE CHURCH DOOR? Because surely the answer, “I thought this might be worth tweeting about” would prove INSUFFICIENT and probably not much better than “Because I love Jesus but I drink a little,” or possibly, “There’s a cat missing in my neighborhood and I saw it this morning while I was out with the dog so I’ve got the owner’s number queued up in case I stumble across that fluffy wayward bastard again” … When in fact the answer was somewhere in the middle of those things.
So I babbled some version of the truth at the pastor, leaving out the middle-of-the-day-redneck-cocktail bit and suddenly wondering why I hadn’t burst into flames upon crossing the church’s threshold. While I babbled, I fiddled with the door – realizing it was a deadbolt, and there wasn’t any way for me to lock the place up behind myself.
I told the pastor this, and I apologized – saying that I would close the door as I left and make sure it was secure. But he had a better idea: He suggested a different course of action, whereby I locked the deadbolt from within … and then exited through the church’s basement, where I’d find a door that locked at the knob, rather than exclusively via key-I-didn’t-have.
The basement, you say? ADVENTURE GIRL RISES TO THE CHALLENGE.
All right, all right. It wasn’t a kobold-filled dungeon or anything; it was a fellowship hall with fall-themed decorations and evidence that small children played there on a regular basis. BUT IT WAS DARK. And considering that there could be NINJA THIEVES hanging about the premises for all I knew, it was not necessarily my first choice of action.
I am not proud to say that I kept the pastor on the phone while I followed his instructions. But if some NINJA THIEF ASSASSIN were to LEAP OUT OF THE SHADOWS, then at least SOME NICE MAN would be able to tell the homicide detectives what had happened.
Cold comfort, sure. But better than nothing.
When all was said and done, the church was secured and I escaped back into the
cold, dark, foggy, ominous night lovely mid-afternoon, and made my way back home. For his part, the pastor was friendly and grateful, and he invited me to visit the church in a more official and less inebriated capacity one of these days – which was kind of him, but I’m not likely to take him up on it.
I’m far more likely to sit at home and make myself a drink.
* I bet you think I’m joking.
** You think I’m joking again, don’t you? Ha.