Sunday, January 21, 2007

Chiming In

A long, long time ago....

Well, it was March 2002, actually, one of the things we brought back with us from our trip to Hawai'i was a set of windchimes we bought in a store in Honokaa, on the Hamakua Coast of the island of Hawai'i.

These were awesome wind chimes. They weren't annoyingly-tinkly, or brazenly brassy, but they were mostly bamboo and the music they produced was a soft melodic tumbling of sound.

They appeared via YouTube on BillyBlog in the Fall, and I posted the same clip a few days ago. Scroll down to see and hear them in action.

These chimes were placed on our back balcony, outside of our youngest daughter's room. They stayed out there, rain or shine, snow or bluster. We'd occasionally pull them inside in the event of a Nor'easter or serious windstorm, but they were amazingly resilient and withstood some pretty harsh weather.

We have lived on the third floor of an attached three-family house which is adjacent to two other similar structures, for the past nine-plus years. The home to the right of us has had a much greater turnover, at least on the third floor, during that same period of time. The neighbors have usually been young men and women, but mostly women. Some have been friendly. Some have been indifferent. It helps, I think, when you have children. They tend to make neighbors more sociable.

Cut to 2006. There are new neighbors. I have not met them. On occasion, our neighbors through the years have appeared on the balcony adjacent to ours. Once many years ago, I locked myself out and the previous neighbors let me in their place so I can get to their balcony, climb over to ours (a railing is the only barrier), and come in through the sliding glass door into the kids room. The apartment looked just like ours, only with hardwood floors.

These new neighbors have never said anything about our wind chimes, nor did the previous ones, or the ones before that. Our chimes were pleasant. They came in peace.

One morning last Summer, I was leaving for work with the girls in tow, taking them to day camp. A distressed young woman was in front of next door, looking up at her apartment. She saw us and looked at me hopefully.

"Do you have a cell phone?" she asked. "I locked myself out and my boyfriend can't hear the buzzer."

I am a neighborly fellow, so I offered up my phone. She called and said something like "Joe, wake up, I'm outside. I'm locked out." Or something like that. Success! The boyfriend was awakened and she handed me her phone. She thanked me profusely. She said her name was Stephanie. I introduced myself, and the girls. The day progressed.

Maybe once or twice in the next few weeks we ran into Stephanie in the street. We exchanged greetings, and moved on.

Scroll ahead a few weeks, maybe a month or two. It was still Summer. We were shopping at Kohl's in Caesar's Bay, Brooklyn. It was a windy day. My cell phone rang.

"Hello?" I said, not recognizing the number. "Hi, Bill, this is Stephanie, your neighbor?"

"Uh, yeah?" I asked, not knowing why she was calling, or how she had my cell phone number.

"I had your number on my phone, from that day I got locked out," she said.

"Okay," I said, cautiously.

"Well, I was wondering if you could take your wind chimes down. It's very windy and I can't sleep."

It was windy. It was around 11:00 AM. I explained that I wasn't home, that I was shopping, and that I wouldn't be home for half an hour or so, maybe closer to an hour. "If you want," I offered, "You can just climb over and take them down. Just lay them on the ground."

"Oh, okay," she replied, "Thanks."

I thought it was weird, but I guess it was windy, and perhaps she was a light sleeper. I saved her number on my cell phone under "Stephanie Neighbor".

We got home an hour later. I went out to the balcony. The chimes were still hanging, clunking in the wind. I took them down. I replace them a day or so later.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday night. January 16Th, 2007. It was a breezy night. We had just gone to bed. I noticed something. I could hear the wind blowing outside, but I couldn't hear the chimes.

"Do you hear the chimes?" I asked Melanie

She paused and listened, "I think so. Hmmm. Maybe not."

I got up and looked out the window into the darkness. I didn't see them. I grabbed a flashlight, went into Shayna's room, turned on the patio light, peered out. No chimes. I looked on the ground. Not there. I walked out into the breezy cold. I peered down into the back yard. No one ever went down there except in the Spring and Summer. It was dark. I shown the flashlight. Nothing.

Wednesday night I came home. I went out again and looked nothing.

I called her number and got a generic voice mail message. I hung up. I tried a couple of hours later. Same thing.

The next day at work, Thursday, I called again. No answer. Voice mail. Hung up. A message would be weird. I had been going over in my head. I've lost keys, credit cards, wallets, cell phones, in my apartment after putting them somewhere and forgetting I had done so. Could I have done that with the wind chimes? I thought it unlikely.

My phone rang around 4:00 PM. I didn't recognize the number. "Hello?"

A male voice stated, "Yes, I've been getting calls from this number and was calling back to see what it's about."

I put two and two together quickly and stumbled through the details. I was looking for Stephanie to see if maybe she had removed the chimes on a particularly windy day and not replaced them.

I had sort of given an implied consent to do so over the Summer, but this was weird. Melanie and I could not recall when we had last heard the chimes. I knew it was after October 7, 2006, when I shot the video.

The guy on the phone was curt. "You need to talk to Stephanie," he said coldly. "Is this her boyfriend?" I asked. "No," he said quickly. Okay.

"Well, could you ask her to call me?" He said OK. Before he hung up, I tried again, "Can I ask who I'm talking to?"

"This is her friend," he said clinically. And the call ended.

That night I asked the landlady if she had found any chimes on her balcony below us, or down on the garden level. She said she hadn't, but she would look.

Today I walked out again and looked in the daylight. It was a windy day. I could hear someone's wind chimes in the building across the way. Our chimes were still missing.

I mentioned this scenario to a rabbi I know, who reads this blog. He reminded me of the Ninth Commandment: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Gotcha.

My chimes are gone. Unless they show up mysteriously soon, I will assume they have been chimenapped or stolen by seagulls. I have not received any demands. I eye the neighborhood birds suspiciously.

To be continued . . .

1 comment:

Benjie516 said...

Street Justice.