When I stepped out of my front door, I almost tripped over the box full of vegetables I ordered the week before. It was standing on the edge of the first floor landing, almost falling down the stairs. A scribbled note attached to it saying in capital letters to leave the empty box next to the street door. Exclamation point. No name, no please, no thank you for your order. I picked up the box slightly annoyed, wondering how the delivery lady even came into the building without ringing the bell when my upstairs neighbor walked down the stairways, his dog on the leash.
“You really should have placed those boxes of yours out of the way. Did you know Sparky almost tripped over it? Didn’t you, Sparky.”
I pressed my lips. There was no point arguing with grumpy Mr. Smith. So all I said was “Of course. I’m sorry, I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
I was just putting the key in the lock when I heard Mr. Smith nagging voice again.
“This wasn’t here an hour ago. You know, everybody has to make an effort to keep the property tidy.”
I turned around, pressing the heavy box against my upper leg to support the weight. Mr. Smith was standing next to the street door, holding up accusingly between his thumb and index finger what appeared to be a used sanitary wipe.
“But I didn’t…”, I started then gave up immediately. With a sigh I put down the box, went down the stairs and took the disinfectant wipe from Mr. Smith.
“Must have fallen out of my pocket. You know how important it is to keep the handles clean with the virus going around. I’ll throw it away immediately, Mr. Smith”, I said with a rueful smile, hoping my admission of guilt would make Mr. Smith and his dog leave.
Appeased by my efforts to keep the house community safe from infection, Mr. Smith mistook my coming down the stairs as a conversation starter.
“Also”, he continued in a conspiratorial tone, “we must make sure that the street door is always properly closed. Mrs. Miller across the street told me that people are lurking around in front of our door.”
Now, he got my attention. There had been seven burglaries in the last year – one of them I witnessed.
“What kind of people? Could she describe them? They are still looking for the two guys who broke into the house last December. Although I really can’t imagine the likes of them hanging around in front of our house in the light of day.”
When Mr. Smith realized I was deeply concerned he struck a soothing chord.
“Well, maybe not so much people,” he admitted. Turned out Mrs. Miller had seen a middle-aged woman standing next to a farmer’s van wearing a face mask and gloves. In answer to my question if they could have been medical ones—taking into account the extraordinary circumstances—Mr. Smith only shrugged.
“Well, she might not be your typical burglar. But lurking around in front of doors is quite strange behavior, wouldn’t you agree? Important thing is: Keep the street door properly shut!”, he said and left the building hurriedly slamming the door behind him.