Staying home alone has perks, precautions

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two different perspectives.

SHE SAID: I once read an essay by Stephen King that highlighted the detriments of having a huge imagination. I've never related to an idea more. As a child, I'd have intense nightmares and wake up certain that if I stepped off my day bed, something would reach from beneath and snatch my ankle. It still happens occasionally, usually about that time one of the cats launches from under the bed and attacks my foot.

And while I loved the horror genre as a teenager, that stopped abruptly after a good friend died in a car accident when I was 17, and death became too much of a reality to enjoy as entertainment.

I'm sure there's a super-duper psychologically friendly syndrome for this particular problem, but it really comes down to freaking myself out. Which is why, on those rare occasions when I'm home alone overnight, I have a strict list of precautions I take to avoid the onset of a freakout. This week was a sound example (OK, there's nothing "sound" about my behavior) because Bob was in Virginia at a work conference for six days. So after he left, the first thing I did was lock the front door, something we don't typically do if one of us is home. Then I double-checked that all the other doors were locked, too. After all, creepy intruder isn't likely to use the front door anyway; locking it is more to keep a family member from just ambling in and scaring the fingernails off me while I'm in the bathroom or something.

The second thing I typically do is turn on all the lights. And I set flashlights and candles in a couple rooms just in case a thunderstorm unexpectedly blows in and knocks the power out. I take my phone with me as I move from room to room. I don't know how I expect it will help if someone breaks in the house and attacks me, but if I accidentally trip over one of the cats shooting out from under the bed and sprain my ankle, I can at least call for help.

I pull down all the shades and close all the curtains, because with all the lights on someone could easily stare through the windows and see all the dirty dishes piled in the sink.

I haul a blanket and pillow out to the couch, not because I don't want to sleep in the bed alone but because there's a huge dip in the middle of our mattress and without Bob on the other side to even things out, I'm constantly clawing my way out of that concave trap. Plus, I have a better view of the rest of the house and the front door from the couch, in case creepy intruder decides that's the best point of entry after all.

I monitor the cats' behavior closely, because I figure they will sense trouble before I will and go darting under the bed, ready to pounce on unsuspecting creepy intruder feet as necessary. I limit my TV-watching to the Discovery Channel and TLC, though I admit that didn't work well this week because on Sunday night there was an hourlong program on killer jellyfish that I thought was fairly safe but turned out to be the stuff of nightmares after all.

I open all the closet doors and the shower curtains -- anywhere that a cat-friendly creepy intruder could hide without detection. I treat the basement like chain stores on Black Friday: I stay away at all costs. Oh wait, that's the way I feel about the basement even when I'm not home by myself.

But the worst part -- the absolute worst part -- of staying alone is the shower. Seven years ago, I watched a remake of the movie "Psycho" and have longed for glass shower doors ever since. No one gets attacked with a knife through glass shower doors. Or, if it does happen, you'd at least see the creepy intruder coming and therefore the element of surprise would be somewhat diminished.

So after taking all these precise steps to ensure my continued safety in Bob's absence, I then fix myself a snack and realize how awesome it is not to have to share that snack with anyone. I flip on the TV and realize that I don't have to fight over watching NFL or killer jellyfish. Later, I gather up the laundry and revel in the lightness of the one-person load. Then I wash up the dishes from my snack and wonder at how quickly that gets done without all the extra plates and milk glasses.

And then -- and then -- I go into the bathroom and see that the toilet seat is DOWN! And I begin to think that I am on vacation.

Until I have to haul the trash to the curb, and I remember just how much marriage protects you from.

Callie Clark Miller is managing editor of online/special publication. Today, she is doing what any respectable Carter County native is doing: She's deer hunting. You can reach her at cmiller@semissourian.com, but she won[']t read it until Monday when she's back from the woods.

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