Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Window of Opportunity

Last weekend, my friend Kate & I went to Pittsburgh to visit our friend Jenni. The three of us have been friends for over 10 years and when we get together, well it’s pretty stupid and crazy, but a lot of fun. Our times together are a lot like that old TV Show “Sisters”… well, except there were four of them and I’m not a woman.

The main reason we were visiting was to help Jenni organize her new Melrose Place apartment. While Kate & I are poster children for the Container Store, Jenni is the complete opposite. Our job was to help organize furniture, hang pictures, toss crap and bring a better karma to the place.

Helping someone throw out junk takes a special talent. You can’t just look at someone and say, “What is the shit? Toss it.” Alright, maybe you can, but you can dump about one box before they get suspicious. So Kate and I crafted a distraction model to assist us.

“You tell her how beautiful those pumpkin gourd soup tureens are, while I throw out this box of half used candles.” Seemed like a good plan.

Midway through our day of unpacking, Jenni chimes in, “Hey, do you want to take the Barney tour?” Barney, it turns out, was the man who broke into her apartment the week before.

The previous Friday, Jenni was awakened at 3:30 in the morning by a loud noise coming from her bathroom. Having just bought and assembled a towel rack, she was convinced it had fallen over. In the dark, she nervously approached the door of the bathroom and meekly whispered, “Hello?”

“Hello,” A deep male voice answered.


She flipped on the light switch and there was a man holding her shower curtain in front of him. Shampoo bottles were strewn across the room. The beautiful IKEA towel rack, however, remained intact.

Please notice that the window above the tub is a good 7 feet above the floor and only two feet square. Did I also mention that Jenni lives on the third floor?

With grace under pressure, Jenni looks at him and shouted, “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“My friends used to live here,” he said.


(Jenni, though completely disorganized when packing boxes, is amazingly gifted with words in a crisis.)

The intruder apologized, made his way to the front door and walked out into the hallway. Jenni locked the door behind him and just whimpered as she assessed the situation.

A scratch at the door.

“Mister, seriously… you have to go away.”

The scratching turned out to be Michelle, the pharmaceutical rep across the hall, whose many samples line the outer hallway like Halloween treats for adults. (I make a mental note to check for Percocet.)

Jenni let her in and Michelle comforted her as she relayed the evening’s activities. “Describe him for me,” she says.

After a few defining characteristics, Michelle said, “Hmm, I’ll bet it was Barney. Let me check.”

Michelle picked up the phone. “Hey Susan, have you seen Barney recently? Really, about two hours ago? Well, it would take him 45 minutes to make it Jake’s old place. He just climbed through the window of the new tenant. Cool, thanks.”

She hung up and looked at Jenni. “Yep, it was Barney.”

(Barney was a heroine addict who crashed in the apartment when the former tenants would go away.)

That evening continued with a police report, a mug shot review in which Jenni was convinced Ty Pennington was amongst the photos, and a review of Barney’s former crimes, including male prostitution.

Kate and I just looked back and forth in amazement as we realize we are spending the next two nights in Barney apartment.

Jenni tries to break our silence. “So that’s the tour. A lot like the Jack the Ripper tour, only shorter, no gift shop and I don’t wear a period piece costume.”



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