Lileks: Did I leave the iron on? And other vacation musings

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2013 - 9:38 PM

When I’m on an airplane, waiting to leave for vacation, I want one thing: an app called NO, THE IRON IS NOT PLUGGED IN. Call it up, and it checks your latest iron status, so you can relax.

It doesn’t do anything, really — just says it’s not plugged in so you can relax. Because you know you unplugged it. Right?

I do have a home-burglary app, inasmuch as the security system will call your cell if the alarm goes off, just to tell you someone’s carting off your stuff and there’s squat you can do about that.

But did you remember to set the alarm? If only unplugging the iron automatically armed the system.

I’m just back from spring break, and I’d like to thank the area’s criminal community for not breaking into the house. Awful decent of you guys, and don’t think it’s not appreciated.

We checked e-mail while away and saw the rash of break-ins elsewhere in the neighborhood — more of a bad case of shingles, really — but either you passed us by because it’s just not sporting to hit people away on vacation or you decided you’d looted your fair share for the week. Whatever: much appreciated!

Leaving the house for vacation is always a bit nerve-racking; you almost want to set out a plate full of jewelry and small electronics, just like cookies for Santa. Here, I’m saving you some trouble. Don’t get greedy.

But first you must make it look like you’re gone.

You stop the paper, an easy, automated process. The nice robot lady asks if you’d like to donate your papers to a school, and of course you say yes: get those kids hooked on Garfield and Wuzzles and they’re customers for life. And look, letters to the editor! And two pages of tiny type about dead people! But this time I said no, because school was out.

You stop the mail. Choices: You can pick up the mail when you get back, or have it delivered in a thick wad cinched with a rubber band, 54 percent of the stack consisting of coupons for window treatments or hamburgers at a restaurant 17 miles away. It all goes in the garbage. On the other hand, you have a new rubber band. Let’s see the Internet do that.

Once we went away for two weeks and the mail did not stop. The mailbox made a goose force-fed for foie gras look like a supermodel who doesn’t finish a whole cigarette because tar is fattening. Once we canceled the paper and it still kept coming — but of course no one broke in because the lights were on timers. That’ll confuse the crooks.

What do you say, Rocky? I think the pile of periodicals on the stoop indicates a temporary absence of tenancy.

I don’t know, pal. Those living room lights are clicking on and off at regular intervals. I smell a trap.

Once we went away and the mail and the papers were stopped, but the local free newspaper was delivered, because there’s nothing you can do about that. Again, crooks might not think that means you’re gone: OK, Rocky, the lights go on and off at regular intervals, and we watched the mailman pass by six days straight, and there’s a free newspaper on the landing. I think it’s safe.

Nah. He could be, you know, refuting the free-distribution model. Lettin’ the paper sit there as a rebuke.

Yeah, but the UPS package has been on the stoop for three days. It’s fruit from one of those places where you can send fruit to other people for some reason.

He could be allergic. I say we wait. Didn’t you hear the radio? There’s a radio playing all night. Who goes away and leaves the radio playing? It’s a news station. It’s not like the house fills up with news and you can scoop it up and spread it out when you get back.

Anyway. This time it worked perfectly. No papers, no mail, no packages, no burglaries. The plane ride home was smooth. The taxi ride home required the usual instructions to the driver — “we’re going to Minneapolis, a large metropolitan area to the northeast” — and there was the accustomed surge of joy when you pull up to the house and it’s not a smoldering wreck with yellow tape and chalk outlines.

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