L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 329, July 24, 2005
"You've GOTTA be kidding"
Close Encounters of the Annoying Kind
Exclusive to TLE
Friday morning (7/22/05) I was rudely awakened by a pounding on my front door. It was 4:30 AM, so I was pretty sure it wasn't the UPS guy with a delivery for which I needed to sign. My wife and I rolled out of bed and looked down the stairs at the front door, and there is a hand pushing through our mail slot (the brass kind with spring-hinged flaps both inside and outside). A female voice is yelling to be let in. She then withdraws the hand, being unable to reach the doorknob, much less the deadbolt or chain, and starts banging on the (nice, solid oak) door again.
She's yelling for "Steve" to let her in, that she is "Sandy." Well, there is no Steve here, nor are any of our immediate neighbors named Steve. I don't know anyone named Sandy. So it's a pretty good bet that she is at the wrong house. We tried to tell her this, but she wasn't in a receptive mood. Her banging was getting louder, and her yelling more annoying the more we tried to tell her she had the wrong house.
By this time, we had reached the tentative conclusion that she was under the influence of something. Normally, I wouldn't care much, but this was an hour before I normally get out of bed. And there was no way we could ignore the volume of the knocking and yelling and go back to sleep. So, in the absence of a libertarian defense alternative, we called 9-1-1.
The first car rolled up about 6-7 minutes later. Admittedly, if I had pitched the situation to the dispatcher in more ominous tones, they might have arrived sooner, but there it is. I'm not going in the direction of pointing out that the police cannot and will not be responsible for defending you; most people reading this already know that quite well.
The first cop, a tall, trim guy in his mid-twenties, come up the steps to our front porch, and shines his flashlight on Sandy and we get our first look at her: young, white, blitzed. After trying to reason with her for several minutes, and getting nowhere, the cop asked us to open the door to show Sandy that we weren't Steve. Sandy looked about 20 (if that), about 5'5" and slender, wearing one of those dresses that looked like a lace-trimmed satin slip and black flats that were not much more than slippers. It's a good bet she had been partying somewhere. No purse, handbag, or whatever; thus, no ID. Oh, and she was definitely high on something, as her face, which would have been quite attractive in other circumstances, was as blank as a new ream of copy paper.
Our neighborhood is mostly residential, single-family homes, but our house is next to some older two-unit apartment buildings that look like Monopoly hotels, plopped down along the street opposite the residential area. Where she walked from to reach our house, I don't know, but suspect the apartments. We've been in this house for 27 years, and the apartments have gone from a mix of old people and young couples starting out, to mostly college students and immigrant families. The latter are good neighbors, but the college students have parties that occasionally spill outside and have caused some minor property damage to us and our next-door neighbor.
So, here is where this is going: what should be a libertarian response to something like this? Young drunks trashing planters full of flowers or kicking your car, or (as in this case) disturbing your sleep at a time when there is no way you will recover that lost timewhat to do?
Firearms are useful if someone actually breaks in, and you are defending yourself. They are not appropriate to running off drunks or people high on some other chemical; I'm not going to make a distinction here. This girl wasn't going to stop pounding on our door. Even after we opened the door and the cop pointed out that neither of us was the infamous Steve, the girl was unconvinced. She still wanted in.
The cop then escorts her to his car, where she sits in the back seat (door open) and he tried talking with her some more. Several minutes later, another cop rolls up and joins the conversation. More time passes, and they walk down the street with her, and around the corner up the first row of apartments. I honestly hope Sandy found Steve. The police were gone when I gave up trying to go back to sleep after 15-20 minutes and looked out front again.
In my opinion, the police acted the way I would want a libertarian defense agency to act. (Let's leave aside the question of whether they would have been so accommodating with an old, fat unattractive guy like me as they were with a quite pretty, if snockered, young woman in a sexy dress.) They politely defused the situation and tried to help this befuddled drunk find her way home. I assume this last, as I did not see whether they came back with her before they left. Either way, not bad for county cops. (BTW, I have had my share of maddening encounters with these guys. They don't treat old, fat guys like this.)
So, I have two questions, gentle readers. What should be done in situations like the door-pounding or the drunken vandals? My next-door neighbor is a big guy who looks a little like Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker. He can, and has, scared these people off several times. I'm 5'7", overweight, and in my mid-fifties. I'm not going to overawe drunken 20-year-olds. I am also not going to wave a pistol at them, as that is inappropriate to the situation.
The other question is more rhetorical: In this instance, how would a defense agency have acted differently than the county cops did? I have jumped on this force, and others, for their many failures to act in ways consistent with a "free country," so I have to give credit where credit is due. Well, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.