We live at the end of a long, straight, boring stretch of country road on which the speed limit is 55 mph, which ends at a T-intersection. Over the years, cars have driven off the road and into our yard. Just weeks after we moved in, we were jarred awake by the sound of a school bus crashing through the yards and into a tree. No children were on the bus, and the bus driver (who had fallen asleep at the wheel) was only slightly hurt. We started petitioning the state and county highway departments back then, but nothing much was ever done. As a general rule, T-intersection problems are “solved” with rumble strips, which we and every neighbor within a half mile is firmly against, because of the noise.
Our solution, over the past eleven years, has been a 100 watt red light bulb facing the highway. It really has helped, and people stop us all the time to thank us for it (it’s visible on a foggy night and lets drivers who know the area just where they are); even the police approve. The light is on a timer, on at dusk, off at dawn, thus, the electrical cost is negligible, and really, who would put a price on the peace of mind it gives us? Friday evening, the light didn’t go on, and we assumed the bulb was burned out. When Chris went out to investigate, he discovered tracks in the snow leading from the road to the light . . . apparently someone had stolen the bulb.
I know that people who steal don’t give much thought to who they are stealing from and what effect it might have on them. I suppose the thinking is “I want it and I don’t care how I get it”, and they simply take the item and feel no guilt, empathy, or shame when they look at or use the item. For most of us, the guilt and shame would forever taint the item and certainly limit the pleasure we derived from having it, but we can’t count on thieves to do much thinking on those lines. We understand this, but even a theft this minor makes us feel vulnerable and violated. We wonder if we will now have to replace the light more often (the bulbs are around $5.00, and last around six months) as the perpetrators make a game of stealing it, we wonder if those same thieves would also break into our house, we wonder if now is the time to make a stronger case to the state for a solar-powered stop sign (retail cost: $600.00, cost for county to install: $10,000 and up—don’t get me started). We wonder if we drove around town some night, would we find our red bulb lighting someone else’s yard?
While Chris and I enjoy wondering about nature’s mysteries, whether we’ll have good weather when we need it, what it would be like to be independently wealthy, and how we could get that way . . . we are not enjoying the wondering that comes with crime, however minor.