Thursday, June 19, 2014

TBT: My Night With Barney Fife

One of the interesting things about living across the street from Springfield Friends Meeting for 8 years had to do with the church's alarm system. Each evening either Max Rees (the senior pastor who also lived across the street from the church) or myself would set the alarm using a key pad. This system would sound a very loud siren if anyone opened a door or if motion was detected in certain areas inside the facility. More nights than I can recount, usually around 2 AM, the alarm would go off. Over the years we determined it was often set off by mice in the building. Regardless of the reason, anytime the siren sounded Max and I would respond. Strangely enough answering middle-of-the-night security alarms was in neither of our job descriptions, but we always responded. We would turn off the alarm and wait for the police to respond. They would check the building, find nothing, and we would reset the system and go home. 

One particular night I responded to an alarm by myself and awaited the High Point Police Department. Two very young deputies arrived and were determined to search the building from top to bottom. I went with them to show the way, since they seemed determined NOT to turn on any lights. As we headed down the first hall towards the worship room, one of them thought he heard something- and pulled his gun. I could almost hear him saying "this is bigger than big Andy- big ain't the word for it!" They told me to stay in the hall and they proceeded to check out the noise- and "Deputy Fife" had his gun out the entire time. They found nothing, and as they came out and continued to search I asked if the gun was really necessary. I explained it would be much easier to tell the congregation about a stolen VCR or a broken window than to explain a shooting or a blood stain in a Quaker meetinghouse. Despite my protest,the gun remained out.

We headed downstairs and into the Youth Room. Shining a flashlight and holding a gun, "Deputy Fife" led us through the old kitchen and pushed open the swinging doors that led to our basement space. Suddenly he screamed "FREEZE!" and was down on one knee, his pistol pointed towards the far wall. He told me to hit the lights, so I did. As the lights came up, we discovered our overzealous deputy had gotten the drop on a life-size cardboard stand-up of Christian musician Michael W. Smith. Fortunately he didn't fire, and since MWS was unarmed, the episode ended peacefully. The search was discontinued and the HPPD officers left without much conversation. "Deputy Fife" never responded to one of our alarms again, at least not while I was at Springfield. Perhaps, like the character on The Andy Griffith Show, they had to take away his bullet...

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