Hudson's Corner: 'Tis the season for holiday mishaps and malfunctions

'Tis the season of light and joy. 'Tis also the season when mishaps and malfunctions are more noticeable.

This year it began right before Thanksgiving. The night before Thanksgiving, five burglaries and three larcenies took place in the neighborhood, according to Deputy Maj. Richard Worley, Baltimore City Police, who spoke at the December Roland Park Civic League meeting.

He said most were crimes of opportunity, i.e., unlocked garage or car doors, objects visible inside of cars. He said if residents see anyone who does not look like he/she belongs in the neighborhood, residents should call 911 immediately. Not 311, but 911.

The only way red dots will show up on police maps tracking crime is for residents to call 911. The more red dots, the more police know of criminal activity in the neighborhood.

Worley emphasized that residents should lock all house and car doors and windows, keep cars empty of belongings (except in the trunk), mark personal belongings with an engraver available at Northern District headquarters, record bicycle serial numbers, use outdoor lighting and motion censors, report immediately to 911 suspicious people at neighbors' homes.

On the homefront over Thanksgiving, we had a car malfunction. I was out on errands when I pushed the accelerator, and the car went VVRRROOOM!! The loudest vrrrooom any car of ours has ever made. It sounded like a rocket. My husband thought it was the catalytic converter known for making horrible sounds on malfunction. Luckily, what failed was part of the exhaust system, much less expensive to repair.

A few weeks after Thanksgiving, I saw a car that had smashed through the window at Pizza Boli's on Falls Road. 'Tis also the season of car accidents.

Next came the Social Security Administration. Advisers told me to discontinue the retirement benefits I had decided to take early. I filed the form, received confirmation and instructions and mailed in a cashier's check.

Weeks passed. I heard nothing, then a letter arrived asking why I had not mailed the check. I called Social Security to tell them I had, but they had no record of it. I went to the bank, and they said the check had not been cashed. I realized I had been stupid not to send it with delivery confirmation requested. My bad.

After another letter arrived with my name misspelled and my claim number wrong, I went to the Social Security office in Towson. I was told it could take another week or so for the check to process. Two days later, someone in Philadelphia called and said the check had arrived, but in the meantime Social Security had incorrectly deposited more retirement benefits into my bank account. They would have to be repaid. This time I went to the Towson office with the check, but who knows how long it will take to post.

Our next malfunction came via the telephone. One recent afternoon we received three calls with no one on the line. Twelve hours later, in the middle of the night, the phone rang. My husband picked it up. Nothing. It rang two more times. Nothing. I dialed *69 to find out the number, but the call was "out of area."

I called Verizon and reached someone at 3 a.m. She instructed me to call the unlawful call center the next morning. I did. That woman said the calls were likely computer-generated calls from a telemarketer. She put a temporary trace on our line. Two nights, three more came in at 3 a.m., and we reported them. It is great to have a way to deal with these irritating calls, and to have friendly, responsive people in the call center.

In an era when many seem uncommitted to detailed, quality work, experiencing it, in any form, feels like a gift.

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