'A Closed Door Policy'


By Jerry Zezima




Over the years, I have gotten myself into one mess after another, usually while trying to deal with the messes in my children's rooms. Now I am faced with the biggest mess yet: Can I be arrested for breaking into a room in my own home?

This question has been weighing on what little is left of my mind because my younger daughter recently put a lock on her bedroom door.

Lauren is a wonderful young woman. She's smart, funny, loving, enterprising, talented and beautiful, which means she doesn't take after me. Nonetheless, she has been threatening since she was approximately 9 years old to move out as soon as she reached adulthood. Now she's 21 and out of college. So guess where she's living.

Not that my wife and I mind. We love having her home. True, we seldom see her, but the sound of her voice in a telephone conversation with one of her friends at 2 a.m. always assures us that she's fine.

I wish I could say the same for her room.

When Lauren was home from college last summer, her room was a disaster area. It was so bad that I called both the governor's office and the White House to see if I could have it officially declared a disaster area so we'd be eligible for state or federal funds to clean the place up. Spokesmen for the governor and the first lady told me that the problem sounded too big even for the government to handle and that I would just have to wait until Lauren went back to school.

When she did, my wife spent a lot of money we don't have, and aren't eligible to receive from the state or federal government, to buy a new carpet because the old one was covered with stains from spilled makeup, soda, food and other substances I don't even want to think about. It looked like a herd of goats had been living in there.

So when my wife recently saw a bunch of beauty and hair care products scattered over the brand-new carpet, she waited until Lauren had gone to work, picked them up and put them in her bathroom. Lauren, who majored in political science and learned about the constitutional right to privacy, responded by putting a lock on the door.

My first thought was: This kid is handier than I am.

My second thought was: Could she have me arrested for breaking and entering?

To find out, I called my cousin Donald Zezima, a prominent attorney with a brilliant legal mind that is still intact even though he has three daughters. "Is the house in both your name and your wife's name?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied.

"Then have your wife go in there," Donald suggested. "That way, she'd get arrested. It's better than having to bail yourself out."

I told you he's brilliant! Donald, who said none of his daughters ever went to this extreme, added that I would be within my rights if I removed the lock.

Lt. Jon Fontneau of the Stamford Police Dept., a friend and former neighbor who has three teenagers, a boy and two girls, agreed with cousin Donald.

"Is Lauren paying rent?" Jon asked.

"No," I said.

"Then it's your house. You have squatter's rights."

Jon said he goes into his kids' rooms all the time. "I'm a cop. What am I going to do, arrest myself?"

Jon also said that one of his daughters sounds a lot like Lauren. "Her clothes are all over the floor," he noted. "And you can't tell which ones are clean and which ones aren't. When they get to be too much, she puts them all together. We've actually found folded clothes in the wash."

And I thought I was airing Lauren's dirty laundry. At any rate, I am relieved to know that I would be within my rights to pick the lock and go into her room. Not that anyone in his right mind would want to. So even if she did press charges, I could always plead insanity.


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