Alleyways are attractive for people peeing in corners, and the alleyway behind my house where I park my car is a perfect place (apparently) for someone to do just that. But about a year ago, during the waning months of summer, I went downstairs to get in my car and was hit with that most offensive of smells — hot, roasting pee.
I checked in the corner, where I'd found evidence of said activity in the past, but the smell wasn't coming from there. Upon closer inspection (and this was truly unpleasant), I discovered staining on my front left tire, the urine mixing offensively with hot summer tire. Suffice it to say, I poured a hefty bucket or two of water on the problem and it disappeared. For a few days.
A week or so later, I came downstairs and — same smell, same tire. I was fed up. But I also had a potential solution, a Ring Floodlight Cam that I'd been waiting for warmer weather to install (summers in Canada are fleeting) and replace my old motion-sensing lights that no longer worked properly.
If you're not already familiar with Ring's (growing) brood of smart cameras, lights, and hybrids, the $249 Floodlight Cam is the most comprehensive (and expensive) of the series that includes the $199 Spotlight Cam and the $179 Stick Up Cam, plus the bevy of smart lighting solutions the company debuted earlier this year. You get two ultra-bright LED floodlights — seriously, these things are impressive — plus a 1080p camera with a wide 140-degree field of view (plus a motion detector with an insane 270-degree FOV) that wires into your existing circuitry.
There's a microphone and speaker to convey two-way communication, too, and the whole thing blends nicely into your existing landscape in either black or white. Finally, there's a 110-decibel siren for when you have to blare the horns in case of an emergency.
Once connected, the Floodlight Cam connects to your Wi-Fi network to transmit video back to Ring's servers, where you can get motion alerts for people or movement of any kind, along with a live video feed of what's going on. For $3, you can store up to 60 days worth of video footage for a single device, or for $10 per month you get unlimited backups for all of your Ring products.
The Floodlight Cam's lights are extremely bright, and the movement sensitivity is incredible.
And that's really what's changed since I began using Ring products back in 2016. Back then, it was an independent company with just a doorbell, which connected to an indoor chime up in my office. But then the company started expanding into other areas, including wired and battery-powered cameras, lights, and even a full-fledged security system. By the time Amazon bought Ring in early 2018, the company was expanding rapidly, and is now one of the most prolific smart home accessory makers in the business.
Anyway, back to the Floodlight Cam. One sunny Sunday morning, I turned off the breaker to my garage and spent around half an hour installing the thing — something I didn't think would be as easy to do as it was. Once I turned the power back on, I connected it to the Ring app and began monitoring the situation. The motion sensor engaged the lights reliably and from a good distance away, which I like for security reasons, while the video quality during both the day and at night was good enough for my needs.
But I immediately noticed a problem that still exists today: when motion alerts are enabled, and even when the sensitivity is set to warn only when people are in the frame, I got far too many false positives than I'd like. Anything from a squirrel to a branch frantically swaying during a storm would set off the motion alerts and ping my phone. The only reason I didn't disable the damn thing is because I wanted to capture the Peeing Man.
I was curious when he was coming — was it late at night, on the way home from a jaunt, or early in the morning? More than anything I wanted to know why he was peeing on my car. (You may be asking how I knew it was a person and not a dog. I didn't. I had initially suspected that it was a dog owner letting his pup play nice with my tire, but that turned out not to be true.)
For a few days, things were relatively quiet, and then around 6 am in late August I got a motion alert. I wouldn't have usually seen it, but I was awake peeing into an actual toilet and haphazardly checked my phone. The alert had happened three minutes earlier and when I opened the Ring app (which takes way too long to load — one of my major gripes with the whole system that I hope is remedied in the future) I saw a man walking around my car just looking into my car's window. I put on a pair of shorts, ran downstairs, out the door and around the house into the rear alleyway ready for a full-on confrontation. The way the driveway is designed, he wouldn't be able to leave without walking through me, so I emerged in front of him and, sort of stunned, exclaimed, "Hey! Why do you keep peeing on my car?"
He looked up and stared at me for a few seconds, face blank. This time I took a second to compose myself and said, "I have you on camera peeing on my car," which was technically correct even though I only had one of the now-half dozen times I'd discovered evidence. He looked at me and mumbled a few words and quickly walked past me, onto the sidewalk and around the corner onto the street beyond. There was no resolution, just me feeling stupid for confronting this man who clearly had mental health problems and did not appear to be doing anything but relieving himself on an object that he'd become familiar with.
Over the next few weeks, the Ring Cam caught him a few more times, same early hour of the day, coming to pay his respects, but instead of urinating on the front left tire he just circled the car talking quietly to himself. Whenever I got that "Person detected" notification, I'd check the camera, watch him for a few seconds, and then exit the app. The experience morphed from unseen anxiety to strange, repetitive normalcy. After a time, there was almost a comfort in seeing him make his regular pilgrimage to the vehicle, circle it a few times, and leave.
As fall and winter came, the man frequented less, but now that it's spring again I'm expecting to see him any day now. In the meantime, my Ring Floodlight Cam continues its sentry on my once-dark back alleyway, but the only thing it tells me with any regularity is that we have a family of overweight raccoons living somewhere nearby, and they absolutely love my neighbor's garbage.
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