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CLINE: Fooled by a hidden real world

Looks can be deceiving. We all know it. But sometimes we get fooled anyway.

It happened to me last week on my drive home. Idling on Suwanee Dam Road in stop-and-go traffic -- is there any other kind on the commute home? -- I watched what I thought was a family moving into a home.

Pick-up trucks were parked in front and in the driveway flanked by a couple of cars with furniture sitting nearby. As a Dachshund loudly yapped from the fenced-in porch, my thoughts drifted to moves I had made and the feelings that you have while moving your stuff into a new place for the very first time.

The short daydream made me forget about the awful traffic for at least a little bit. As I was finally able to move past the house and on my way, I had a good feeling inside for that family and their new home.

I wouldn't have thought about it again save for the fact that my trip to work the next morning took me by the same place. This time, with traffic moving much better, I drove by at a faster pace. But I had enough time to see that I had totally misunderstood what I had seen the night before.

The trucks and cars were all gone, but some of the furniture was not. And a lot of the garbage wasn't, either. The house looked vacant, the front yard a mess. No happy feelings came from this trip down Suwanee Dam Road, though I imagine my drive was far more pleasant than the folks from the house who had left the night before.

My first thought was: Who would do that? Who would leave their garbage in the front yard and their furniture strewn along the driveway?

But once I got past being indignant, I tried to look at it from the point of view of a family forced from its home. And I tried to think about how awful it would feel to have the euphoria of your first steps into a new home flipped on its head.

I don't condone the actions, nor do I know the full story of what happened at this particular home. But I do know -- we all do -- that this is far from a rare occurrence. It happens so often that maybe we've become numb to it, but the numbers are staggering.

In March, the number of foreclosures in Gwinnett County rose to a record-high 2,774. The previous high for the county was 2,567 in June. It's stunning to think that two years after the high-water mark, Gwinnett is still setting records.

But it is. And that's a lot of homes that have been foreclosed on, and a lot of stories we can only pretend to know.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.