Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When I was young, neighbors chatted over the fence, on the porch, and by telephone. Sometimes information lost much in translation: a neighborhood teen who TPd a house and was grounded for a month by his highly exasperated parents was, by the time the news reached the neighborhood pool, also arrested, guilty of vandalism at a nearby school, likely the culprit in the disappearance of someone's bicycle (it was a toddler's trike), and should be avoided at all costs.

Now, neighbors have the eBLAST. They send waves of worry via the internet, forwarding each other's angst until the email reaches viral status, cast far afield from the immediate vicinity.

Our neighbors are worried about speeders. They have young children. They have asked neighbors, via email, to slow down. Does that mean every neighbor is speeding? Are we differentiating between the cut-through speeders (there are plenty) with the trying-to-get-out-of-the-neighborhood drivers? Is the point of the email that the kids are playing in the street? Since the email can't reach the commuters who cut through the neighborhood, is it the intent of the email to be forwarded until it finally reaches the culprits?  As a proactive gesture, we chewed out our son, who is unlikely to be one of the speeders since he lives in fear that he'll get in trouble. Nonetheless, we told him that one of the neighbors is sitting by the window, writing down license plates and documenting every time someone speeds by their house. He drove even slower today. (It was hilarious watching him crawl down the street.)

(The fact that 25 miles per hour seems much faster when you're standing in your yard tossing a ball to your kid  is beside the point. Perception is everything. And we DO have folks who blast through our neighborhood trying to get ahead of the traffic on Mt. Vernon Road.)

Then there are the eBLASTS we get about dogs. Our neighbors are unhappy about poop. There are dogs roaming the neighborhood - and pooping.  Dogs are on leashes, and pooping. Now everyone knows exactly whose dogs and owners are guilty because we watch them amble through their daily rounds. But rather than speak directly to the owner, we get an email citing "neighbors' dogs." The email ends, "and we wouldn't want one of our children to get bitten by one of these roaming dogs."

Recently, neighbors from across town sent a worldwide eBLAST asking neighbors to stop parking opposite each other on the street. "It makes it very difficult to drive through and we have children in the neighborhood who might get hit." Yes, it's a tight squeeze. But why are the kids playing right there? And in the street?

Then there are the coyotes. A recent eBLAST warned all the neighbors to watch their small children because coyotes were seen in a cul de sac. Since the average toddler is way bigger than a coyote's regular diet of rodents, opossum, and the occasional cat, I'd worry more about small children out unsupervised at night - which is when coyotes primarily hunt for food.  However, coyotes are most definitely part of the urban landscape and they are here to stay. Much better to teach the kids how to deal with coyotes (and stray dogs).

The common denominator in all the emails is parents worried about their young children. The little ones may get struck by speeding cards while playing in the street. They may get run over because someone is squeezing between two cars parked on the street. They may get bitten by a dog interrupted mid-poop. They may become prey for a coyote.

Just wait until those kids are teens and you get to worry about even bigger things. I won't list them. You'll find out soon enough.

We all worry. We magnify the disastrous possiblities of our children being out of our eyesight, our control, our influence.

Enough with the emails! Pick up the phone, write a note, or stop by when someone is thoughtless.

And if my teen is speeding, tell me.

Those keys can disappear for a very long time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts - it's great to hear from you!