I don’t lead a particularly exciting life. One might even say it’s mild mannered. I tend to be hanging around the house on nights when people who know how to have fun, or at least make an effort to have fun, are out and about. When that fun-seeking overflows into my neighborhood late at night, I’m there to bear witness. When that fun endangers themselves, or violates other people’s rights, or is just a little bit rowdy, I am there to take action. I call the police. I am cranky old guy.
I am not really that old, but calling the cops because kids are doing donuts in the snow in the parking lot of the school that sits behind our house is something that makes you old. I’m acting like a cranky old guy, so I become that–cranky old guy. It’s like if I was acting gay, by dating other men, people would say I’m gay. So I won’t argue if they say I’m a cranky old guy.
Our house was the first one built in this phase of the subdivision, and so the surrounding neighborhoods were accustomed to using this space as a play and adventure area. Once we moved in, kids were playing all around us like they owned the place. They built forts, crossed our lawn, and looked at me like I shouldn’t be there. So I stared back. I glared like an old crank in spite of being 35 and bearing an otherwise pleasant countenance. Had things been different, I might have been their friend and a place of refuge. I could have taught them colorful phrases to add to their conversations. Instead they shot holes in the vinyl siding with a BB gun.
It wasn’t an outright war, just a lack of respect for my space. The most annoying incident was on a cold winter’s night in February. At 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning, our doorbell rang. The dog went berserk, but nothing seemed otherwise out of sorts. Five minutes later, the doorbell rings again. This happened a third time as well. Each time I thought I saw shadowy figures behind a snow bank in the cul-de-sac, and I donned some winter clothes to give chase. The prevailing question was: “What will I do if I catch them?”
Since that time, I have made a point of calling the police whenever there is suspicious activity of any kind, even down to two people parked in the school parking lot at midnight. It doesn’t seem quite right to me, but it seems like a duty that someone has to do. If young people are allowed to enjoy themselves to excess, completely unchecked and without restraint, they will never learn the limits of polite behavior in society. They have to be reminded that there are spoil-sports everywhere.
So it was the other night, a Saturday night, at around midnight that I was sitting in my house doing nothing of particular importance when a car full of young men drove at high speed around our cul-de-sac. They did at least five laps with the tires straining to hold them on the road, and arms waving out of the windows. They were having fun. That was not going to happen on my watch. I don’t care that it was the first weekend after school let out. It’s a long summer, and you have to learn to pace yourself. I ran out the door, but they were speeding up the street before I could get a glimpse of the license plate.
They returned a few minutes later. I wasn’t any more prepared than the first time, but I reacted more quickly because I recognized the sound. I bolted out of my door in my bare feet and ran at the car. It accelerated up the street, and I sprinted after it. I could only get the first letter of the license plate, “E”, and that was all.
They did not return, so I’d like to think it’s because they realized there is a cranky old guy who lives on this street, a guy that is willing to go all the way and do whatever it takes to stop rowdy behavior past curfew, as long as “whatever it takes” consists of calling the police. The rest of the street can sleep comfortably in their beds. Cranky old guy is on duty.