Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Neighborhood Watch

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

This weekend Jason and I got to know our Banging Class neighbors a little better. And I learned something: don't judge a book by its noisy cover.

Oh, and nothing brings a group of women together like a a good cat fight. Or dog fight, as the case may be.

On one of those warm, glowy evenings we had last week, before this current wave of cold weather (and sleet, believe it or not) moved in, I joined forces with the other women on my end of the street to defeat a common foe: the drunken woman at the end of the cul-de-sac whose dogs were running loose terrorizing our kids and fenced pets.

Since the big ice storm we had in January, the dogs have been a problem. Despite the leash laws in our city, and despite the fact that all the other dog owners on our end of the street keep their dogs either fenced or on chains, the live-in girlfriend of the motorcycle afficianado at the end of the cul-de-sac regularly turns her two chocolate labs out into the street to do as they please. I've chased them out of the garage, called them away from a terrified Ainsley (who isn't much taller than these dogs) and generally been passive-agressive in hollering at them to go to their home in a voice loud enough for the owners to hear. I know labs are gentle, but I don't want them running around in my garage while I shovel snow or do yard work, and I certainly don't want to take a chance one of them will nip Ainsley or knock her over in a bid for affection. I am fairly certain each one weighs more than my bony little kid.

Thursday afternoon the dogs were out for hours while the owners sat outside revving engines and drinking beer. The dogs did their usual tricks, running into garages and coming up to all the little kids out playing and going up to the other dogs behind their fences and barking and getting them all riled up. The lady across the street yelled at them, the lady next door yelled at them, I yelled at them, and the drunk owner lady yelled at them between beers to come home. But being dogs, they were more interested in exploring. And since no one was giving them any tangible boundaries, they did as they wanted for hours.

When they came after my neighbor-to-the-right's cat inside her garage, she confronted the owner in a rational, calm manner, asking her to please obey the leash law and keep her dogs in her yard.

Drunk women don't take well to rational and calm.

Before long there was shouting, and cussing, and threats of death toward my neighbor's cat. The lady across the street went down to the circle and provided backup; I found out later that she had tried to reason with the owner once before when the dogs chased her 5-year-old up the street, where she tripped on the sidewalk and hit her head.

By the time I got dinner on the table, cops were called and were taking statements. One cop went down to talk to the owner and tell her she had to keep her dogs in her own house and yard; I am guessing it didn't go so well. He stopped his car in front of our yard after talking to the owner and rolled down his window to talk to the group of hens out gossipping.

"You know, you can't fix stupid," he said. And shook his head and drove away.

Pumped up with adrenaline and united in the fight against stupidity and irresponsible pet ownership, 4 of us girls from the bottom end of the street stood outside until dark, a sort of blue-collar version of Desperate Housewives. We started 0ff with outright gossipping and then got into talk about our homes, our kids, our jobs. We were later joined by a couple of the husbands. By the end of it, I felt pretty bad about the whole "Banging Class" label (especially since the neighbor on the right apologized unprompted for her fiancee's love of dirt bikes and four-wheelers and air compressors.)

Things changed after that. On Saturday, a gorgeous spring day that surpassed in its gentle loveliness any other warm day we've had all season, all our kids played out together in new harmony. The dad across the street offered to take all the kids to the subdivision's park with their bikes and scooters, and during his hour with the kids had taught the three youngest ones (including my daughter) to ride bikes sans training wheels. Jason entertained them all in our yard when their little legs starting giving out. The adults talked to each other more in that one day than we have in the years we've all lived together on the street. And come night fall, Ainsley was invited next door to a little neighborhood bonfire where the kids roasted marshmallows and cozied up in lawn chairs while the men (Jason included) sipped beer and stood around talking like Hank Hill and company.

"I think we should thank the drunk lady for letting her dogs run loose the other day," Jason said Saturday night as we were getting settled in. "If it weren't for everyone getting mad at her, we may not have become friends with our neighbors."

Sad, but true. Though I would have a hard time thanking that lady; when I told Ainsley to stay away from that house for a while, Ains defended her saying, "But that lady's nice...when I rode my scooter down by her house, she was asleep on the hood of her car." So that opened up some uncomfortable mother-daughter conversation.

To summarize: nothing unites a neighborhood quite like a common enemy. Except possibly bonfires, beer, and bicycles.

No comments: