Fair warning: This post is about neither gardening or bicycles, and it has a bit of serious flavor to it, so if you are looking for any of the former or avoiding the latter, you might want to pass on by this time. Never fear, though, we'll return to gardens and bikes in the near future.
A friend of mine and I went to Olive Garden for lunch a couple of weeks ago and we were seated right across the aisle from a young couple with two children, one of whom cried and screamed for the better part of our meal. The crying was noisy enough that it was hard to have a conversation.
I'm a little baffled by this. Did the parents think we wouldn't notice? Or mind? Did they think we were enjoying their children? (Note: We weren't. For the record, I seldom enjoy crying children who are not my own, no matter how cute the parents believe them to be, and I suspect that there may be others who feel the way I do.) Or perhaps they couldn't afford a sitter and this was the first time they'd eaten out in ages. Whatever the reason, nobody was having any fun.Why, after it was clear that the child was not going to settle down, did they not get their food in "to go" boxes and, well, go?
I have a distinct memory of my parents getting up and leaving a restaurant when I was young because I was throwing a tantrum. My mother's words to me were along the line of, "We're leaving because of you, and we will not eat out at a restaurant again until you can learn to behave yourself in public."
Were my parents the only ones who felt in was unfair to inflict my bad behavior on others? I think not. Surely, in fact, many other parents felt/feel the same way. In any case, it was an important lesson for me, and I never forgot it. I was embarrassed and ashamed, and as I grew up, I understood that I did not have the right to behave badly at the expense of others. I think most people believe the same thing--if they did not, society would surely fail.
This is not actually a post about crying babies in public. It is not even a post about some of the bad behavior of a handful of students in the wonderful neighborhood in which I live, though that bad behavior is what gave rise to some of the things I've been thinking about all day. Rather, I'd like to talk about the reaction I've been getting as I've recounted that situation--and since the partying next door has kept me up several nights this week, well, let's just say I've recounted it a lot of places, to anyone who will listen: on Facebook, in my classroom, with my neighbors across the street...
Most people have reacted the way they might have if I'd told them about the crying toddler at the Olive Garden, which is to say, "How annoying! They have no right! Call the cops!"
(Well, all right, maybe they wouldn't have told me to call the cops in the instance of the crying child, but you get my drift.)
My point is that they would not say (in the case of the crying child/restaurant), "You have to expect a certain amount of that when you go to a restaurant," or, even more disturbing (since it would imply that I somehow share the blame), "Well, that's what you get when you eat out."
Of course they wouldn't say things like that about a crying toddler in a restaurant, since, unless you are dining out at Chuckie Cheese, that would be a patently ridiculous expectation. And yet, that is the reaction is the sort of thing I have gotten from some people about the worrisome partying that has been going on next door during this past week. To wit:
"You have to expect a certain amount of that kind of behavior when you live so close to the university."
"That's what you get for living in Tech Terrace. That's why I live elsewhere."
Really? I don't think I do have to expect that kind of behavior. I think I have a right to expect that other people not inflict their bad behavior on me, no matter where I live. And for the record, I live in Tech Terrace because it is an amazing, vibrant, creative, friendly, caring village community. If you want to live elsewhere, I'm happy for you. Have a great life. I love it here.
I suppose you could argue that living so close to the university is something like eating at Chuckie Cheese, but in fact, it isn't true in this neighborhood. Rather, parents buy houses in this neighborhood for their children to live in while they go to school precisely because it is the Olive Garden equivalent--by that I mean that it is a nice neighborhood, with pretty houses, friendly families, and, you know, grown-ups. It is unfair, then, if the children turn around and dump on those nice neighbors in return.
But besides the two comments above, there is a third one that disturbs me even more, and it is, "Why don't you just move?"
And that, my friends, is what has been bothering me all day. For the moment, instead of "partying," let's substitute the word "bullying." I don't do this to be inflammatory. For one thing, I'm not opposed to a little bit of partying by students in the neighborhood. (Edited to add this: I am also not opposed to a certain amount of public child crying.) I love students, and I want them to have a little fun during their college years. But there is a point (and we all recognize that point when we see it) that partying can cross a line. And when that happens on a consistent basis, and when the perpetrators in question refuse to stop even when you have approached them calmly and diplomatically and attempted to come to a workable, mutually agreeable solution, then my friends, the partying actually is bullying behavior. To be clear, we are not yet at that point in this situation, but there are worrying signs and I'd like to nip it in the bud.
However, again, this is not about that situation, but about people suggesting that a reasonable solution to the increased partying in the neighborhood is for my husband and me to move. So let me frame it this way: Suppose a bully moves into the neighborhood...
We should just move?
Really? We should leave our home of 20 years, our friends, our community, our adopted family because a carpetbagger has appeared among us and says, "This is mine now."? We should just roll over and say, in effect, "You win. Take everything."?
I'm sorry, but I think that's cowardly. I think we have something of a duty to defend our right to live in a peaceful neighborhood. Is that not true? Don't we, you know, go to war over stuff like this?
Since when did we in this country decide that we should just look the other way or back down when people act like bullies? Did I miss that memo?
Now don't get me wrong. I am actually something of a coward. Walt is the brave one in our family. (You don't want to mess with him, because if you get him riled, he does not back down. Fortunately for most of America, it takes a lot to get him riled.) But coward or not, I think I have an obligation to stand up to bullying. And that, my friends, is why I will not write off bad behavior in the 'hood as something to be expected or deserved, nor will I look the other way or move, and it is furthermore why you should not suggest any of those things to me as a viable alternative. I may be a coward, but I am coward who will stand her ground for something she loves.