Saturday, June 16, 2012

High Noon

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.



20 comments:

  1. That ranks right up there with "why don't you just buy a car?" if I should express my desire to legally use the road as a cyclist. You're absolutely right. If nothing else, at some point young adults have to learn about boundaries that go with living in a neighbourhood among other people.

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    1. Yes, it is exactly the same kind of mentality, Su. Give in--if you don't then you get what you deserve.

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  2. They actually suggested you move? Isn't that kind of like blaming the victim? Good for you for standing your ground and advocating for a peaceful neighborhood. That is your right, and I hope you get it back. Soon.

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  3. I can empathize with your situation. I have lived in the same home in a quiet neighborhood for 34 years. But I'm just one year removed from the 7-years-of-hell-neighbors. They were not approachable, so when the partying got ridiculous, I called the law enforcement officials for a 'disturbing the peace' house call to them. It got results, and I could go back to sleep.

    There are those who just do not have a clue, and couldn't buy one if you gave them the money! Sending you good thoughts for a very quick resolution.

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    1. It is always good to call the cops rather than taking things into your own hands. I'm already working on that.

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  4. We have really all lost our minds. My daughter, who is a student, also doesn't enjoy the partying until you drop or drop someone mentality. Of course, when she misbehaved in public, I took her home. I might have even swatted her bottom once with my hand. Some of us have raised a bunch of adults who think the rules don't apply to them and only them. That's a very serious issue. I would walk with you to the police or wherever. You know that my Gary Cooper friend. By the way, Bill is the same. It's a good thing he's a tolerant person. :)~~Dee

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    1. It is serious That's why I don't understand why soe people act like we should look the other way.

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  5. Hmm, need to go back and see what my comments might have been. I don't think you should have to put up with the partying kids.
    I do wonder about parents who bring tired (or overly hungry) kids out for dinner and let them have a melt down in the dining area. On a positive note, we were at a restaurant and the little one at the next table was interested in us...turning around looking at us, trying to get up to come over (she was about 3?) ANYHOW, not poorly behaved, just exploring beyond the family table. We thought she was cute, smiled at her, etc. When the family left our waitress came over and said the party had purchased a dessert for us to apologize for their daughter 'bothering' us.

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    1. No worries, Janet. It wasn't anything you said!

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  6. We've nearly given up on seeing movies in the theater after a recent experience in which a man brought his 2 or 3 year old to see a teen-to-adult movie, and the child talked in a normal voice throughout 3/4 of the film. I leaned forward and asked him politely to take the child outside -- twice -- and he totally ignored me. Worse, no one else around me (it was a full house) backed me up or said a word, aside from a "shhh" to the man/child early in the movie. I got the manager, and the father then took the child out, but it ruined the movie for us and, I assume, for everyone around us. Pure selfishness is what that is. You're running into it with your new neighbors -- what a shame. Did you call the landlord, and did it help?

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    1. Sorry it ruined your experience, but maybe it has dividends for some future movie goer. Someone has to stand up for manners.

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    2. PS. I did call the landlord and I am waiting to see what effect it will have. They seem cooperative.

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  7. We have similar issues going on in our town as the University and colleges grow. Many of the homes are bought by parents, but many others are bought by "landlords" who may, or may not, live in the community. There has been much work done by the local university to work with the neighbors in the affected areas, as well as to try to educate their students. I think they even have repercussions for the students if they receive notice from the local police department that they were involved in a call. Hasn't solved everything, but it is a step in the right direction.

    I used to get compliments on my children's behavior in public... always baffled me as they were not unusually well-behaved. I guess it is a comment on how awful many other children were! (BTW this was 15+ years ago.)

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    1. Interesting. Our university, on the other hand, acts as if nothing is going on. They have been little support at all.

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  8. I think that as a nation we have forgotten our manners. It was years before I took my children to a adult theme restaurant. Those places we're saved for my wife and I on special occasions.

    Even my children were expected to be respectful of others and remember it was not always about them.

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    1. I think that is still true of the majority, David. Unfortunately, it is just the squeaky wheel that we notice, and not the well-behaved children.

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  9. This is really a lot to think about. I take my children to public places so that they will learn how to behave in public. We've gotten glares, and we've left places from time to time. Like anything, when you are learning how to do something, you will fail many times before you succeed. The public doesn't always seem terribly appreciative of our efforts to teach. :) That said, we try to be responsible teachers by choosing appropriate lessons, ones that our little "pupils' have a reasonable chance of mastering, and we are pretty quick on sounding a retreat when necessary. Which is more frequently than we'd like :) It sounds like the parents you mentioned were more focused on doing what THEY wanted to do (the same goes for parents who take their young children to adult movies- simply inappropriate). But I think people should generally be more understanding of children- they are, after all, part of the public, too, and it seems to me it is the interest for the children to learn how to behave, because otherwise you end up with people like Tanner who apparently never learned their lessons about what is and isn't appropriate or that just because THEY want to do something, it doesn't mean that they SHOULD. They don't realize they are the crying babies in public that no one enjoys.
    When we lived in Tech Terrace, we were flanked on 3 sides by mutant Tanners and routinely dealt with the mutants yelling drunken obscenities outside our bedroom window at 4AM, and although I love the neighborhood for many reasons, the mutants are, I'm sad to say, the reason why some people think of living in TT like others think of dining at Chuck E. Cheese. It's really a shame, because TT is probably the most charming in neighborhood in Lubbock, and certainly the most walkable. It's crazy that in our current Fort Worth neighborhood, it's much poorer, it's much more diverse, and some would even call it a bit dangerous-I heard someone say yesterday they could never live here because of all of the 'riff raff' (!!). We have homeless people and mentally ill people walking around, and more registered sex offenders than I care to think about (we also have the most wonderful friends, sense of community, and courageous and determined people making it a better place). But, with all of that, we've never dealt with such terrible "neighbors" as we did in TT. I've never even thought about calling the cops here.
    Such a shame- hats off to you for having the courage to not back down, to stay and make it a better place.

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    1. Sarai, let me start by saying that I agree with everything you have said, particularly the part abut children being part of the public and the need to take them out in order to teach the proper behavior. However, as with partying, there is a point when it crosses the line, and my guess is that you leave before that happens. Most people are willing to put up with a reasonable amount of exuberance and crankiness, but not when it ruins the entire outing.

      I hope you decide to move back to TT--we need good neighbors--especially neighbors with children! :-)

      It is unfortunate that TT has developed this reputation for bad party behavior. It is largely undeserved, and it is also largely the fault of a couple of fraternities. Some people don't like me saying that, but it is the truth. Fraternities need to get their acts together. I've been thinking about this a lot since last week, and it occurred to me that I cannot think of a single thing fraternities contribute to society. They seem to be mainly drinking and networking clubs. That benefits the members of the social fraternities, but not society as a whole. Selfish. I know that they have "service" projects they do, but I'm starting to view those as "cover" for their bad behavior.

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  10. We like to eat out and took our son with us even at an early age so he would know what was expected of him in public places. We always brought along distractions to keep him busy and that usually worked, but on the few times he acted up or was cranky, he was quickly removed by one of us while the other finished or had our meals boxed. The worst time was not at a restaurant, but at the gift shop at the exit to Luray Caverns. I would not buy him something that caught his eye and being overly tired he had a total nuclear meltdown, screaming, hitting and clawing. I literally had to drag him out and throw him over my shoulders to take to the car. Just as I was getting him out of the store a bus load of Japanese tourists were unloading and were treated to quite a show.

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