Welcome to Codgerdom
It's official. I've become an old codger. Pretty soon now I'll be that nasty old bastard who lives alone and rocks on his front porch all day, yelling at those damned kids to stay off his lawn.
I was up here in the office last night doing the usual, wasting time on something totally inconsequential. It's been warm these last few days so I had the balcony door open to let in the air, but it also let in the noise of the kids across the street playing basketball in their driveway. It was slightly annoying.
The thing about these kids, hell, their whole family, is that they haven't quite mastered the art of being good neighbors. They're immigrants, so perhaps I should amend that to say they haven't mastering being good American neighbors. Back in Lebanon or Egypt or where ever the hell they're from, maybe it's considered good form to be loud and obnoxious, I don't know, but here in good ol' Amurrica we tend to frown on that sort of thing.
Their property has this big spiked security fence all around it, and whenever someone comes to visit them the apparently approved method of gaining access is to park in the middle of the street and honk the horn. A lot. Not frantically, not beep-beep-beep and then wait, but a regular, short, monotonous beep...beep...beep...beep....beep, one every ten seconds or so. And for the residents, the apparently approved method of greeting their guests is to not greet them until they've been out in the street beeping for at least five minutes. Beep...beep...beep...beep...beep...beep...beep. It drives me bugfuck.
When these visitors -- usually teenagers -- are finally granted access to the Land of the Loud, they pull their pricey, obviously daddy-bought luxury SUVs and Bimmers into the driveway and start showing off their pricey, obviously daddy-bought sound systems. It's a fun competition: Whose is loudest? Whose bass is deepest? Who's got the best gangsta rap CD? Who can drive Chuck nuts the fastest? They were at this game a few weeks ago and, no lie, someone's bass was so deep and penetrating that every picture frame on every wall and counter in our house was buzzing. I think he won that day. If not, he should have. He sure got my vote.
Once the humans that live there have piped down for the night, then their mongrel mutt starts in. The first few times I heard his racket I thought someone was practicing on a drum kit, heavy on the cymbals. After a while I realized that what I was hearing was a metal lid -- I've decided it's a barbecue grill lid -- being nosed around and around a concrete patio. At about 1:00 am. Where most people give their mutt a rubber bone or a chew toy to play with, these numbnuts give theirs a metal dome, and their dog is so stupid it actually plays with it. A lot.
So that's the background on the neighbors and their noise. I've tolerated it pretty well, I think -- amazingly well for me, I think. I did snap that day my house was buzzing and yelled out the window to shut the fuck up, but otherwise I've suffered in neighborly silence. That's Amurrican neighborly, by the way. But when they started playing hoops in the street outside my window at 11 p.m. last night, that's when they started standing on my last nerve.
My first inclination was to holler out the window that pro ballplayers play ball so these nitwits won't have to, but that felt just wrong. I remembered when I was their age, 16 or 17, playing roundball in the alley at all hours and thinking the neighbors were dicks when they yelled at us. I didn't want to be that guy, Mr. Old Man Neighbor Dick Guy. So they're playing ball at 11 o'clock, so what? It's Friday night, it's not like I have to get up for work in the morning. (It's more like I have to get up at dawn because my daughter does, but I'm not paid for that so it doesn't really count.) Would it kill me to live and let live and preserve the fragile illusion that I'm still down with the kids? I zipped my lip and tried to ignore them.
A little later, around 11:30, I was downstairs talking with Beth and she brought it up. She'd been thinking the same thing, that she wanted to tell them to shut up but didn't want to descend into old age by doing so. Uh oh. That was a bad sign. If we're both thinking that, isn't it an indication that we really are old fogies and are just denying it? We decided not to think about that...and not to yell at the kids. Instead we thought young thoughts and put some Van Morrison on, which, of course, completely negated the young thoughts.
Round about midnight they were still at it and I'd had enough. Plus which, things had now moved into the zone where yelling at them was about maintaining the neighborhood rather than imposing restrictions from the Geritol set. Age doesn't enter into it once you go past midnight; at that point it's all about protecting the property values. Because, you know, property values are what all the young, hip homeowners are concerned with. I girded myself for battle with a Mag-lite and a cigarette and went out to confront them.
"Hey!" I said. One of them, a kid about 14, heard me and turned. Louder: "Hey! Hey!!!" They all turned. Not a whisker on the bunch. "It's past midnight. Would you guys mind packing it in for the night?"
Hey, that was okay. I was polite, not angry. I sounded sympathetic and understanding about it, kind of like Yeah, I'd like you to keep playing, too, but it's getting late and the other neighbors might get mad. None of us want that, do we? I pulled that off okay. They know I'm down with the kids, I'm not a nasty old bastard.
I'll give them credit, they hopped to. The words were no sooner out of my mouth than they were breaking down the basketball hoop and packing everything away and going inside. Nice kids, good neighbors once you called them on it. Polite, too. Too polite.
"Okay, sir. I'm sorry, sir. We'll be quiet, sir."
Hi there. I'm Mr. Old Man Neighbor Dick Guy.