Thursday, August 26, 2010

Further Notes on Retail

Please take a look at this post I just completed for my other, more professional, blog.  It relates to an upcoming article I'm writing about our wonderful new transit stop planned for Laveen (hint: I'm being slightly sarcastic).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Civility

It's really quite amazing when you think about all of the various community groups we have in Laveen and the fact that it actually feels like a community.  Neighbors tend to know each other, we all tend to share a concern about what happens around us, and from my experience I'd say we're pretty good people as a whole.  However, there are certainly times when I wish that we would remind ourselves of these positive attributes and use them to promote better resolutions to our trivial day-to-day problems.

I feel compelled to share a story that made me laugh last week, although I was actually quite disappointed by the lost opportunity for community members to work together.  I'm sure that by blogging about this encounter, I risk further irritating an already stressed individual who shall remain anonymous; but hopefully she'll understand that my intent here is positive...... And so, with that preface out of the way, I'll add that this is a person who I looked forward to meeting eventually so that I could compliment her well kept front yard and hopefully inquire about her landscaping choices and trade notes.  But our first meeting was anything but this kind of neighborly exchange.  Here's how it actually went down....

As I walked up to our daycare provider's home to pick up my son one day last week, I caught a glimpse of the neighbor storming out of her garage to "greet" me.  Almost as soon as I saw her, I was surprised to hear a rather angry tone as she yelled, "Stay off my property!"  Surely, there's a misunderstanding, right?  I may have noticed her front yard on the many occasions that I've driven by her house, but did not recall ever setting foot on her property.  This concerned me -- I'm really not accustomed to people approaching me in such a way, so my assumption in this case was either that there was a misunderstanding or she's simply crazy.  As it turns out, there may have been a little of both at play.

I may have smirked a tiny bit with discomfort as I said it, but I replied genuinely that I hadn't been on her property and would never trespass onto her property.  She must have me mistaken with someone else, I said.  To this, she snarled back at me, "I see you turn around in my driveway every day because I'm sitting in my office right there!"  Now, I realized that we aren't even on the same page.  I have in fact made a u-turn in front of her residence a few dozen times, this afternoon included; but I didn't exactly cross over her property line, even if I may have driven up the curb.... at least I didn't think so.  This is the point in a stressful situation when my analytical mindset often gets me in trouble.  I felt duty bound to explain the technicalities of property lines and public easements (thankfully she didn't give me a chance to get into the deeper technical issue of roads/sidewalks as possibly being both private and public at the same time, which was not really relevant anyhow).  But before I could even properly defend myself and explain that this person was wrong, she informed me that she would call the police next time and she stomped back into her cave garage (oops).

Here's my main problem with this whole scenario: Obviously, this person was just as eager to meet me as I was to meet her, although we had very different intentions.  I had built up my expectations to what would hopefully be a pleasant exchange, as I've come to expect from other random encounters with fellow Laveen residents.  She, on the other hand, had obviously been building up enough resentment to finally go yell at a total stranger, and she finally found the opportunity.  The problem with the actual encounter, from my point of view, is that it literally crushed a good deal of my desire to send good vibes toward this home and homeowner (plus, I learned to doubt that there were ever any good vibes headed my way).  Instead, I was faced with a battle between my ego (which is almost always up for a good argument), my inner adolescent (wearing a devil costume on my shoulder, it said "hey, let's go get a carton of eggs. Hehehe"), and the optimist in me (thinking "wow! This person really cares about her neighborhood").  Don't worry, I've long since learned to ignore the inner adolescent, but I can't say that I've completely settled the dilemma between the other two forces.

If I weren't as concerned and thoughtful about this encounter, however, this woman's behavior would merely be an invitation for passive aggressive retribution on a constant basis.  I can only imagine how many kids she yells at who then return the favor with TP and/or eggs (they still do that, right?); or how many other parents like myself would respond by letting off a little steam every day with an extra slo-mo turn in front of her house.  I'm not condoning this kind of incivility, but let's face it -- it happens.

So in an effort to create a win-win situation, I propose that this woman and I each step back a few paces and consider what it is about ourselves that created this encounter, versus another.  Think about all the positives that could have arisen from a meeting of our minds: I could improve my own landscaping thanks to her tips, which would then create an ever-so-slight improvement to the community as a whole (ok, that may be a stretch, but perhaps I could offer some advice in exchange); or, even more importantly, it's a chance for three vigilant community members (her, the daycare provider, and me) to get together and discuss what we're seeing around the neighborhood.  In any event, we could have created more empathy, which is like gold on a social currency scale.  Seriously, if this woman were not so high strung, I couldn't imagine a better block than one with a home daycare provider and someone who works from home, both keeping an eye on things.  If we could sit down and discuss best practices for an active daytime blockwatch, this could be excellent information to spread to the rest of the community.  But this requires a meeting of the minds and a civil discussion.

I really hope that she reads this blog so that next time we run into each other I'll have already safely communicated my desire to make peace, and we can cast aside any need to argue the finer details.  As a peace offering, I'll even promise to make my u-turns before or after her property to ease her concerns about tire marks or whatever the issue is.  But I urge everyone else to try harder to approach any such situation with a more open mind -- I know that I'm still frequently reminded of this, as I make my own mistakes in dealing with people.  But I really do strive to coast along and make everyone happier and better off for having met me.  It's just my nature.

And as the optimist should always win over the ego, I'll end with this silver lining:  Regardless of whether I ever get to speak to this person again, I'm pleased to know that there's yet another set of eyes on our daycare provider's property.  I just hope that this person has some sense of gratitude to match.