One of my neighbors “displayed” his gun to another neighbor’s gardener the other day. I was on a conference call and missed the fun that ensued when my two neighbors got into a heated argument about it (my wife’s description, as she caught the last two minutes). It’s a good thing I missed it because I would have called the police. When a gun comes out, that’s process step 1 for me.
Today I saw the good neighbor, who is a friend and the one who didn’t brandish a gun in the light of day, and he filled me in.
Turns out his large tree overhangs Dirty Harry’s property. And as an act of kindness, his gardener went to the front door of Mr. Harry to ask permission to move something on the property to access the tree and to make sure his cars weren’t damaged from falling debris. But no one answered the door.
When the gardener tried again, he was confronted by Mr. Harry who had a shotgun or machine gun – some kind of big gun. Then the argument started about it not being a polite gesture to greet a gardener with a weapon of death instead of a rake or hoe.
Now I know most of my neighbors probably own guns. This is Los Angeles where it’s almost mandatory, though I’ve managed to resist the impulse, thinking that I’d probably use it on myself in those dark moments of blood clots and hemoptysis. But here’s a neighbor who feels like we’re living on the open range and he’s protecting his property from cattle rustlers.
What do I do? Or don’t do?
Move? I don’t know, but it was the first thought that crossed my mind.
It does make me wonder if my unscientific theory that people are growing angrier is true.
I don’t have any facts to back this up.
It’s the feeling I get when I see how people treat each other in public, how they drive, how certain neighbors could give a flying fudge bar if they return a “hello” while I’m walking in the neighborhood – to the point I feel like flipping them the bird when I see them – a pre-emptive strike – which would illicit a response from them or a comment like, “you’re the worst neighbor ever and I wish you’d f’ing move.” Hello to you, too, neighbor, glad you finally acknowledged my presence.
I experience this hostility in the way men treat my wife when I’m not with her (another post coming soon).
I wonder if this city is suffering from traumatic or post-traumatic stress syndrome. We’re going through our days carrying so much stress and tension that we’re ready to snap at anyone, and are too burned out to be courteous.
It’s a just a hunch, but I feel it in my bones.
Unemployment is high in California; illegal drugs are popular; foreclosures with For Sale signs in the front yard and near-foreclosures with brown lawns, broken picket fences and half-finished additions lace neighborhoods. Do these daily images impact our sub-conscious?
And then there is the constant worry we’re not working hard enough at our jobs and could be laid off at anytime to save the company money. And we’re working longer hours to make up for the whole “do more with less” mentality of companies during the recession. And there are the bills.
If we lose our jobs, where would we be? Brandishing a gun at a hard-working gardener? Walking into a beauty salon in Seal Beach to kill eight innocent people in an unspeakable, tragic act of violence?
I don’t know anymore. The older I get, the less I know.
Maybe I should have taken the advice of the first bumper sticker I saw when I moved to L.A.: Welcome to California, now go home.