Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Vandals! Thieves!

The Local Paper Writer (in the links) did a post about the recent keying of her husband's car. She assumed the perpetrators were some local teenagers she had seen up to no good in the past, and felt bad about assuming it was them because they are black kids. Catch-22 of a sort, I suppose. And, yeah, nobody says "up to no good" anymore. Sorry about that.

My car was burgled a few months back: it was missing a window, a stereo and a jacket when I went out in the morning. I was giving a coworker a ride that morning (he lives a block away) and we both came upon the car at the same time.

I remember walking over to it and cursing softly, tilting my head at the broken glass and the wires poking through where my stereo had formerly been. Then I got in the car and drove to work. My passenger seemed more upset than I was, and by the time we got to work, he seemed more freaked out by the tininess of my reaction than by the break-in itself.

But, you know, it wasn't the first time my car's been the site of a crime of this nature. I've had at least four break-ins that I can recall since moving to Chicago. Most have involved the shattered glass and angry paranoia these things can bring. One time I stood there next to my car for several minutes before punching it several times. It saddens me a little that I seem to have grown used to it. I even told myself that I had asked for it by leaving the faceplate on my stereo.

When I cast about in my mind for a list of suspects, I immediately land on the set of rowdy teenagers (or possibly 20-somethings) I had seen in the alley the previous night, as I took out some trash and retrieved something from my car. In my dotage, I now always suspect that people who are loud, especially in the wee hours, are up to no good. I cross the street whenever I am approaching loud people on the sidewalk of any age, race or gender. I suppose this makes me a soundist.

These teenagers were Hispanic, and I don't feel particularly bad about accusing them in my mind. I don't think their being Hispanic had anything to do with my accusation. It was mostly because they were loud, and I noticed them, and they saw me that last time I was at my car before the break-in. There were only about six hours between when I saw them in the alley, and when I discovered the crime. I'm pissed they took the jacket more than anything else, really. I have very bad luck with jackets, though. Seems they're always being stolen or drenched by an uncaring airline these days.

I did not call the police or anything. In a city this size, I assume the police have better things to do. Even if they don't, and they would have filled out a case report and sought justice on my behalf, I really don't think I want to know that. Because they should have better things to do. I replaced the glass and the stereo and moved on with my life.

There are times in my neighborhood when I do not feel entirely safe. Walking around at night, I sometimes wonder if the footsteps behind me is someone who is going to try to take my wallet away. I find myself wondering if they'll only want the cash, or if I'm going to have to replace all of the stuff in there. I wonder idly if I will put up any resistance at all, or just hand the thing over.

And there have been times when I see something that encourages this feeling of potential calamity. A couple of weeks after I moved in, I saw a guy being savagely beaten by a drunken man right outside what was still my new apartment. It is more accurate to say that I heard this happen. I called the police and waited until they showed up, but didn't want to spend a lot of time looking out the window because violence really repulses me.

In broad daylight last winter, I saw a boy of maybe ten or twelve rush up to a guy about my age. The kid flung an iceball directly into the guy's face, called him a bitch, spit on him, and took off. The kid was black and the adult was white. To the best of my knowledge, the guy hadn't provoked him in any way. He looked like he was just standing there waiting for the light to change. But it's of course possible that he had done something. Even so, I tend to think that a boy that young should not have that sort of rage inside him.

This incident didn't make me fear black people in general, but I'm sure planning to stay the hell away from that particular kid. Unless he's had some pretty intensive therapy, he's trouble, and everyone should know it. I don't feel badly about reaching this conclusion.

And I don't feel very badly about assuming it was the loud kids from the alley who burgled me in May. They may well be innocent, but I didn't get a good look at them, so unless I see them engaged in similar behavior in the future, I'm not likely to think twice if I pass them on the street, or stand next to them in the market.

I made a choice to live in this neighborhood, where most of the time I am delighted to find myself living. The good here outweighs the occasional bad.

Local Paper Writer, in her post, wrestles with some of these issues (some of them for different reasons, perhaps) and concludes: "The truth is I do love where I am. And when you love where you are, it means accepting that it isn't going to be perfect. And this acceptance of a not so perfect state can be its own form of perfection."

Yup. I don't know about the "its own form of perfection part," but things balance out. If they don't, the place you live is no longer your home.


Julia Buckley said...

Yeah, there's a lot of mulling over this kind of thing in the news over here in the UK lately. It's kind of depressing if you dwell on it. But I think we need to remember that really quality of life has never been so good. It's too easy to dwell on the bad stuff.

The Moon Topples said...

True dat.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of jackets, don't forget the one that got smoked in the blazing Toyota Corolla.

The Moon Topples said...

Oh, I haven't forgotten. In fact, it's the same jacket that United tried to destroy. If it ultimately survives that, I'm gonna wear it every day.