A splendid sunrise splashed itself in grays and magenta across the sky this morning as I stood with a cup of coffee in hand and watched from the warmth of my kitchen. The clouds are mostly broken up now and the day has begun. I cracked open my kitchen window to the rattle of a bulldozer warming up in the still-frigid air behind my house.
It’s supposed to climb into the high fifties today, but at the moment there is frost all over the windows of the bulldozer’s cab. I can’t see the operator since he isn’t in the cab, though the door is open a crack. A huge pile of dirt obscures my view of anything on the other side of the mound.
Last night my little dog kept running out the dog door in the kitchen to bark anxiously into the darkness despite my calling him inside repeatedly. I finally went out to see what he was so excited about, only to hear the laughter and many voices of teenagers joyfully running up and down and across the newly arrived mountain of excavated earth obscuring the lot behind mine.
“Wonderful,” I thought. “Each moment of change, each arrival of lumber or new machinery, or new workmen, will be greeted with the yapping of a 17 pound distressed animal loudly announcing his disapproval.”
My dog still occasionally puffs himself up and snaps through the fence at the dog next door. “I was here first,” he seems to say. I don’t spend my days charging though a dog door and yapping or snapping, but I can relate.
I watched the dim forms of teenagers run and jump and sometimes roll down the even darker earth. I caught myself thinking I should call the police. “What if one of them breaks a leg?” I thought.
Was I really worried that they might hurt themselves in the black night, or was it more likely I didn’t like their freedom and unself-conscious joy? I had to stop and consider.
“I’ve become my neighbor a few doors away, the guy on the corner,” I said to myself.
When I first bought my new house a few years ago, the corner house was already occupied. My son still lived with me at the time. He moved back and forth between his father’s house and mine. One day the man who lives on the corner stopped me as I walked by with my dogs.
At the time my son had a stereo system in his car that was worth more than the vehicle itself. It was his pride and joy. I could hear him returning home from two blocks away. So, apparently, could my neighbor.
“I had a talk with your son the other day,” he said. “I asked him to turn down his stereo when he turns onto the street to go home.”
I bit my tongue as the urge to tell him to mind his own business and leave my son alone raced through my mind. If he really had a problem, I thought I’d ask him if he wanted to stand in my bedroom, which is right behind the garage, and listen to the noise echo as my son pulled in for the night. Now that was something to complain about. Instead I kept my mouth shut.
“I wanted to compliment you on what a nice kid he is. He was very polite. He doesn’t play his music nearly so loud anymore.”
We stood and chatted a bit more before I walked on with the dogs. The guy must have said what he said in a nice way. My son is polite, but he also comes from a long line of hotheads. He could easily have blown the man off.
Thus I chastised myself as I thought of calling the police simply because a bunch of happy teens was playing on a pile of dirt not fifty feet from me. It wasn’t even my yard. I remembered how I used to hate busybodies who ruined my good time when I was simply being a kid. I watched the raucous activity for another minute or two and went inside.
“If someone starts screaming because they got hurt, there’s no way I’m not going to hear it,” I admitted.
“Then I can call the police.”