Thursday, July 10, 2008

Petty Theft

Every day I hold my son and cuddle with my daughter as they wind down to their nap time. Then I put them in their beds. It's a ritual we all like, and usually is uneventful. Today, however, was a different story.

We live on a side road in a great old neighborhood that sprawls between two hospitals. Unfortunately, our road has turned into something of a cut-through for folks trying to avoid heavy traffic on other roads, and that results in some speeders, which prompted us to put up a picket fence around our front yard and, more recently, buy a plastic, free-standing "Slow! Kids at play" sign for the curb.

Our neighborhood gets lots of folks walking for exercise, some with kids in strollers or dogs on leashes. And a few folks with both a stroller and a dog, and I wonder how they manage it. It's a great neighborhood for walking, with lots of houses that have character, unlike the cookie-cutter new developments that are popping up in suburban areas across the country. Some of the houses are not cared for by the owners, and some are rentals, but the neighborhood is slowly being revitalized.

Anyway, as I sat on the couch and cuddled with my kids, I happened to notice two women who were walking by my picket fence, pushing a baby stroller. They were young. One was probably a teen, maybe eighteen, skinny with long black or dark brown hair. The other was pushing the baby stroller and looked like she might have recently had a baby with a lot of extra weight, especially around her middle, and the same colored hair, but pulled up. Their description is not really important to the rest of you, but it is to me for future reference. You'll see what I mean as you read on...

So these two girls were strolling by and slowed their pace, which is what caught my eye. They glanced around, said something to each other, then the skinny one bent slightly and scooped up my sign as they continued their stroll.

I dumped Isaac on the couch and marched outside barefoot just as they passed the opening of my driveway, my sign in tow. "Put the sign back in my yard right now!" I growled/yelled in my fiercest voice (which, if you know me very well, you'll know really is kinda fierce). The skinny girl turned without a word, took the sign back to the curb and tossed it in the grass. Her friend just kept walking, probably to put some healthy distance between herself and the crime scene and the hot-tempered landowner. "Where do you live?" I asked, knowing darn well Skinny Girl wouldn't (and certainly shouldn't) tell me. Her hair-brained response was, "I don't know," as she headed toward her friend. I said, "You'd better not ever try that again, chickadee." And she said, "That's not my name!" "You're darn right, it isn't! And You'd better hope I don't decide to follow you home!" I added as I reached the road. She was nearly past the next-door-neighbor's yard by then, but just strolling away, trying to act unintimidated. I snatched up my sign and added, "you need to walk a little faster!"

I tossed the sign close to the house and headed inside. "Ahava, Isaac, we're going for a little ride," I said, and they rushed to the door to clamber into the van. Their (the women's) saving grace was the fact that I had to secure the carseats and buckle the kids. They vanished so quickly that I have no doubt that they live on my road or the one behind mine. The only outlets to that little corner of the neighborhood are a four-lane highway (and the source of the speeders) and the road that loops back around to mine. I had no intention of accosting them when I got in the car, by the way. I just wanted to know where they lived in case anything else disappeared from my front yard.

A ten-dollar sign is no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but neighbors who will steal from your yard in broad daylight while you're at home...that's a different story altogether. Living in a neighborhood requires a certain level of trust in mankind generally, and your fellow neighbors in particular. And theft on any level breaches that trust in a major way and alters the neighborhood dynamics.

My husband was concerned that they might decide to egg the house or vandalize our cars in the middle of the night. Now isn't that sad? Not only do you have to be concerned about your stuff walking away from your own property, but you also have to worry about those who steal it coming back to seek vengeance for not getting away with their theft. On one hand I hope they live across the highway and won't ever come back, not to steal, not even to walk. But there's this one part of me, on the other hand, that kinda hopes they do come back...not so I can get into a cat fight (not necessarily), but so my dog can take a chunk out of their rears, seeing as how he'll be sleeping in the front yard tonight.