Crime in the Suburbs, Part 2

Here’s a heart-warming story from the police blotter section of our local paper:

On Nov. 25, between 8:45 and 9 a.m., someone took items from an unlocked vehicle. Reported stolen were a Tory Burch purse valued at $500, a Louis Vuitton wallet worth $900, numerous gift certificates worth $200, credit and debit cards [and] two checkbooks.

It’s good to see the wealthy giving to the less fortunate, especially now, “the most wonderful time of the year”.  

People Who Live in Glass Houses

Having lived in suburbs most of my life, I know one reason people live in such places. To get away from other people.

It can be a stunningly beautiful day, all’s right with the neighborhood, but if you take a drive, you’ll rarely see another person who isn’t in a car. If you take a walk, you might hear a child’s voice here or there, or see someone walking a dog, or bump into a jogger or two, but you’ll usually be the only person around. It’s as if you’re visiting a Potemkin village set up to advertise the beauty of suburban living.

There is something strange about living so close to people you can’t see. Which has sometimes made me wonder what it would be like if the walls of our houses or apartments were made of glass. Would we still ignore our neighbors? Would we lead better lives if we were always on display? What if the lights were always on? Maybe God was invented because our ancestors didn’t live in glass houses with 24-hour lighting.

Coincidentally, I recently got around to reading Lolita. Humbert Humbert had something to hide, so it’s understandable that his thoughts ran in this direction too:

“… all along our route countless motor courts proclaimed their vacancy in neon lights, ready to accommodate salesmen, escaped convicts, impotents, family groups, as well as the most corrupt and vigorous couples. Ah, gentle drivers, driving through summer’s black nights, what frolics, what twists of lust, you might see from your impeccable highways if Kumfy Kabins were suddenly drained of their pigments and became as transparent as boxes of glass!”

And later:

“I often felt that we lived in a lighted house of glass, and that any moment some thin-lipped parchment face would peer through a carelessly unshaded window and obtain a free glimpse of things that the most jaded voyeur would have paid a small fortune to watch.”

As the fortune cookie says, people who live in glass houses should put up lots of curtains. 

Law Enforcement in the Suburbs

I’m driving on a one-lane road near a construction zone, and a police car is parked at the side of the road. There is a line of cars in front of me waiting for the light to change. The other cars start moving, but the car in front of me doesn’t. The driver is talking to the policeman in the police car. I see that the light has gone back to red again, while this conversation continues. So I honk my horn a little bit to remind the person in front of me that I’m behind her and would like to make the next light. The driver drives off to the side, apparently in order to continue her talk with the officer.

As I drive by, heading for the red light, the cop yells at me “Take it easy!”. I ignore him and keep going. 

This reminded me of the last time I was addressed by a local police officer. He was parked in a lane that is used to drop off and pick up passengers at the train station. He was blocking traffic. When we eventually got around him, by driving over a low divider, I gave him a look. He noticed and said something like “You got a problem?”. I can’t remember what I said — our car was moving and there wasn’t a lot of time for discussion — but it might have been something like “We’re trying to get around you”. 

As we drove around the nearby traffic circle, the cop put on his flashing lights and pulled us over. He was upset that I questioned his authority in public. We had a fairly long talk. I was kind of hoping he’d arrest me for something so I could sue the city. Perhaps he thought I was obstructing justice by interfering with the performance of his official duties, i.e., sitting in his parked car in a special lane that is designed for dropping off and picking up passengers.

I wonder if police officers in the suburbs are so pressed for real confrontations that they look for excuses to exercise their authority. To prove that they are in charge. They don’t have lots of bad guys to deal with, so they try to insure that we citizens treat them with total respect, even if they’re blocking traffic for no good reason.

It’s not an earth-shaking situation for sure, but this is my blog and there don’t seem to be any cops around.