Submitted by megan on Thu, 08/20/2009 - 19:37
It's a little closer to NIMBY-ism than I'm comfortable with.
Here's my quandary.
In some ways, my street is very quiet. Because of traffic calming we, well, we only have a very few calm bits of traffic. Because the traffic calming is big planters full of leafy trees and bushy bushes, the street feels like a very private place.
What this has meant up to a few months ago is that a lot of kids play on the street most nights. That you feel screened in safe once you walk into the green. That a lot of neighbours and other people wander up our street.
The House Across the Street has never been great. The landlord, particularly, is an asshole. Most times he shows up, he yells at or hits his tenants. Gossip tells me he's currently trying to shunt someone out in a way that contravenes the Residential Tenancies Act. The rent is super cheap, so many of the people who have lived there for the past 4 years I've been here are hard on their luck. There's generally been a lot of drinking, which occasionally would lead to an argument or some leering. Kind of unpleasant, but generally pain in the ass material.
Though if someone had come off the front porch and followed me up the road, I might re-phrase that.
Something happened a few months ago to poison the pretty stable dynamic that was happening over there. I'm not quite sure what it was. The drunkenness seems to have increased both in duration and quantity; seems like there's a pretty heavy duty crack dealer in there now, whereas before the dealing was on the QT. Lots of people coming and going. Enough people regularly hanging out there that it's taken me weeks to even partially figure out who actually lives in the house. The occasional groups of white guys in their early 20s who are either in a gang or, worse, wish they were, hanging out on the planters in front of my house, smoking various smokable things. Lots of people hanging out in the backyard of the place.
Which would be fine except that they're often loud enough that I can hear them. In my bedroom. Across the street. I can also hear the people who come to buy crack at 3 am walking down the street talking loudly. Sometimes through closed windows and earplugs. And the cops who come in the middle of the night because someone inside the house has called something in. They wake me up too.
I think what's putting me, what's putting anyone within eye- or earshot of the HAS, over the edge is that the loudness regularly shifts into aggression. Seems like there's one or two main instigators. Heavy heavy drinkers. This past weekend, the tall skinny man on the first floor punched a woman in the face, and then, when I was inside getting my phone to call the cops, he kicked her hard in the stomach.
I have become the sort of person who calls the cops on people. There is no way to tell you how much I resent that man and the people who drink there and get high there and beat each other up on the street for turning me into that person.
Now, any good therapist would tell me that they can't make me that sort of person, but what the fuck do I do? What is my neighbour supposed to do when he looks down the street and sees three guys pushing yet another woman around? Do I wait until the stupidly drunk guy who is in a gang, or worse, looks like he wants to be in one, and is yelling motherfucker, that's my beer and pushing someone off the front porch, do I wait until he pulls out a weapon and really hurts someone? Do I make a bet that the guy wielding the metal post won't actually bash in the head of the man with the long stick?
Honestly, if you have better suggestions of how to deal with this as it's happening, I'm all ears.
Because maybe we're overreacting, us neighbours. In both cases where women were getting pushed around, they didn't want to press charges. Of course they didn't. We're bringing the police into a situation with people who probably list "cops" as the last category of people that they want to see. Or would trust.
And with fucking good reason.
But I can't do it. I can't not call.
The drug dealing only bothers me because it brings a lot of people onto a really quiet street who don't care that it's a really quiet street. Crack houses belong on busy streets. I lived across from a couple on Preston, but I only knew that through street gossip and then careful watching. But they never disturbed me,* so what did I care? The drinking I don't like at all because it's being done in big groups of mostly men who seem to have someone with an unstable and vicious temper as their ringleader. Drinking makes people really fucking emotionally unpredictable in a way that it seems crack doesn't.
Besides the constant fighting that has me jumping every time there's a loud noise, what is stressing me out in all of this is that I am reminded of just how incredibly privileged I am. For 15 years I have have chosen run with people who critique, and are critical of, the reigning power structure. I have wanted badly to disown, or at least ignore, the parts of me that fall on the powered side of any continuum.
And yet, and yet. I have the privilege not only of current money but of class behind me. It is my expectation - no, it is a ingrained belief that I have the right to live on a street whose quiet is not broken by other people's despair and addiction.** And that class-driven belief - along with my colour, along with my education, along with the genes that have blessed me with a non-addictive personality - gives me weight with the cops to probably push these people out. The way they've probably been pushed out of other places before.
I am owning my privilege. It is currently making me a little sick with myself.
The fact that this is the first time I've really had to come face-to-face with how fucking privileged I am and that I find myself now actively participating in a system that I think is corrupt at its heart, that makes me more than a little sick too.
*Washington's customers, on the other hand, regularly forgot his address and pounded on our window at all hours. Nothing like being woken up out of a deep sleep by someone banging on the window above your head at 5 am.
**I know lots of people who are addicted to stuff (mostly alcohol) and are able to function quite well on a day to day basis. The people in the HAS are not those people, for a variety of social, economic and probably genetic reasons.