Calling 911 on a Monday Morning

I was checking my email this morning while Justin took the girls to school. Ten minutes later I heard a lot of shouting and went to the front door to check it out. It’s a quiet neighbourhood and I’m just as much a looky-loo as the next person. Also one of the shouting voices sounded like my husband’s.

I opened the door to find the hedge in front of the house shaking and two heads bobbing up and down on the far side of it. I called out, “Should I call the police?” and Justin yelled, “Yes!” The other man was shouting incoherently and they were struggling. I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening.

The next looky-loo after me was a neighbour one block over who was loading his truck for work and heard all the shouting. He came over to see what was going on and if he could help. I went for the phone and stood at the door dialling 911. I’m afraid I was a bit incoherent on the phone because I didn’t know how to describe the situation to get an appropriate response. “Ah, my husband is struggling with a man I don’t know in front of our house.” 911: “Do you want police?” Me: “I think so.”

At this point the man took a wild swipe at my husband with his computer bag. I was rather shocked as a computer bag, if it contains a computer, can really hurt you, but the swipes were more of the flailing kind. It was clear the bag was heavy, so if he’d managed to connect Justin would have been in some pain, but the bag was clearly heavy enough that it was difficult for the man to aim with any accuracy. Hence the wild flailing; the bag described uneven ellipses in the air that came nowhere near Justin. This was when I noticed that the man was a bit older than Justin. It took me that long because the stream of profanity issuing from his lips was really worthy of someone considerably younger.

The police arrived, everyone was interviewed, and here’s what all the fuss was about:

We are one of the few houses in the neighbourhood to have a driveway. But I also have a Honda Odyssey, a longish minivan. If people park too close to either side of the driveway, and especially if someone then parks on the street across from our driveway, I have a terrible time getting in and out of the driveway and hence into the garage. The van is just too long. Plus, if someone is parked that close to the driveway I can’t see oncoming cars. Justin has placed our garbage bin just in front of the house on the left side of the driveway to prevent cars from parking on that side. Plus, it’s convenient on garbage day. It’s not the most aesthetic arrangement but it works. But people do park very close to the other edge of the driveway and that’s the worst for me because that’s the direction in which I’m usually heading.

I’m not a draftsman.

So this man had parked his car very close to our driveway, well past the 1.5m stipulated by the Parking Authority of Vancouver. Justin was right there when he did it, so he politely asked him to move his car. The man’s response was “F*** off!” and he shoved Justin.

Now it’s important to remember that you can’t manage in the restaurant business if you have no self-control. Justin has had ten years of dealing with difficult guests, guests who get drunk and belligerent, and he’s very good at it. He somehow gets them all calmed down and then they’re best buddies after that.

But. Total ranting aggression on top of rude parking behaviour? That’s not on. So that’s why all the shouting and pushing and dancing in the hedge and eventually flailing and then police cars and witnesses.

I didn’t get to relate my side of things, which is kind of disappointing because I think I would be a great witness. And nobody got driven off, in handcuffs, in the back of a police car. Basically, it’s not a felony to be rude and a jerk. Fortunately, it’s also not a felony to overreact a bit to rude jerks. So it was kind of a wash. I had another look out the front door to see everyone telling their side to the police officers and I’m pretty sure I saw some uniformed eye-rolling. Tempest, tea pot, etc., etc.

But we haven’t had this much excitement since the time Justin, a notorious night owl, got up at 5:30am to catch our newspaper thief. It turned out to be an older lady who seemed a little bit demented, so he felt bad and brought her home to her husband, but still, justice was served, sort of. That was a lively morning too.

I feel a bit bad because he wouldn’t get so upset with people parking inconsiderately if it wasn’t for the fact that I make a HUGE fuss when people do that and I can’t get out of the driveway. I never catch the people either so I just vent to Justin. He was totally primed for this morning’s action. Knight, shining armour, etc., etc.

I was wondering if Mr. Bad Parker was ordinarily a nice person and Justin just rubbed him the wrong way. But another neighbour recognized him and said that she’d seen him cycling on the seawall. He nearly sideswiped a woman with a baby stroller and when the woman said something to him he let loose a stream of profane aggression which he must have always at the ready. So I guess he’s one of those people to steer clear of in general.

I always wonder about people who seem to need to do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of the impact on their near neighbours. They don’t seem to care when they annoy, inconvenience, or endanger others. What is this? When you live in a city, cheek by jowl with other people, it’s part of the social contract to not annoy other people. Playing loud music? Annoying. Don’t do it. Having a dangerous dog running around biting people? Not good either. If you need to do this kind of thing, you need to live out in the woods like the Unabomber. But in cities, we all have to get along. The reason that both Britain and Japan have such elaborate social rules is because they’re small countries and people live in close proximity. In order to keep from killing each other, they devised all these courtesies in order to make everybody comfortable. It’s nice when everyone knows the rules.

North America being the melting pot it is, the rules are imported by every incoming group, so there are so many different sets of manners that it’s hard to keep everybody comfortable, hence more clashes. So many misunderstandings! The Asians are all taking our shoes off when we enter the house. The Italians and French kiss you many times on the cheeks when they greet you. The Aussies wonder why the drinks aren’t coming out fast enough. It’s really hard to make everyone happy!

I don’t think today’s incident was a culture clash though, it was about someone being obnoxious about annoying people, annoying someone who’s all about the rules.

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