Wednesday, December 3, 2008

am i an old curmudgeon?

yesterday evening, i had a pizza in the oven, and was sitting in my room reading the dupont current (total nerd alert, here), when i heard some crashing of glass out in front of the house. i leapt to the window, looking outside to see a group of kids who couldn't be more than 9 years old tipping over my garbage and recycling cans.

i had seen these kids hanging out in front of the dc mini mart (our wonderful friendly neighborhood liquor store at 1828 1st street nw) about 45 minutes earlier when i was taking the garbage out to the curb. my first reaction was anger, and i wanted to just run downstairs and pummel the brats.

in the amount of time it took me to throw on a coat and my shoes, i managed to think about things rationally (a little bit, anyways) and i decided to pursue a different course of action. when i got downstairs, i walked right over to the liquor store, where i found the four young boys standing by the front door.

one of them asked me if i wanted to go into the store. i quickly said, "no," and proceeded to ask them why they tipped my garbage over. before they could deny doing so (which one of the boys started to try to do), i told them that i just watched them do it from my window. i told them, "i know you just want to have a little fun, but you can't do what you just did. i want you to come over here and help me pick things up."

one of the boys started to claim that he had simply bumped into one of the cans while walking by. i quickly stopped him and told him i had watched them "bump" into all four, and pull them to the ground. there was no accident here, and they knew that i knew it. i started walking over to the cans, and motioned for the boys to follow me. two of them walked over to the cans with me and helped pick things up. the other two did not.

i thanked the boys who helped me pick things up, and they walked back to the liquor store while i walked back inside. one asked me if i really lived here, and i pointed to the apartment upstairs and said, "yep, right up there."

now, looking back at this event, there are a couple of things i would have done differently. i wish i would have asked their names, and gave them mine. i think i missed out on a chance to really connect with at least one of these boys, and i didn't take advantage of that. i wish i would have been a little more calm when i first went to confront them, because i realize now that i was still too worked up emotionally when i first approached them. i wish i wouldn't have let the other two boys just stand there and do nothing. they were part of the problem, and they needed to be part of the solution.

i asked if i'm a curmudgeon in the title of this post because i wonder 'am i just keeping kids from having a little fun'? sure, what they did was pretty harmless, but at the same time, i want to know what kind of parents let elementary school aged boys run around alone, and hang out at a liquor store, at 8:30 on a school night? these boys are at an age where they're going to be very susceptible to getting involved with stuff that's a lot worse than tipping over garbage cans. the lack of good parenting here really makes me much angrier than any spilled recyclables ever could...


Mari said...

You were being a good adult.
I would have just screamed at them.
Actions have consequences. They tip over cans, and then trash gets strewn over your street, which then invites more trash, which then makes your block look less safe.
You did give them a learning experience. One, you showed them to be responsible for their fun. Second, you played the role of responsible adult, a role we abidcate too often. Thirdly, you informed them that you (skinny white dude- if my memory is correct) and people who look like you actually do live in the neighborhood, by pointing out that you lived here. There is this mentality that the white people wandering around here aren't really residents but some odd type of interlopers.
Now there is a slight danger in this interaction. BatShyte crazy parents who may accuse you of things that have no basis in reality.

Fredo said...

Curmudgeon? Nope! Not a bit.

Frankly, you're a better man than I. Like Mari above, if I'd seen them in the act, I probably would have yelled at 'em too. (It's the New Yorker in me.)

That you not only confronted them yourself but also got them to clean up, well that's just plain impressive to me. Not so much because of who you are, but because they actually did it.

Sean Hennessey said...

i think you handled it perfectly.

dcavocado said...

Definitely liked what you did.

Phil Lepanto said...

I agree that it would have been good for you to tell them your name, and to possibly have told the boys that helped you that they did the right thing after they helped you clean up.

If these actions make you a curmudgeon (and I think you qualified just by reading the Dupont Current), then let me know where I can sign up. It takes a village, sometimes anyway.

Anonymous said...

I would kilt them

WVC said...

Our garbage can got stolen a few weeks ago

Jamie said...

Pretty late in reading this, but you know what, that was about the coolest thing I've read in a long time.

The fact that two of them came over and helped you pick the stuff up says worlds. You really did make a personal connection and they did care. I bet it won't happen to you again and I am sure they won't ever forget that. And not in a bad way, as if you had intimidated them, or yelled and screamed. But because you treated them like people while still holding them accountable. They probably don't get a lot of anyone giving a crap about what they do, which is the root of the problem.