My problem? I’m too optimistic. Like a fool I permit myself to think all neighbors are, well… neighborly. And helpful.
I should know better because, as a middle-aged white man, the dominant culture views me as the Font of All Evil and therefore any offers of help from me, or any displays of altruistic neighborliness are best countered with suspicion and perhaps a call to the Authorities.
Let me give you a scenario:
My wife is driving home in our Jeep Wrangler all alone. The top of the Jeep is off because it’s still Summer-like in mid September. Our home is out in the semi-rural part of the county which means many homes with acreage and gravel roads. Lots of gravel roads. She stops at the base of the steep gravel road leading up to a few homes, ours being one of them, and offers a lift up the hill to a couple teenagers who just got off the bus and are beginning the long slog up the hill.
Do you think they would accept a ride from Mrs. Sigmadog?
I think the likely answer would be “yes”. In fact I know the answer would be yes because she’s done it on numerous occasions. But even if the answer were “no”, the responses would be polite and generally friendly.
Now, consider the same scenario, but with me driving the Jeep all alone. Do you think they would accept a ride from the Evil White Man?
Well they didn’t. And not only did they not want a ride from the likes of me, they stared at me like I had just offered them in my outstretched hand a particularly aromatic sample of my freshest, steaming, corn-filled turd muffin.
When I asked if they wanted a ride a second time, thinking they hadn’t heard me, they gave me a heaping, overflowing, fresh-from-the-oven deluxe second helping of homemade Stink Eye.
Shrugging and driving on, I confess to giving the Jeep a little extra gas for a super large dust cloud… my little “thank you” for their pleasant demeanor.
Really, what did I expect? We raise kids these days to be suspicious and fearful of every new encounter. Parents smother their children in metaphorical Stranger-Danger bubble-wrap to shield them from mostly nonexistent hazards and in the process turn them into preprogrammed drones and bully-bait who are afraid of the world and lacking the mental fortitude and dexterity to even contemplate simple social interaction with people they have not met.
Not every stranger is a danger. In fact, I’d wager good money most strangers are no danger at all. And just to be clear, I completely understand their reluctance to accept a lift from me, even though I’m someone they’ve seen driving up and down the same road for years, often exchanging waves. I get the suspicion, even if it is misplaced: The world is a dangerous place at times. But why the rude silence and open hostility to me, their neighbor? Could they not even manage a terse “No, thanks”?
The neighborhood ain’t what it used to be.
In the end I guess what really irritates me about the encounter is it all could have been avoided had I not given in to weakness trying to be a good neighbor. As a part of the Evil White Man Genome, I paid the price for that weakness.
So let the rains fall. Let the winds howl. Let the snows fly and the ice come hard this Winter. When I see the kids struggling up that dirty hill in the elements, this Evil White Man will be driving by in warmth and comfort, laughing all the way.
© 2017 SIGMADOG LLC
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