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Oldie, 3/11/08: A Dilemma

This evening I attended the monthly meeting whereby representatives of various local neighborhoods share a large room with half a dozen or so law-enforcement personnel, and report on the stuff that's taking place in their communities calling for police intervention.

It was my first time. My neighborhood association said, "Please attend and report back." But what happened was, everyone at the meeting had something to report to the officers. Except me -- I don't get terribly involved in the goings-on. I'm not that eagle-eyed person who's perpetually looking out my window and taking note of the most minute variation. And, since moving here (and actually, for many years prior), I've wondered, how does one get to be that sort of person? It seems to be very much against my nature, for two main reasons:

1. I'm extremely unobservant. No, oblivious is probably a better way to describe me.

When I'm going about my business, I'm going about MY BUSINESS. That is, I'm thinking about whatever's going on in my life. Driving for me is a very automatic function and it takes place without much here-and-now observation of anything other than the road. I see things in a very uninvolved way. I miss lots and lots of details. And I have that defect in my brain that makes it hard to distinguish faces, cars, and most of the other details that "normal" people can spot and memorize. Because people in my neighborhood are very sociable, and because I have an official position in the neighborhood, I compensate for this by waving "hi" any time I drive past anyone. I don't really look to see who it is, and if I ran into that person anywhere else, I'd only be about 20% likely to recognize them as being from my neighborhood. It's THAT bad. So this is why I have a serious problem with this "crime spotter" thing. I just don't notice things.

2. The other reason I'm not law-enforcement material is, when I DO notice something, I automatically assume that everything's cool. I'm a firm believer in "mind your own business," "to each his own," and "judge not, lest ye be judged." So when my next-door neighbor piles old cars on his lawn and pulls up in a Rent-a-Center truck every month or so, I'm thinking, well, it's not the way I like to live, and I wish his property were more aesthetically pleasing, but who am I to dictate what his house looks like? Two guys talking on the porch at 2:00 in the morning. 90% of my neighbors would say "They're doing a drug deal." I say, "It's two guys talking on the porch at 2:00 in the morning." A young lady is walking down the street alone at 11pm in the middle of January, dressed in high heels, shorts up to here and a middy top that's little more than an embellished bra. 99% of the rest of the world would say, "She's a hooker and she ought to be arrested." I say, "She's a woman going somewhere, and she must be cold; why doesn't she put on a coat?" I just take things at face value and believe that if I go and make assumptions, it's going to turn out to be the one time in 10 years that the guys were just talking on the porch or the girl was walking along dressed that way because she was coming from a costume party. I don't know how to tell the difference between people who are up to no good and people who are just waiting for a friend. I'm not totally incapable of telling when something's wrong but I don't consider myself very sharp in that area. If someone smiles at me and says 'everything's fine,' I figure it's true and just go on about my business. But, I've had enough marginal, second-hand experiences in life with shady dealings that if I'm really looking for it and keep my eyes open, I can manage not to get fooled. But I wish there were some way to take lessons. 

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