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Can’t work it out? Light it up

Submitted by on Monday, 23 March 2009 3 Comments

skateboardLewis Smith, you flick your Bic for all of us fed up with basketball hoops on sidewalks and weed whackers blaring at 7 on a Saturday morning.

You’re carrying the torch for millions annoyed by gas-powered scooters buzzing into the night and overachieving sprinklers dousing anyone who walks past.

Setting fire to your neighbor’s skateboard ramp might have taken things a bit too far. But believe me, many of us understand your frustration.

Smith, a Volusia County, Fla., man, was charged with criminal mischief this weekend after igniting the ramp a neighbor had put in the road near Smith’s home, according to The News-Journal of Daytona Beach.

Chances are the neighbor also was violating laws against obstructing public streets, as  are the folks who make portable basketball hoops permanent fixtures on neighborhood sidewalks. That’s illegal in virtually every city around here, but that never stops anyone.

There are two hoops blocking the way between our house and Big Guy’s school. There used to be three, but the wind took one out recently. I can’t say I was unhappy about having one less obstacle to navigate the stroller around.

Funny thing is, I’ve lived in this neighborhood for almost 10 years and have walked its streets at virtually every hour of the day and night at some point during that decade. I’ve never seen any of those hoops used a single time.

I’d probably be less grumpy about it if I knew someone was at least getting some fun out of what’s a daily pain in the butt for me. In fact, I’d be all for the hoops if they were bringing kids out of their houses and getting neighbors to act neighborly.

It’s also illegal to operate loud power tools before 9 a.m. on weekends where I  live, but that never stops one man from firing up the mowing equipment long before most people have had their first cups of coffee on a Saturday.

Under the theory that the police might have real crime to deal with, I grin and bear it. Or, more accurately in the case of the early morning lawn manicurist, growl and bear it. Life’s too short to complain about everything that ticks you off, even if some of it technically is illegal.

Not everyone sees it that way. There’s one neighborhood grump who likes to complain the second a stray toe breaches the sidewalk and lands in his yard. He’s chased kids halfway up the block over it . Technically, they were committing the crime of trespassing. Realistically, he might get a better response if he used a little less hostility.

And there’s a thin line that’s easily crossed between benign lawbreaking, outright theft and vandalism. We’ve seen an uptick of late of the latter two.

Big Guy’s scooter was stolen off our front porch last week in broad daylight, while Boots and I were home and as two cars sat in the driveway. Two vacant houses within a block were tagged that same week.

Running up sidewalks after kids and torching skateboard ramps is not going to solve any of that, though. In this current climate, with so many folks on edge and jittery, it could make things worse by escalating an annoyance into a tragedy.

So while I completely understand Smith’s frustration – I get to experience it every morning as we walk to school – it makes me sad that what used to be curmudgeonly finger-shaking at “those kids” has devolved to fire-starting.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Lora said:

    Puts in perspective my weekend event of the neighbor’s children ringing my doorbell then running. It was at a reasonable hour and my husband’s arm-folded presence in the driveway evoked an immediate finger-pointing confession–”it was his idea!” shouted one of the offenders. There is no loyalty today among pranksters it seems! :-)

  • ParentingPink said:

    So sorry about Big Guy’s skateboard, but I’m glad you have had second thoughts about burning down the basket ball hoops :-) We have some of those in our neighborhood too, but at least I occasionally see kids using them!

  • Leslie K. said:

    We have this absolutely GORGEOUS park about 2 blocks from our house…but the little darlings in my neighborhood insist on jumping up and down and up and down and up and down over and over and over and over again on their little skateboards…in front of my house….during the day….when the graveyard shift worker is trying desperately to sleep.

    And I guess mumsie and da-da are too LAZY to walk the little darlings to the flipping PARK….

    oh don’t get me started…..grumble grumble grumble