There Goes the Neighborhood
By Dorsetta Hale

In the early Nineties, you could say our neighborhood was in the rough part of town. We had a gang, of sorts, although they were more like “The Little Rascals,” than a gang of thugs. The hoodlums routinely stole shopping carts from the old Lucky’s parking lot, only to race them downhill and ditch them wherever they crashed landed. They eluded police for years and are old enough to have purchased stock in the new Albertsons by now.

It’s been downright boring since then but the atmosphere seems to be changing in Pacifica. According to news reports, entire neighborhoods are being plundered of their hydrangea blossoms. Someone even stole a five hundred-pound marble stone from an artist.

The other afternoon, I was sitting at the computer facing the street when I noticed a gray truck stop in front of our house. I continued typing as I waited for the doorbell to ring. When it didn’t, I looked out the window to see the driver get out and casually walk past our driveway to where we keep the garbage. He proceeded to put two of our Hefty bags filled with empty plastic water bottles and aluminum cans into the bed of his truck. I paused for a moment to register in my mind what I was seeing.

Was I being robbed? I was being robbed!

I grabbed my purse and shoes and ran outside to my car to give chase. I cruised the streets and soon came upon a parked gray truck that matched the suspect vehicle. After ten minutes of no activity, I called off my stakeout. I’m no detective. I’m a 911 dispatcher. I work for a large city that only wishes they had our small town problems. I’m also an avid fan of Humphrey Bogart movies and Perry Mason reruns, so I should have known to check the hood to see if it was still warm but I haven’t carried gloves in the glove compartment since January.

I decided to let it go. My cash flow is such that I can afford to lose ten dollars worth of trash but there is the principle of the thing. If a person in a nice car or pickup has the nerve to steal your recyclables in broad daylight, then they’re capable of anything.

If nothing else, I could have reported the theft to the police, so that they could add it to their stats of recent criminal activity but I know how busy they’ve been lately. My son, a BMJ (Black Male Juvenile) has been pulled over three times since he got his driver’s license. Once for possibly driving without his seatbelt fastened (it was). Once for driving with a broken passenger side mirror (it’s not easy to find parts for a 17 year old car). And once for driving without headlights on in the fog. To top it off, he got a ticket for parking on the street in front of his school. The officer calculated that if he included the stereo speakers, my son’s car could be in excess of the 10,000-pound limit (it isn’t).

My husband, a BMA (Black Male Adult) dressed in spandex, was seen getting into his car after running laps on the high school track. The policeman made an illegal U-turn and followed closely behind him for three blocks. I don’t know, maybe he was suspicious because he wasn’t toting a semi automatic or because he’d been running without a television under his arm.

In law enforcement, you can be on high alert and you can be just plain high strung. As a dispatcher I have to take the good with the bad and not take anything personally. All I can do is be myself and hope that my officers think of me when they come across another black person in the ‘burbs.

Again, I hear a truck stop in front of my house. I look out and open the window. It’s that same gray truck and this time the driver has the radio blaring. It sounds like Gladys Knight in a duet with a man whose voice I don’t recognize, singing in Spanish. The driver gets out and goes to the bed of his truck. He folds a newspaper and throws it toward our front door. I wave at him.

Copyright 2005, Dorsetta Hale

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