COVID-19 has thrown some of us closer together. But not always for the best. At least, not in my neighbourhood.
I live in Vancouver, Canada, in a trendy urban neighbourhood. Here, small one-family homes crowd close together. Old trees and thick hedges surround them. Crows, ravens, woodpeckers, and songbirds fill the landscape. So do racoons, skunks, squirrels, rats, and the occasional coyote. Nearby, there’s a Main Street lined with late-night bars and eateries.
But even here, tensions are rising. Dramatically so, this last week.
Early one morning, I heard a neighbour yell. “Fucking moron. You fucking moron. You’re a fucking moron.”
But there was no argument. No fighting back. No second voice at all.
Maybe he was yelling at a badly parked car. Or at whoever left a pile of garbage on his lawn. Maybe he was even yelling at himself.
Midday, I heard a teenage neighbour wail. “No, mom!” she cried. “It’s still an animal.”
“We have to kill it,” mom said. Mom was loud and firm. Matter-of-fact.
“No, mom! It’s still an animal.”
“We have to kill it.”
I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me. Still, I walked towards the hedge that separates our homes. “Whatever it is, throw it in our yard.”
At least, that’s what I planned to say. But before I could speak, the daughter howled, “No no no no no no nooooo!” And I knew it was over.
I have no idea what they killed. Maybe it was a poisonous spider. Or a rat, already dazed by their dog. But whatever it was, I still can’t get their voices out of my head.
Late that same night, I heard a young man shout. “Get out of the road, asshole! What’s wrong with you!”
I stuck my head out the window. I saw two burly men in a car. And one, more slender, man standing on the curb. He seemed a bit tipsy; clearly he had just staggered across the road. But now he was typing on his phone, probably texting a friend to pick him up.
But the driver was still upset that he had nearly hit a pedestrian. He may have been tipsy himself, heading home from a Main Street bar. So he continued to berate the man on the curb—the one he had almost killed.
Then the driver got an idea. “Come here,” he called. The more drunken man stepped off the curb and approached the car. “Show me your wallet,” the driver said. So the drunk put his hand in his pocket.
“Come on, guys!” I yelled in my I-am-a-grandma-so-WTF-is-this voice.
Caught and shamed, the driver started his car and left. I looked around for the drunk, but he had fled, too.
You might think all this is mild. But it’s not. Because screaming at yourself, killing a harmless animal, and stealing from a drunk are not good things. They are clues that our social fabric is fraying.
P.S. Please note for the record that I am not actually a grandmother yet.
Here’s another neighbourhood story, a sad but sweet story of kindness, from a less stressful time.