The strangest thing happened to me the other day. Husband, dog, camera, and I were walking through the neighborhood. Objective: exercise, "quality time," and maybe a shot or two of autumn creeping into the Columbia River valley on a lovely September morning. (BTW, if you’ve looked at the Welcome Screen today, you know Mt. St. Helens is in the news…suffering some minor geological hiccups. If it blows up, I’ll let y’all know, since, if it wasn’t for some ill-placed trees and houses, I’d be able to see it from my front yard…)
Anyway, walking along on our little field trip, I spotted some unusually pretty mums in someone’s front yard. Halted the dog/husband parade, whipped out my camera, and started to frame the picture. And this woman comes striding out of the garage, practically vibrating with annoyance. "Can I help you?" she challenged me, clearly pissed off and completely paranoid about what my motivations would be for taking a picture of her yard. I stammered that I was just going to take some pictures of her flowers. Outrage and suspicion still played on her face. I said, "Well, I don’t have to if you’d rather I didn’t…" Satisfied, I suppose, that I wasn’t doing anything nefarious, she dismissed me by turning on her heel and marching back into her garage. Right neighborly woman! Needless to say, her flowers had lost their appeal, and husband, dog, and red-faced wife resumed their walk, properly humbled and embarrassed. I couldn’t say for sure that I haven’t been reported to Homeland Security.
Husband pointed out later that Bitchy Neighbor could have been feeling sensitive about the "Bush/Cheney ‘04" poster in her living room window. I hadn’t even seen it at the time, but I DID see it when dog and I walked past the same house this morning. And all I could think was, "What have we done to each other?" Is this where the contentious political climate in this country has taken us, that such an innocent interaction between people who live in the same neighborhood can be perceived, with good cause, as a threat?
I’m sure I’m at fault here. I’m just NOT up with the times. When I do crawl out of my hole and interact socially with people, I find that I’m still coming from somewhere in the seventies. Those days when we were all a little nicer, a little freer, and a little less likely to suffer from the unreasonable fear that our troubled times have imprinted upon us. I guess I don’t really blame Bitchy Neighbor for her actions. Actually, I am sure that I breached 21st century etiquette…I should have knocked on her door, introduced myself, and asked her permission to take pictures of her yard. And it never crossed my mind. In the end, which of us is really the bad neighbor?
Didn’t learn my lesson, though. I took THIS picture in a different neighbor’s yard…though these flowers were more attractively located on the STREET side of their privacy fence. Happy September in the land of the free, the brave, and the paranoid…