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Todd Parker Todd Parker
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Dear Todd Parker - 08/20/14

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My husband and I have been living in our neighborhood for a few years now, but we've only recently started getting to know our neighbors a little bit.

There's one older gentleman who lives on the next block over who has taken to stopping us every time he sees us walking by. My husband calls him 'Wild Bill' he's always wearing a cowboy hat and he's constantly telling us about the Neighborhood Watch that he apparently runs. He's always inviting us to come to the meetings and participate. He says it's a great way to get to know the neighbors better.

We're not antisocial people at all. We have plenty of friends and acquaintances. But neither one of us has the least bit of interest in getting together with a bunch of strangers and talk about keeping an eye out for 'the bad element' Wild Bill's words. What does that even mean? I don't have any desire to play neighborhood cop, and my husband, bless his heart, isn't really the type to do things.

I should also mention that in the four years or so we've lived there, we have never once seen any indication that there was any Neighborhood Watching going on.

Is there any way for us to deal with this gently? It seems like the guy's heart is in the right place, but there's also a little hint of crazy about him. We don't want to just blow him off, but we're also not in the market for any neighborhood extracurriculars right now. What should we do?

Watched in Bangor

Dear Watched,

Living in an exclusive gated community like I do, it's easy to forget some of the weird flavors of typical neighborhoods. Man oh man I miss the days when random dudes in cowboy hats took it upon themselves to patrol the streets and keep the block safe from undesirables and ne'er-do-wells. That's some sweet, sweet vigilantism right there.

Still, I understand where you're coming from. Patrolling the streets is a thankless job even when you're getting paid for it, let alone doing it for free. And kudos to your hubby for realizing the general lameness of doing stuff. That's an American right there.

It also seems that you're not all that interested in getting involved in neighborhood affairs. If you've been there for that long and are just now getting to know the neighbors, it's clear that you're perfectly happy doing your own thing.

Also - does your neighborhood even need a neighborhood watch? In my experience, the types of neighborhoods that have watches don't tend to have a whole lot to worry about. And does Wild Bill seem like the sort of guy who will take your rejection personally? If you refuse his overtures and get shuffled onto the 'bad element' list, things could get tough. You don't want to cross a guy who wears a cowboy hat unironically that there is a fella who's serious about his watching.

Your best move is probably to tell him that while you admire what he's doing, you're just not ready to give the sort of commitment that a crackerjack operation such as his would surely require. Do you have kids? If you do, blame them for your need to stay at home nights. Maybe make up an old football injury for your husband; maybe you're taking night classes. A little white lie might help you avoid hurting any feelings.

Just remember if the bad element shows up on your doorstep, you have no one to blame but yourself.

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