So I’m Now (Apparently) A Petty Thief

Well. Where to begin?

I am now (apparently) a petty thief. That is if you ask the manager at the La Quinta Inn and Suites a few towns away from where I live.

I got a notice from the electric company about two weeks ago that our power was going to be turned out for a planned outage on May 30th. Naturally, being a mom of three and not having time for that shit, I ignored it.

A week later, I got a letter. Ignored that too.

It wasn’t until Monday, in morning of the 29th, when I got an email reminder that the power would be turned out on the 30th, that I actually started to think I should look into it.

Of course, I forgot about it until that night, so laying in bed on Monday – Memorial Day – I finally read the email to learn that our power was going to be turned off Tuesday night around 10 pm, and it wouldn’t be restored until the next morning.

In the normal course of affairs, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But with a baby and an elderly father living in the house, and with my dad’s bedroom and bathroom being at the top of a long staircase…I grew concerned. My older two kids, I wasn’t so worried about. They would be fine as long as I let them watch Netflix with cellular data on their cellphones. But what if my dad tripped and fell down the stairs and my phone had died and I couldn’t call 9-1-1? What if the baby woke up sick and I couldn’t find the thermometer in the closet or see the proper dosage of Tylenol on the package because we literally had one Yankee candle with – maybe – an hour’s worth of wick?

So I started scavenging around the house to look for lanterns, flashlights, emergency candles…anything…only to come up empty handed and pretty freaked out. (I know, I know…I need to become a survivalist and stock up on that shit. Seismologists say The Big One is going to hit Southern California any day now – be it an earthquake or a nuclear bomb from North Korea, so certainly I should be more prepared…)

I went around and came up with a conservative estimate on what we could get by with on candles and flashlights, and added it all up in this epic grocery list that added extra errands to my day …and about two hours into this whole endeavor, I realized this was all bullshit anyway, so I said screw it – I’m booking us a hotel room for the night.

Now my aunt and uncle occasionally come to visit us, and when they do they always bring their dog. Since we have no extra rooms, they have to find a dog-friendly hotel, and for years they’ve been raving that the La Quinta Inn and Suites two towns over is not only reasonable in price, but dog friendly and a pretty nice hotel.

I – on the contrary – would not normally stay in a La Quinta Inn and Suites. That’s just me, I have a preference for where I stay (Marriotts or Hyatts, sure fine – I’m a snob); and I’d wager to say that I have traveled enough and had so many bad experiences in hotels to know to stick to my go-tos. However, with this circumstance, we needed to bring the dog, and because of the shortness of time to get it all together, I figured – why not? How bad could something other than a Marriott or Hyatt be. HOW BAD?! – I reasoned as I drove over there, checked in to a room, and unloaded our things.

HOW AWFUL COULD THIS GET?! IT’S ONLY ONE NIGHT!

Well.

I drove back home after checking us in, because my kids had tennis and other miscellaneous crap going on around town. Finally, around 8 pm my dad, the baby, the two kids and the dog, all got loaded in the car and we barreled 13 miles down the highway to the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Two towns over from my amazing, protected, safe and secure home.

My kids were like “yah! it’s like a mini vacation!!” And my dad – who had just gotten back from being out of town for the weekend at a conference – was like “sweet – another night in a comfortable bed!” And I was just like “well, it isn’t a Marriott or Hyatt…but really, it’s one night…HOW BAD COULD IT BE?!”

As we parked, we were stalled in getting to our room because there was a drug arrest happening on the walkway.

Nevertheless, we got into our room, with two beds and a bathroom (all they had available – so each kid slept with an adult, while the baby slept in his rocker-sleeper…my husband was, of course, at work on overnight shift). We took photos of the baby at his first hotel stay, and posted them to his Instagram page. We popped popcorn and got into pajamas. Watched Hulu on my computer. It was, for all intents and purposes our usual evening routine.

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Until we woke up in the middle of the night to doors upstairs slamming and people in the corridors screaming.

This morning, we got up, got dressed, packed up the car…kindly said hello to the couple making out against their red pick up truck right outside our room…checked out of the room at exactly 8:15 am…and headed off to breakfast.

It was over. We survived. It was no Marriott or Hyatt, but no one died. And our power outage problems had, in fact, been averted.

Around noon, my phone started ringing from a number in that town, two towns over that housed the La Quinta Inn and Suites and happens to also be a town my daughter is playing a tennis tournament in this weekend. So I answered, assuming that it was the tennis club to give me her start time.

Them: “Heather?”

Me: “Yes?”

Them: “How are you?”

Me: “Fine…may I ask who this is…?”

Them: “This is {garbled name} from the La Quinta Inn and Suites. Why did you leave your hotel room door open upon check out?”

Me: “Um…I didn’t.”

Them: “No, that’s not true. Housekeeping just called and said the room is wide open.”

Me: “Nope, solidly closed it before we checked it out.”

Them: “Okay…we’ll call you back.”

Thinking nothing of this at all, I went back to my day. I actually took a nap, for about 30 minutes or so. Then I woke up and was about to get up to make lunch when I looked at my cellphone and there were tons of notifications from the bank – La Quinta Inn and Suites had charged me for hundreds of dollars in separate transactions, and they (the bank) wanted to know what was going on.

Good question.

So I called La Quinta Inn and Suites back and the gist of it is this: those people that I politely said “good morning” to, that were making out against the back of their red pick up truck, were actually thieves casing the place. They were there, waiting for someone to leave their room, so they could head in and steal a bunch of shit. A quick Google search by my husband found that it could easily be done with a copied key, possibly by an employee.

A microwave, a mini fridge, a coffee pot, and a big screen TV were stolen, to be exact.

La Quinta Inn and Suites, though, decided to charge me and when I went into it with them over the phone, the woman said – point blank – “we are charging you for the things you stole from the room…”

Um…

“…and we’ve called the police.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am the last person you would ever imagine to a) be arrested for anything, ever, and b) break the law.

I was the coordinator for the entire neighborhood watch group for the 3,000-unit subdivision we just moved out of last fall. I still moderate their Facebook group.

Nonetheless, I started practicing my Tiger Woods-esque mug shot face as I waited for the cops to show up. And when they didn’t after about an hour, I decided to call them, and we went over the whole thing.

In the end, I did not get arrested, even though the police officer laughed as he told me the lady at the La Quinta Inn and Suites said I stole all the stuff.

My 13 year old daughter had to provide character witness for the people hanging out outside the room.

And I am now dead set that I will never stay in anything but a Marriott or Hyatt. Ever. Again.

To make matters worse, all the time this took me has delayed getting my Book Trailer uploaded…which means our BIG REVEAL has to be postponed until this weekend.

That is, unless, I get arrested for something else. Because you know, I’m now (apparently) a petty thief.

 

 

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It’s Been Over Two Months Since I Wrote a Blog. You Can Thank All My Thankless Volunteer Work For That.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with blogging. I was told when I became a writer that all writers had to have blogs to help sell their writing; that an agent or a publishing house won’t take you seriously if you don’t already have an audience.

Well that didn’t – exactly – pan out as planned on the ol’ book sales, wouldn’t you say?

At the same time as all that, I did like having a place to vent or just ramble. But I also think that blogging is, in some senses, vaguely…narcissistic. Like people seriously care about my life and opinions and beliefs so much that they’d check in regularly about what I have to say, or how much I had for dinner, or whatever.. Really?

Well I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe really. Not saying people care about me, but I do think they (they being the general public that peruses the Internet) likes to hear they aren’t alone. In whatever it is they feel alone about.

So out the door of this blog post, this blog post that is my first in over two months, I’m going to commit to you guys to just do it, just write. Because maybe there are one or two of you out there who do give a shit. Or maybe you are family that are just waiting for something to gossip about me over, and here I’ve been denying you that, lo these last few months. I don’t know, but I promise I’ll do better.

Mostly I’ll be able to do that, though, because my brief hiatus from writing on this blog wasn’t so much about this love-hate relationship I have with blogging so much as it has been that I have been fucking busy. Fucking busy doesn’t even begin to address it, you guys. It’s been madness. My daily life has been a track towards the next thing on an endless list of to-dos.

Beyond just the typical mom life daily shit, though; along with other stuff I’ll get into over the course of the following weeks as I get back into writing here more often and fulfilling my commitment not to disappear for such long periods of time anymore…it’s my thankless volunteer work that’s been keeping me on the move.

Lucky for you guys (if there are “you guys” out there), I’m quitting all that shit.

Well, sort of.

Over the last year or so I’ve gotten heavily involved in two things: my local center for the arts, and the neighborhood watch program for my 3,000 resident, middle class community.

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My capacity at the art center is newsletter person (duh, I’m a writer) and then I volunteer to teach a class in drawing. It’s all fun and games, though, until you start helping more and learning about how much the president, vice president, and other leaders of the organization are criticized regularly by these old codgers that never come to a GOD. DAMN. THING.

Then the criticisms started coming at me. I made a suggestion – being the young, whippersnapper that I am – that we transition the newsletter from that age-old foldable thing that was being emailed out from my personal email account as an attachment once a month, to a digital, weekly, totally legit HTML email blast. I did the research. I provided statistics about how this could increase membership and involvement. The executive board of the place LOVED the idea. I, of course, was happy because this meant I no longer had to use my personal email account.

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The general membership, however, did not receive it quite as well. Since the switch, I hear nothing but bitch-bitch-bitch, gripe-gripe-gripe about people not liking the new way they they receive their newsletters. Some in the form of not opting in. A select few in constant emails and comments. They don’t like the format. They want something they can print and read at their leisure. About three people have this now as their mission in life to harass me over, and they will not LET. IT. GO.

But then today I was talking to the vice president of the place, and she said it perfectly: “every time someone has a criticism, I’m planning to ask what they’ll be volunteering to do if they don’t like it.”

THANK. YOU.

Dealing with some of this drama has taken far more of my time than I would have liked. I’ve spent more time responding to emails, answering phone calls, and more than anything just generally being annoyed by it than I should.

So I’m going to let it go myself. I’m not going to quit, no…I still love art and culture. I’ll still do the newsletter, help however I can…teach my classes…

But I ain’t wasting my time being upset about this anymore.

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Then there’s the more complicated volunteer thing I do: the neighborhood watch. I’m the coordinator. If you know anything about neighborhood watch, I’m like the crazy lady who gets interviewed by the local news whenever some shit goes down in her neighborhood. The one who spends the majority of her time encouraging others to spy on their neighbors.

Beyond that, I get the meetings together, I raise the money for our signs – which, I will add, I chose without the creepy criminal pictured on it – and I send out all the crime alerts.

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I told you guys a few months back all about PeeGate. Where I posted in our group page on Facebook about how it is absolutely and without a doubt illegal for any human being to urinate on another person’s lawn; and the moms of my community came out in FULL FUCKING FORCE to tell me why I was an asshole. For doing my job.

Things got a little dull, quieter after that. Arguably that had nothing to do with the fact that the community had gone crime-less. Quite the opposite. For a middle class neighborhood with some homes going for 1.2 and 1.6 million dollars (*snort*…definitely not ours, though), I am flabbergasted by how much petty crime and general hillbilly shit goes on in this place.

Just the neighbors got busy, or something, because they weren’t griping in my direction for a while. They let me report the crime with little backlash. Occasionally they reported it themselves, though you dare to tell someone whose car is being broken into or whose bike is stolen to call the police and you’ll get a “will consider doing that next time”…

Then I had to go and say something about Pokemon Go.

The real problem with Pokemon Go from a neighborhood standpoint is this: kids milling around in a neighborhood that has a lot of petty street crime already makes it hard to distinguish between suspicious activity and just kids playing a game. The sheriff’s department sent out a neighborhood watch coordinator email about it, and so I shared in our Facebook group some tips for parents (tell your kids to be respectful, don’t touch people’s cars or property, observe city curfews, etc.).

Nope! The moms of Facebook weren’t having that one! How dare you tell us what to do with our kids! How dare you suggest an innocent Pokemon game could have unintended consequences in our neighborhood!!! You said don’t act like PUNKS in the comments?! PUNKS!? YOU are not doing enough to control crime in our community as is! I’ll have you know there are military families in this community, how dare you refer to them as PUNKS (wait…what?!). I saw it escalating quickly, as with PeeGate, so I shut it down before it could go any further.

Then tonight – I don’t know, three days later – not another word was said online or in public about it for days, and someone bring it up again by posting a comment on a two week old security video someone shared of their bike being stolen (think about this timeline for a minute, it’s as if this guy was just looking for days for a way to bitch about my Pokemon Go safety tips)…

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OH MY GOD – SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Within minutes one of the moms of Facebook had “liked” it. BECAUSE I posted some tips to stay safe, not get in trouble, and observe the law.

And that…that was the final straw for me. I always knew it would be over something really stupid, but fuck it. I do not get anything out of organizing this group of lazy complainers.

I’ll keep organizing them – for now. But just like with my local center for the arts, I ain’t taken the bullshit anymore. Don’t like it? ORGANIZE IT YOURSELF.

 

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Here is the bottom line that I’ve learned in all of this: people who do nothing are always the most critical. They sit on their lazy fucking asses and just bitch at the people that do everything. They refuse to call the police when a robber is breaking down their door. They do nothing to organize their own street, or to keep things under control or to even know their neighbor’s names. They see their local center for the arts struggling financially and they can’t even drop a dollar in the donation box.

Volunteer organizations seem to always end up this way: with a small number of people doing everything, in the most thankless and unappreciated positions ever.

And I get it now: this is why so many people don’t ever volunteer for anything. They don’t get involved because it ain’t worth the bullshit. Just think for a moment how great this world would be – how many problems would be solved, crime would be avoided, and lives even were saved, if only people felt like volunteering their time to the greater good was ANYTHING but a fruitless endeavor. It kind of makes you feel nauseated to your absolute core to think of it that way.

If only all the bitchy, whiny complainers of the world would sit down and shut up so the people that actually want to do good can do it.

Well I’m retreating, like I said. I’ll still volunteer, but I’m not getting tied up in all the drama and bullshit anymore. If anything, I’ll just write about it on this blog.

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Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

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I ask myself often: do I live in the ghetto? No, not really. I live in the suburbs.

But as time has gone on, and we’ve moved from one nice area that turned out to be not-so-nice, to another, I’ve come to realize something: the suburbs may be synonymous with the ghetto.

We moved on June 1st to a condo owned by my husband’s family. It was purchased for him and his brother, and as a general investment, when the community was first being built about ten years ago. They’ve had a slew of renters coming in and out for several years. Eventually he and his brother, and their various roommates, moved out and got married, and they had a family friend renting for a few years.

But as we recently found ourselves in the position of having to either (a) pay rent beyond our means in our prior apartment to stay in town near family, or to (b) move back to the city of Los Angeles (where my husband works) – we all realized that it was time for us to occupy the condo.

We really had no other choice if we wanted to stay close to our families, or should I say if our families wanted us to stay close to them.

About a month ago, I was pulling into the drive and parking my car when a crazy-looking, middle aged man approached me and my daughter getting out of my SUV. He was shaking – noticeably – and started screaming at me about how he didn’t like my driving before I even got out of the car. He went on to tell me that my garden on our patio offended him, and – just who did I think I was trying to make the rest of the neighbor’s patios look dumpy compared to my nice set up. Was this guy serious? I still don’t know. I did not engage him in a fight, I simply tried to calm him down and assured him that I drive much slower than I should need to, in a community where my kids and friends have almost been hit twice, already, by crazy drivers. And that we have only the best intentions with our admittedly nice things.

11872302_851094782623_7718313065513953767_o11921727_851094378433_5672761055234370595_oHe wasn’t having it though. For him, this confrontation was not about having a reasonable discussion – it was about the fact that he thought we were renters, just like all the other people that have come and gone through this, the family home. It was about the fact that he felt he needed to threaten me with his supposed-HOA credentials. And, I can only assume, it was about the fact that the guy clearly gets off on accosting and harassing young women in parking lots.

I finally gave up, and just walked into the house as he continued to scream – crying much harder than I should have been.

Naturally, as any blogger will do, I took my upsettedness to Facebook. I talked about the incident on my page, and about how the man brought me to tears. Many expressed sympathy, some talked about the actual issues in my community with me – something everyone should do, because no place is perfect. Then one friend (as she always does), asked “why does this crap always happen to you?” In response I answered a question with a question: “because we keep moving from ghetto to ghetto?”

I never said this was the ghetto.

I never said this place was a dump.

I never actually said anything, other than that I was accosted by a middle aged man in the parking lot, and that it upset me. I cracked a jokey question about ghetto behavior seeming to be everywhere.

(As anyone with any experience with others knows, anytime a white girl such as myself refers to something as “ghetto,” she is referring to a behavior, not necessarily a place.)

The response and the gossip that followed, however, turned into something I could have never – not in a million years – expected. It wasn’t about whether or not I was OK. It was about me saying I lived in the ghetto (which I didn’t ever actually say), me talking trash about my in-laws on Facebook (which, obviously, I would never do), me being ungrateful that we are “allowed” to live in and care for this home (didn’t realize that staying close to family while my husband still commutes 100 round trip miles a day for work, paying the monthly mortgage amount, and caring for the place as if it were our own was an allowance)…and so on and so forth…

So reported my husband, it eventually got to his parents and now – naturally – the gossip wheel left me feeling deflated and bullied, and looking like an asshole to his mom and dad.

All I really wanted was to come home and not be yelled at by a strange man.

Since then, there have been several more incidences:

-We received a letter in the mail that we had violated the HOA’s rules by screwing things into the front door and patio walls (there are no HOA rules about this, not to mention the things hanging are done so with removable, outdoor mounting tape).

-We received another letter in the mail that our plants were not sitting on proper drainage plates when set on the ledge around the patio (there is an HOA rule about this one; however, there absolutely are proper drainage plates under my ledge-lining plants, which I can’t say the same for our neighbors – some of whom are actually on the HOA).

-Someone has stolen and/or destroyed at least 75% of the plants on our patio.

-We saw someone in the middle of the night, just a few nights ago, creeping onto our porch at 4:15 in the morning, and pouring something into our plants (I was wondering why my last crop died suddenly and unexpectedly in August).

-The list goes on…and on…and on…

However, I don’t feel as though I can talk or post or say anything about it to anyone, because the results of me saying anything disparaging about people around here are: gossip, outright lies, and harassment from people that (a) don’t even live here themselves, and (b) should be loving and supportive.

Today – the doozy – I opened the garage door to take my daughter to tennis, only to find the wife of the guy that accosted me standing there. She yelled just like her husband did, that I am not allowed to open my garage like that. I said “like what?” and she replied “have it open unless you are coming and going.” I responded “um, I’m taking my daughter to tennis…I am literally in my car and we are literally talking as I have halfway backed out of the garage. By the way, are they doing anything about getting some speed limit signs up in this drive?”

She told me that the speed with which people drive through the community is not the HOA’s problem.

My daughter got into the car and we drove off, closing the garage door behind us. I saw that the woman had moved on to another victim: our neighbor, who she apparently finds reason to illegally tape record.

Yes, the HOA woman had climbed into the bushes of our neighbor, and was leaning into the balcony to tape record a conversation going on inside. When we got home from tennis, I saw her out by the school next to our complex. She was yelling at the crossing guard about the position of her chair, where the volunteer sits waiting to make sure children safely cross the street.

Finally I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore: I had to talk about this. I had to share about the experience on my Facebook page. I had to write this blog about it.

Not only because this experience is just another in a long list of behaviors that are not-so-nice, in a community that could otherwise be a very good one; but because lies and gossip should not dictate whether or not I speak out about what I think to be right and wrong.

A lot of people may not like that I say this, but the suburbs – at least in my experience – are ghetto.

This isn’t to say that there are are only trashy communities in the suburbs.

This isn’t to say that there are only terrible people in the suburbs.

Actually, quite the contrary: the suburbs are often much more beautiful than the city, more well-kept. You find better landscaping, and often better neighbors in suburbs.

I’m just saying that there is a common thread that the suburbs of any major metropolis are known for, and that is the suburban sense of entitlement. People in the suburbs often pay more, so a lot of them – read a lot of them, not all – think they can tell other people what to do. They don’t give a fuck about who sees them acting however they are acting, and on that note they often believe that what they do is the right thing (even when it’s sitting on your front lawn with no shirt on guzzling beers). They think they own everything – the streets, the neighborhood, other people’s patios – and that they can tell others what to do.

Again: a lot of, not all. But enough for it to have earned suburbanites a reputation.

In the city, this is one of the biggest complaints people have about the ‘burbs. Everyone is up in each other’s business, and everyone wants to tell others how to live. And this, well this is ghetto. It’s unsavory to act so trashy, entitled, arrogant, and self-centered.

Of course then in bigger cities, you do have true ghettos. Like the Jewish ghettos during WWII, where minorities are segregated into run-down, slum-like districts that have been gentrified for years to keep the bad behaving the way they do because they have no other choice. So between the slums of the gentrified inner-cities, and the truly trashy behavior of a fair percentage of suburbanites, we are stuck. There will always be a chance that someone will act ghetto in a place that is otherwise nice. And we’ve all seen what happens to Hilldale in Back to the Future – there will always come a time when the newest and nicest community becomes the next gentrified, slummy neighborhood.

This of course leads me to believe that: yes, I am destined to live in the ghetto. Until some of these attitudes change – until people are willing to talk about the issues, and not bully those who want to make a change; until people put a stop to gentrification and change their attitudes about what they are and are not entitled to do and say – we all are.

Funniest_Memes_only-in-the-ghetto-will-you-find_7759Oh, and for the record, there’s a lot of stereotypically ghetto shit going on around here all the time too. Like the weekly ghetto cardio, i.e. some random guy running down my street being chased by the police. The random shopping cart that occupies parking space #210. And the tumbleweave that’s been in the grass across from our garage for going on two months now. And we live in the *nice* area of town.