The Case For Getting Rid Of Public Libraries

This is going to be an incredibly unpopular post if you read just the title. But hear me out. I think it’s time to get rid of public libraries, on the whole. Just chuck ’em in the trash. Close them all.

And – here’s the critical part: start over.

My local library was sold by the county years ago (I’m talking over a decade, now) to a private company that manages public libraries. Tax dollars still go in to the library, steadily. But it is also operated by this company, who works closely with the city to also do programs, allow the city to use rooms for special events and meetings, and – as it turns out – sell the place for use as a wedding venue.

This was a great solution to a growing economic and management problem for the city. And, to be fair, it has ensured that rebuilding and remodeling of the library, and a steady stream of employment opportunities, continued to be available.

But the quality of the library since then has steadily gone down hill.

Years ago, I started complaining about this here on my blog, and on Twitter. The library is no longer a quiet respite, where anyone that utters a sound above a whisper is quickly hushed by an elderly woman with Coke bottle glasses, standing behind the reference desk. No, the library is a loud, chaotic place, with children screaming in every corner, rolling around on the floor and running like it’s a race track. The only thing louder than the screaming children is – ironically – the employees, who frequently while assisting people in finding books will yell at the top of their voices from aisles away “it’s over here!”

I read a few years ago in an article written in the Wall Street Journal that libraries are no longer what they were in the past. This environment of quiet and serene and calm, combined with every book you could ever want – the ultimate, introverted bibliophile’s dream – was dead. Now, libraries are considered “information technology centers.” It is expected that they will be loud. The computers and technology have taken center stage, as has designated spaces for teens to hang out and thrive. No sooner after reading that article, in fact, had my local library made the decision to demolish half of its reading, study, and meeting areas in favor of a Teen Center, which actually has a sign posted in the front of it: “this is a space for teens, only.”

Libraries are different now, there’s no doubt about that. And while I can definitely – DEFINITELY – acknowledge the positives that come of some of these changes, it’s essentially turned libraries into spaces for certain people only.

There are a few incidences at my local library over the years that has led me to believe that.

The Fight at the Balloon Show

I blogged about this years ago, but I’ll refresh all of your memories, just in case.

Several years ago, before I had my toddler, my dad and I took my older kids (who were little kids at the time) to the weekly summer shows that the library held. It was always fun stuff then, like puppet shows, magic acts, and a balloon show – where the people running it did tricks inside human-sized balloons, followed by making balloon animals for all of the kids.

Of course today, these acts have been largely replaced by African drum circles and “The Zany Xylophone Show,” but then…it was a great, free activity for kids.

While standing in the line to go in to the balloon show that day, a small child ran in to my senior citizen dad. He had not had his hip surgery yet, and my dad almost fell over. My dad steadied himself on his cane, and told the kid to be careful so that no one got hurt. Five minutes later, the child’s mother approached my father screaming.

We moved to the back of the line to avoid any more conflict (probably the wrong thing to do), but sure enough, halfway through the show, I saw the woman’s child standing up in front of a group of other kids, in effect blocking their view. A father walked over and whispered quietly to the kid that he needed to sit down so the other kids could see. Five minutes later, again, the same kid’s mother was at that guy’s throat.

The entire show stopped. Like halted with a record screech. All of us sat there as we watched this crazy woman verbally abuse the man for asking her son – politely, I will add – to sit down so the other kids could see. Eventually a librarian showed up and got involved.

And asked the man and his child to leave.

It was that day that I learned a very important lesson about the world, or at least the community library in which I live. The loudest person to yell and scream and bully is invariably the one that comes out ahead. That doesn’t make it okay. It’s just the way it is.

The Pornography On The Second Floor

My kids homeschool. They always have, actually. It’s worked for us, and they are still super social.

And, my kids are pretty advanced in the majority of their subjects.

Several months ago, I took them to the library because they were working on a research project and paper. The way our library is set up places every single reference book on the second floor, so naturally – because they needed a variety of reference books for the project – we headed upstairs to get to work.

Well, the other thing that is upstairs is the computer lab. There are two computer labs in the library. One on the first floor in the children’s section, which is mostly host to video games. And one on the second floor in the reference section, which is – therefore – designated for adult or reference/research use. The ones upstairs have Jstor and other academic journals, while the ones downstairs have Fortnite.

My kids were only planning to use reference books, though, so we immediately headed to the encyclopedias. We had not even made it from the stairway to the encyclopedia section, though, before a librarian approached us.

“Sorry, children are not allowed up here,” she said to me, sternly, and blocking our path to the encyclopedias.

My oldest children are 16 and 12, so not exactly “children-children” but whatever. I replied, calmly.

“Oh, they need to use the reference section though for a research paper. We can just grab the books and go downstairs to a table if that’s okay.”

“It’s not,” she said. “Reference books are not allowed off the second floor. And children are not allowed up here. They can utilize reference materials at their own schools.”

“We homeschool. Seriously? Children aren’t allowed to use the reference books?”

“I didn’t say that. I said children aren’t allowed up here and reference books are not allowed downstairs. Your children will have to vacate the floor immediately.”

At this point another librarian came over to me and explained – more politely, I will add – that the problem is that the public use computers are paid for by tax payer dollars, which means they cannot have any real controls on them. This means that a large number of adults at the library have to be assumed to be using computers to look at pornography. And exposing children to pornography is – obviously – illegal.

So no kids allowed on the second floor. Ever.

(The thing about the reference books, I can’t explain.)

Today’s Unfortunate Incident

Today I brought my kids to the library to check out some reading books. After the reference incident, we’ve mostly just utilized the library for fiction and non-fiction books of interest, and for the required high school reading that my oldest daughter is doing.

We’ve tried a few of the reading times they have for toddlers, too; though it only reminded me of how loud and unruly small children are allowed to be in our library. I’ve seen kids running around in circles. I’ve seen kids rolling around on the floor. I’ve seen kids lying in a group on the floor to read. I’ve seen kids laying on the couches with their feet in the air. I’ve seen kids ripping pages out of books. I’ve seen it all.

Generally speaking, we are in and we are out.

Today was going to be no exception. The difference, of course, was that on the way there, we had stopped for my toddler to get blood work for allergies. He was not in a particularly good mood. But when we got to the library he was quiet and cooperative. He had his Kindle Fire and it was on silent.

As my two older kids stood at the computer designated for looking up call numbers, I stood there with my little guy sitting at my feet.

As I said, he was not in a very good mood, so I wasn’t going to fight with him to stand. It was a pretty clean tile floor. He was literally between my legs, sitting quietly. Looking at his Kindle.

Meanwhile, other children were screaming. Running around. One child was crying.

Mine was quiet. Looking at his Kindle. Between my legs, right there. Waiting patiently for the girls to get their call numbers so we could find their books and get out of there.

Less than a minute went by and a stocky woman stalked over to me from the check out desk.

“Hi yes, are you mom?”

“Yes.”

“He can’t be there.”

“I’m sorry?”

“On the floor like that. He’ll have to sit in a chair, stand, or leave.”

I’m starting to get a little bit of a complex here about people kicking my toddler out of places. I don’t know what exactly it is about us or him that makes people say he has to leave, but this is twice now (the first being the incident with him being scared on the Polar Express last month).

Other kids do literally the same shit right there right in front of us, and get away with it.

We act polite and nicely, and are asked to do something different, or leave.

The loudest people are invariably the ones that come out ahead.

I looked around, as I had when we walked in. There was not a single available seat for him (remember that thing about the teen center taking away a large portion of the seating areas?). He was certainly not going to stand.

So we left. I told my daughters we would come back later, when my little guy had gone down for his nap with my dad.

But I also got in the car and cried. I cried because this is not how libraries are supposed to be. They may not be quiet places for book lovers to spend hours perusing and reading through books at no cost, anymore.

But they are still a public respite paid for by our tax dollars.

And more than that, I cried because I’m trying my best here. I’m raising three kids, mostly alone. I do everything I can to comply with all the rules and educate and care for my kids, and sometimes – yes – I choose my battles and let my kid sit on the fucking ground. Wow. Call the police on that one. The point is that if I had fought with him to stand up, he would have started screaming and acting like one of the other many brats there. Or, I could have not gone to the library today, and then I would be denying my older children their educational materials. Or… or… or…

The local library is one of the few places left in our community that access to education and information is supposed to be readily available. They are supposed to be a safe place, as well. A place where people of all interests and places in life can go and feel comfortable. Where the homeless can find a warm chair to read the paper in for a while, or teenagers can have a safe spot to do their homework after school.

Or homeschooled kids can access reference materials.

I get the challenges that are faced in running a place like that which is wholly open to the public, and all of its bad sides.

But in the interest of – I don’t even know what – they are turning it into a place that is only for certain people. People who look at pornography. Adults without children. Adults with young children who also will loudly bully until they get their way.

Certainly, the library is not a place for homeschooled kids to do research projects. “They can utilize the reference books at their own schools.” And moreover, the library is apparently not a spot for a mother to bring her kids to check out some books, while trying to keep her toddler happy and quiet for a few minutes, however she has to do it.

I say get rid of libraries as they’ve become now, and start over. I don’t know how they would start over, or what would address these inequities in treatment from one patron to another. I just know that there is something inherently not right about the experiences we’ve had and witnessed at our local library. The library isn’t supposed to be for just certain people, or particular circumstances. It’s supposed to be for everyone.

If it isn’t, then what exactly are we paying for?

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like F&ck This

Sorry for that whole censorship ‘o’ the title thing, but a lot of times blog posts won’t make it into email boxes if they have swear-y words in the title.

Fortunately that doesn’t apply to the content. So here we go.

It’s beginning to look at a lot like FUCK THIS. That has been going through my head over and over, AND OVER, again for about three or four weeks now.

I don’t know about you guys, but Christmastime is a combination of magical wonder and complete and utter bullshit for me. I have been screwed over, stressed out, raked over the coals, and that was just in the prep leading up to the *big day.*

Some of it didn’t even have to do with the holidays, either.

  1. Thankless Thanksgiving

I wanted to do that thing on Thanksgiving that yuppies do, where they go around the table and everyone says something for which they are appreciative. We don’t pray, and the other adults in our house have a hard time being grateful and complimentary; so I just thought it would be a good time to set a better example for the kids, you know?

I was too buried in mashed potatoes and mixed emotions to even remember to have everyone do it.

The thankful part of Thanksgiving – unfortunately – went largely unrecognized. This isn’t to disregard the sincere and kind comments made by our guests; I’m really just referring to the 25 times I had to ask the people that live here “is it good? Is the turkey moist? Do you guys like the sweet potatoes?” …only to receive grumbled “it’s fine”s, or to notice that many of the dishes I lovingly prepared went largely untouched.

Which was fine. We had enough leftovers for me to spend the day after Thanksgiving turning all of it into freezer meals that fed us for roughly 9 days.

2. Who has time for hurt feelings, though, when medical stress descends upon you?

We’ve had some medical situations that sort of pumped the brakes on the rest of life, anyway.

My oldest daughter – almost 16 years old – had been having weird pain symptoms for some time, and because she’s a woman, naturally, every doctor we had seen prior to the last two months has dismissed her as “just another chick complaining.” She’s had three, main things going on – simultaneously: migraine headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent and unexplainable “sports injuries” (in bilateral joints). We’ve been blown off by doctor after doctor after doctor. “Just a chick with migraines.” “Oh obviously you are playing too much tennis and not resting enough!” “Cramps are normal.”

One doctor at UCLA Women’s Health – a woman, younger than me no less – had the audacity to look me blank in the face, say “believe it or not, pain is actually common in many women that experience periods.” Then she asked me to leave the room and asked my daughter what kind of birth control she was really there for.

So in the last couple of months, it’s all sort of gotten worse. My daughter has hardly played any tennis or worked out at all, and yet she’ll still feeling pain in her knees or her shoulders as if she’s been training 6 hours a day. Her migraine headaches have gone from once a week or two, to Imitrex every day. And a few weeks ago, she started having the abdominal pain she got intermittently, which she describes as barbed wire being wrapped and pulled around her waste and back (those of you familiar will immediately think endometriosis, I know…); well that’s been happening almost daily now, and so badly we’ve wound up in the urgent care, the emergency room, and a solid two weeks of one doctor’s visit after another.

What has made the situation all the worse is this: everyone is a fucking asshole.

Healthcare in this country is total garbage. And I’m not just talking about the expense of it.

I made an appointment with one specialist over 100 miles from our home. We got halfway there and were going to be a few minutes late for the paperwork check in time (but still on time for the appointment), so I called, only to find out that the person who made the appointment never actually scheduled it. We turned around, defeated.

In a startling turn of events, when it was time to figure out the migraine situation – in late November – I learned that there is exactly one neurologist in the entire county that sees children. And he isn’t taking any new patients right now. One. Apparently kids don’t have neurological problems where we live, this is just too perfect of a place, right?

Luckily I found a phenomenal physician in LA County, we just have to drive 57 miles each way to see. Every four weeks.

(But wait…the migraine maintenance medicine he prescribed makes her so groggy and sleepy she can’t even do her schoolwork.)

What else…

  • A kid in the ER one night threw up on me.
  • Over 6 different people have suggested that birth control will resolve everything (it won’t, in fact birth control makes migraines worse and if she really does have something like endometriosis, birth control or any hormones for that matter are not the answer).
  • We hit our out of pocket maximum, and yet everyone is still collecting the money up front, leading me to be owed over $4,000 now at this point in refunds, reimbursements, and “hey this is YOUR share of the medical expenses.”
  • For pain, someone gave her Naproxen, and even though she has no problem with Ibuprofen, with the Naproxen, she broke out in over 20 canker sores inside her throat and mouth.
  • I asked the nurse practitioner at our primary care physician’s office to send her for abdominal ultrasound, just to be sure…sure, sure, no one thinks her pain is anything legitimate, but can we just check? The ultrasound came back with her left ovary literally swarmed by ovarian cysts. (The nurse called to tell me the news and suggested I put her on birth control, even though one day prior we had discussed just how that was not a solution and would only worsen her migraine headaches.)
  • In response to the news that my teenage daughter, who has been experiencing pain in some way or another for at least six months now, to the point that she is unable to function in her normal life on many days, was going to have to start having tests and seeing specialists to get a handle on what is going on, my husband asked me when the budget would be freeing up for him to get some things preventatively done on his commuter car.

The good news is that we are – hopefully – finally getting to a point that we are going to be taken seriously. Why? Because finally the neurologist suggested I just take her to my OBGYN practice. They are old men and they don’t really deal with menstrual disorders, but they won’t blow her off and they will advocate on her behalf to get good care.

3. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this

And then there was Christmas. Because of everything going on, Christmas was a scurry in the last couple weeks to make magic. I think I slept about two hours a night, while the rest of the time baking like crazy, ordering gifts on Amazon, and – finally, in a moment of desperation – paying my 16 year old (who is too nonfunctional to do much else) to wrap the majority of the gifts.

I did manage to take the kids to a light show, like we do every year; although – lesson learned – my dad can’t go in the future because he just rushes everyone through it, complaining about how cold he is and ruining the evening with his griping.

When the real FUCK THIS came up, though, was about a week before Christmas, when I attempted to take my kids to the Polar Express train ride out of Fillmore and Western.

If you are in Southern California, you know that one of the priciest and – supposedly – magical Christmas experiences is actually to take a ride of the Fillmore and Western Polar Express. Everyone shows up in their Christmas pajamas, there’s lights and music and they act out the movie/book in front of you as you take a train ride and sip hot chocolate. Everyone gets a bell; it’s fun.

We had never been, and I decided with everything shitty going on, it would be a fun break one evening for my kids. So we attempted to go, and the bad news is that my 3 year old – who gets startled pretty easily – was getting on the train with me, and a man behind us started yelling to his kids who were ahead of us. It scared my little guy, and he started to cry.

Not like a screaming tantrum crying though. A basic cry. It was honestly so loud in there, my other two kids didn’t even know he was doing it.

Nonetheless, we were sitting in the front of that car, and had barely even sat down; he was still crying and I was starting to calm him down, when the train employee came over me and told me I should take him off the train to calm him down.

I understood, but I also didn’t. Like I know my kid, and I know that I can calm him down before the train leaves. We still had 30 minutes, and literally no one could have noticed what was going on. I also knew that if I did take him off the train, there was no way I would get him back on. When a toddler cries for a calmer situation and immediately gets what he wants, instead of learning to self soothe and adapt… well, come on…

Still, I understood that the lady was just doing her job. Right? And I don’t like the thought of being one of those people that ruins the experience for everyone else with drama; especially at an event for kids. So we got off the train, and I – obviously – couldn’t get my little guy to go back on. The train left, without us.

So I emailed customer service, and this is where it gets really annoying. I told them what happened and just asked if they could maybe send us the bells. At the end of the whole thing Santa gets on the train and gives everyone a bell. My kids just really wanted their fucking bells, and I paid for them, you know?

I got an email back from them not apologetic. Not saying I could have my bells.

I got an email back saying it didn’t happen. That what I said DID. NOT. FUCKING. HAPPEN.

At that point, I just gave up and gave in. Christmas became fuck this. I did the gifts, the day. All of it with as big of a smile as I could manage. I made Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch, and we did all the things and I’m sure that it is a fact that my kids had fun.

But I was also just done.

The terrifying part is that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas is just the start of it for us. Now we have birthday after birthday after birthday, Easter…Moms have it hard you guys. We don’t just do it all, we bear the mental and emotional load of it. We are the figure it out-ers, we don’t just have to take our kids to the stuff, we have to figure out how to make it all work and advocate for them and make sure everything is where it needs to be so that things don’t get worse.

But also, we do it all because we want to. And that is where being a Mom is the weirdest and most emotionally conflicting job of them all.

So if you had happy holidays that resembled the most picture perfect scenario you could ever imagine in a Hallmark movie or quaint Christmas card hanging on someone’s mantle, I am genuinely happy for you. If you’ve had it rough this season, I feel you also. Or, if you are like me, and it’s a mixed bag of negatives and negatives, but also positives and unbelievably happy children – in spite of it all… well, I am right there with you in the trenches, my friend. This is a weird place in life to be. It’s beginning to look a lot like fuck this, but also fucking bring it.

The Russians Interfered With My Dog’s Mayoral Campaign (and I couldn’t even make this up if I tried)

To say I have had a weird summer so far is a gross understatement of the situation at hand. My summer has been so strange, with odd events, weird injuries, and zany outcomes, I’m sort of just hanging on to anything not moving to ride this out for the last couple of weeks.

One such absurdity was that my town had a campaign for dog mayor.

And then it didn’t, because the Russians interfered.

It started innocently, one day in June. My husband was reading the local paper before heading out to work, and he saw that the city was having a campaign for Dog Mayor as a fundraiser for the local dog parks. Sounded like a good idea, and it seemed like a good opportunity to get my kids to take the dogs out more.

It was $25 to file, and you needed to run a normal campaign with flyers and appearances at designated candidate events (located, conveniently, at the dog park down the street from our house).

At the first candidate event, not many dogs had entered yet; so we were surprised when the voting opened and there were over 10 dogs on the roster. Some were cute, many were former shelter dogs (like mine), but one stood out as unique, in the sense that she looked exactly like my dog, and the owner was willing to match dollar-for-dollar any donations people made to the SPCA through the course of the campaign. It seemed a pretty extreme commitment from our middle class community, but I quickly forgot about it and focused my efforts on my own dog’s campaign.

We made a website, and started getting flyers going. She started making appearances in a red-white-and-blue bandana. And I started to solicit votes from people we knew.

Quickly the unique one, the one that stood out to me when the voting kicked off, took the lead with almost 800 votes. 800. EIGHT HUNDRED. Despondent, with only about 60 votes, I told my kids we needed to start preparing for the worst, but hoping for a good appearance at the next candidate event this coming weekend.

Then, yesterday, I saw a comment on the Facebook voting event that struck my attention for the fact that it was typed in all caps. The gist of the comment was that the family that owned the top dog was from Russia, and as such had solicited votes from their own social network, many of whom resided in Russia. I responded to the comment and asked if this was for real, and the man replied “YOU WILL SEE!”

I immediately dismissed it as crazy.

Today we were on our way home from running errands, and my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. Naturally, I didn’t answer; and I’m glad I didn’t. The message was the coordinator of the mayoral dog race, and she was letting me know that in my email was a letter to be read immediately regarding the cancelation of the election.

In short: the crazy, all caps contention that the Russians were hacking the dog mayor election was true.

Not only had votes been solicited from outside of the region, which was entirely against the rules, but the back-and-forth online arguing between the top dog and the crazy commenter had apparently continued to the point that the city decided to pull the plug on the whole thing.

It’s so bizarre to think that the Russians interfered in a race for dog mayor in a two bit hillbilly city such as my own, and yet – if we are going to be honest about what technically happened, here – they did.

Which doesn’t make much of a difference to me, because even if they had just disqualified that dog, mine was still all the way down in 4th place. There was no way she was going to win, which was probably a blessing in disguise because at the prior candidate events, she wasn’t exactly polite to the other dogs.

I can’t help but wonder if this is actually what the bigger Russian hacking conspiracy was all about. Infiltrating all these tiny little things to create a bigger, societal problem and certain level of unrest.

Whatever the case may be, it was the weird turn of events I could have never imagined happening in my local-yocal suburb.

Summer, amiright?

Life was so much simpler back in 2011…

I don’t know, you guys. I’ve been going through my comments from the entire lifetime of my blog, and I’m getting so nostalgic for my posts of yore. Life was so much simpler then, you know?

I used to tackle some really important topics. Like whether or not there was a prostitution ring going on in my local nail salon. Honestly, I thought there was. This chick would come out of the back room and deep throat a banana like you have never seen.

Or whether or not my sister in law was really as dumb as I thought for saying that some vegetables aren’t healthy.

Or on the types and acceptability levels of the different types of hugs, Facebook profile photos, and number of pictures posted of babies in a given period of time. The list goes on… you get my point. My posts were way better back then.

Somewhere between then and now, things got so much more complicated. I no longer felt comfortable sharing simple anecdotes. Like the time this lady bent down and blew the proverbial butt bugle – if you know what I’m saying – at the post office.

People seemed to get offended every time I let out an expletive, or straight up wrote post after post after post wherein I just told – in the most offensive way possible – specific groups of people to shut the fuck up.

I guess life came to a point that was just incredibly complicated.

It seemed like every single thing I said offended someone. Isn’t that how life is now?

I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods a few weeks ago, picking up my monthly supply of sweat socks. I have two athletes (tennis players) in the house, and it’s like they are constantly running out of sweat socks. Or sweating through their socks. Or wearing multiple pairs to prevent blisters, dirtying all the pairs in the house in record time. I don’t really know what’s going on, I just know I had to eventually build sweat socks into the monthly budget.

So I was at Dick’s picking up the month’s supply, and there was a stocky woman in culotts with a very short A-line haircut, and something akin to a full beard, standing at the cash register, demanding to speak to the manager. She introduced herself as “Susan” (does a stocky woman in culotts with a very short A-line haircut, and something akin to a full beard, EVER have a name other than Susan?), and she wanted to complain because her expired coupon was not being honored.

Her. EXPIRED. Coupon. Was not. Being. Honored.

I didn’t hear her entire rant because another employee – Greg, also with a full beard, lives at home with his parents, and refers to himself as a “hobby computer engineer” – came over and checked me out. 

My interactions with Susan, however, were yet to come, because in the parking lot I was just putting my car in reverse when she came stalking out of the store (no merchandise had been purchased), huffing past my car. I had not even moved my car when she starting screaming at me to not back into her. I rolled my window down and said “oh sorry, I’m staying put.”

She told me to blow myself!

Hello 1995, someone is stuck in you.

I was so shocked, I told her she didn’t have to be so angry. I’m normally not that confrontational, but I was speaking from a place of being totally stunned. I mean this lady told me to blow myself – who even talks like that anymore?

My immediate response was to come home and write a blog about it. But as with most times I’ve run home to fire up a scathing post, I’ve stopped short of the publish button, simply for fear of offending someone, or eliciting a nasty response.

Who knows? I’m sure I have many women named Susan that follow my blog. Or women that are stocky and wear culottes. Certainly people with beards would take what I’m saying the wrong away, especially ones that are women. And what if I said something weird about the sweat socks? Surely there are children in need somewhere that could better benefit from those socks than my children…

Life was so much simpler back in 2011…

… really, I think it isn’t just that it was simpler, but I had a tougher skin back then. I could be told by commenters that they hoped I was mauled to death by a herd of wild cats in the street, and just shrug it off.

That is why I’ve decided to start a weekly video blog series to help return to my simpler, more offensive and less intimidated, self as a writer. Together we will get through this pansy ass state I have found myself.

Every Thursday I will post a v-log on my YouTube channel (and on here), where we will explore the nastiest of the nasty comments I get. My inaugural episode will drop next Thursday – Thursday, November 22nd (Thanksgiving!)… and I promise it contains some of the worst of the worst.

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.

HotelParty

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.

 

 

Am I Destined To Live In the Ghetto?

ahhh-the-ghetto-50504

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.