When the weather’s warm I do most of my writing sitting on the small porch outside my front door. Free from the distractions of television and a comfy bed I find I can focus my attention better. And since my doctor recently told me I’ve got a Vitamin D deficiency, the extra sunshine doesn’t hurt either.
Morning comes and I head downstairs with my laptop and coffee and get to work. As the hours pass I watch several of my neighbors come and go – leaving for work, walking dogs, doing yard work, and attending to the other sundry details of life. Several of them wave to me. I wave back. Because they constantly see me outside with laptop and cellphone when normal people are their jobs working, my neighbors probably think I’m a drug dealer. It’s a matter of time before one of them comes over and tries to score some blow.
Because I’m home most of the day I’m very keen to what goes on in the neighborhood. I know when the regular UPS man is out sick, when that cute jogger’s having trouble with her last mile, and the makes and models of all the cars parked on the street. I know the faces of all the landscapers, neighborhood kids, and the tired looking commuters waiting for the bus to NYC. I know the cleaning women on sight as well as the cable guy, the telephone repairman and delivery boy from the grocery store. I’m like that little old lady always staring out the window. If you’re not a regular in my neighborhood, I’ll notice.
As I’m pecking away at the keyboard a strange car pulls up and parks across the street from my house. The driver’s a young kid whose head’s swiveling around his neck nervously. I notice he doesn’t kill his engine. The first thought that crosses my mind is that this kid’s a getaway driver for a burglary team. I know that sounds paranoid, but there’ve been several break-ins in the neighborhood over the past several weeks. The crooks target unoccupied homes during the work day, push in the poor mark’s window air conditioner, and then ransack the house. Since they only take loose items – portable electronics, jewelry and cash – they sound like amateurs. But any cop will tell you, amateur burglars are dangerous. It’s a matter of time before these guys unwittingly bust into an occupied home and someone gets hurt.
The neighborhood gossips seem to think the robberies are being carried out by gang members living in a nearby city. Although the police won’t say the robberies are connected, it makes sense. My town’s fairly affluent so there’s plenty of rich targets. And since we’re bordered by three major highways, it’s easy for criminals to slip in, do the deed, and quickly escape.
Of course parking on the street isn’t a crime and I decide to give the driver the benefit of the doubt. But when I casually look up from my computer I catch the kid looking at me. When I meet his eye he quickly turns away. Now my suspicions are heightened.
Suddenly a tall blonde kid wearing baggy pants rounds the corner and walks up to the car yelling, “Hey! Do you want me to kick your ass or what?”
The kid in the car starts gesticulating wildly. I can’t hear what he’s saying.
“Look, yo,” the blonde kid yells, sticking his head in the passenger side window. “I told you not to fuck with me.”
I look at the blonde kid yelling profanities. Somehow he feels my gaze, looks up, and stops yelling, Then he drops to his knees until his body’s out of sight. I don’t like that I can’t see what this guy’s doing behind the car. I slip my cell phone out of my pocket and place it on my lap.
The kids argue some more. The driver looks frightened and blonde haired kid’s staring at me though the car’s open windows. I mentally debate calling the cops but decide to wait. No crime’s been committed and I was an angry young man once. I decide to let things pan out.
Soon enough a teenage girl walks up the car, opens the driver’s side passenger door, and gets in. The blonde haired kid shakes his head and climbs into the front passenger seat. There’s more yelling and hand motions. Then all three of the kids stare at me. I look. They look. The girl smiles weakly, Then the driver puts the car in gear and they speed off. I have no idea what they were doing. Maybe I saw two boys fighting over a girl’s affections. Maybe they were fighting over something that happened at school. Or maybe they were amateur burglars upset because they couldn’t find a house to rob. I just don’t know. Part of me doesn’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss.
I return my cell phone to my pocket and turn my attention back to the keyboard. I’ve had enough excitement for one day.
If you’ve read BLINK, you might find that your gut feelings or first instinct are usually right. Good to keep an eye out for “unusual” things.
Always…always, pay attention to the neighborhood!
eyes on the street are great – especially when people know they’re being watched
In all your recent medical adventures, did you get tested for celiac? GI upset, gall bladder fun, and now low vit D, it could fit. Maybe it doesn’t, but at least if it does you don’t have to take any drugs or have surgery or anything – diet alone makes it go away.
Very Jane Jacobs…
I once called 911 when I saw something suspicious. It turned out to be nothing. I told the cop that I felt embarrassed, and he told me I shouldn’t – that it was better to err on the side of safety.
I don’t think it’s overboard to call the police when you see something suspicious, especially when there’s been a wave of burglaries.
2 posts in one day!
Having someone like you with their eyes and ears open in a neighborhood is such a great thing.
Now. Does anyone know how to get rid of the strange car that drives up my street, turns around, drives back, and then exchanges paper bags with the teenage punk at the first house on the street? I mean, that says DRUG DEALER, right?
Maybe not. Maybe I’m just paranoid too =)
This is off topic, but I just saw this on Yahoo. You’re officially in the big time. ;^)
Thank you so much for giving us a lot of updates on your blog recently. It’s been really nice. Like Christmas all over again!
I was a waitress for a couple of years and found your stories an inspiration because you seemed to understand. Now with a disease, I can’t waitress anymore and the once high class restaurant that I worked for closed.
Anyways, thank you for making me laugh and continue on with your stories, waiter or not. 🙂
people watching is fun =) the things and events that you see in the neighborhood could be fodder for a future novel (any future fictions?).
A bit paranoid there Steve? Maybe you should learn to mind your own business.
Stop drinking so much and your health will improve. Good story tho.
Your book got ripped off, check this out:
Waiter responds: Bill, they took that FROM my book!
Did you get a license plate number? Or think to snap a photo with your phone?
We had a few robberies too (in a decent neighborhood). Two doors from me, a home owner was tied up and had a gun pointed at his head while they ransacked his house. They caught the creeps eventually – they were targeting new homes, or homes under construction (on payday, when wallets were fat). The robbers met their match when a tough workman upstairs caught them off guard with his hammer, then called the cops. Now the robbers are enjoying a long vacation at the state’s expense.
Thanks for the update, El Mero Mesero. Always a nice surprise to catch your posts. Now go on and get yourself some
cheap girl watcherCrimeWatch-er sunglasses.
Don’t know about your area of Jersey, but our local cops in our small Army town prefer that we DID call things like that in. Not that they could check out all, but the stats maintained for odd items in various areas can help with trendspotting. Also, getting the license plate, make & model would’ve been good.
It’s not paranoia or a xenophobia variation to be concerned about strange people in the area.
As far as Sarah’s concern: Again, our cops say call it in. Maybe call your local narcotics squad. Where there is drug trafficking, there are illegal weapons. And people who, though unskilled in their use, are too willing to use them.
Call it in.
You certainly are becoming very cranky. Your last few posts have been on asshole people poaching parking spaces and the stress it causes you, how your food sucked and drinks sucked at the places you’ve been, and how the kids across the street are probably going to rob everyone and cause problems. I agree with someone earlier, drink less. Take a vacation. Relax, and get more happy and less curmudgeon-y.
Where do your readers get off, telling you to drink less and go on a vacation to deal with crankitude?! Do they not realize that you’re just recounting certain events/experiences, and that those don’t necessarily reflect the whole of your life?
Ignore the assholes. Most of us are just glad to see you posting!
I’m also enjoying the more regular posting after your ‘whirlwind tour.’ 🙂
Keep your eyes out, neighborhoods rest and fall because people notice “the little things”.
I have been known to take down the license numbers of cars that park suspiciously on our block.
One thing, though, youngsters (and I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old lady here) have a way of talking now that sounds violently upset with each other and really a term of endearment. I don’t know… you only argue with the one you love… (of course I realize that is a very Californian perspective).
Since this is my first post, let me say that I enjoyed your book – bought it through Audible dot com and listened to your words while driving back and forth to work in the foothills between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, California. See, your words are well-traveled!
Post ontop of post. awsome!!!!!!!
During a period of long unemployment I did the same thing…sat on my porch and scoped out everyone on the street. When I saw someone new I often just asked them who they were there to see – it was an urban area and we had plenty of break-ins. If they didn’t belong there and I asked them (just to let them know I knew they didn’t belong there) they left and never came back. Easier to rob someone on a street where no one pays attention.
In a previous neighborhood I was robbed 5 times in 2 years. It was always other teenaged kids from the neighborhood mining me and my husband as the local natural resource. Just being aware of who belongs and who doesn’t will go a long way to keeping you and your neighbors break-in free.
So glad you are posting more! Thanks!
And did everyone catch the quotes from the book (which was properly referenced) as a feature on the home page of Yahoo in the last day or so? They called it something like “Ten things your waiter won’t tell you” (or was it twelve?). Woohoo for Waiter Rant! 🙂
You’ve been updating really frequently lately- I really appreciate it 🙂 for a while I felt like you’d abandoned the audience that made you famous, but it looks like you were just (understandably) diverted to other projects. I’m glad you’ve been bitten by the writing bug again!
Something to think about…
“I’m glad you’ve been bitten by the writing bug again!”
People who add a “y” to any given noun to make it an adjective are morons. You are no exception.
Don’t tell people how to feel to fit your agenda. If you don’t like the tone, which has not sounded cranky to me, the door is over there.
People who randomly add the phrase “any given” to the middle of a sentence, even where it is completely unnecessary, are morons.
Well, Steve, I think I understand why you don’t post as much lately, if this is the kind of reaction you get in the comments area. I’m glad you took the time to post these recent pieces, though.
BE the neighborhood watch. Nothing wrong with that. I consider myself the Gladys Cravitz of every neighborhood I have ever lived in.
Good to check in after a long while. We enjoyed your book in my neighborhood, by the way!
Hi, my name is Kum Hurray, I do everything fast, that why they call me Kum Hurray. Waiter watching people, maybe they watch Waiter like say in song always feel like somebody watching me. That all, bye!
first i wanna compliment u on ur book…i just happened to pick grab it from my lib, n ur down to earth but grippin writing style jus got me hooked..now m buyin my personal copy…
I am 24, an astrophysics grad student n a wannabe script writer. Now from last few months I was jus feelin that its too late for me to start soemthing new as a side hobby(scriptwriting).
U were in a chaotic job, runnin outta time(age factor); but still u made it …
Am in a much much better position than u and if I don do it now, i never will..
Thanks for uplifting my spirits man..
Fishbowling is the way to go. It’s like the whole world is a fishbowl when you’re spacing out and just observing your surroundings..but then again, those people passing by could be observing back. Guess who’s in the fishbowl now, huh? 🙂
Having eyeballs on the street is key to detering crime. Next time either take a photo with your cell phone or pretend to do so. Enjoyed the flurry of posts!
MS – if you want to be a scriptwriter, you might want to start getting used to writing in a style that isn’t extremely difficult to comprehend without a great deal of decyphering. Growing up in the digital age doesn’t seem to be doing you any favors.
Wow. Can’t everyone just enjoy reading what Waiter is doing these days even if it’s nothing? (Just kidding, bud!). There is something to being home during the day and watching what happens when the 9-5 folks are away. Sometimes it’s boring, other times it is very interesting.
The only times I’m home during the day are when I’m home sick, and that doesn’t afford the chance to see what’s going on.
I enjoyed the last three posts. THANK YOU!
My boss is a notoriously bad tipper. He’s 63 years old from central Virginia (totally stereotypical southern, christian, republican, talks with a drawl) and probably doesn’t think that waiters deserve a tip or something along those lines. I guess if I called him on it I might hear his rationale… I’m sure he has a story….
Last week we were out of town for work and he invited a former colleague out to eat along with me and the colleagues wife and young child. We went to a decent seafood chain. The bill came to $110 and he insists on paying. He writes $115.00 on the total line and signs it. I saw this and thought I was reading it wrong but when he went to the restroom I picked up the bill for a closer inspection. I read it right. $5 on $110 something. I sat there in disbelief but didn’t say anything to anyone else and as we left I a slipped a $10 (only cash I had) under my napkin.
It’s hard to believe that he’s so cheap. He always insists on picking up the check. He gets reimbursed by our company. I even asked someone else at work the policy on reimbursing tips and the person I asked said of course we get reimbursed for them. I’m sure the people we dined with would have been embarassed if they knew how little he left for our server (who did a fine job).
I’ve mentioned it to other people we eat with who I know better, and they always chip in on the extra for the tip now (and my boss argues with them about it saying “No need! I’ve got it covered!”).
Anyway – apart from calling him on it, which is obviously awkward since he’s my boss, any suggestions on what I can do?
Man, that was pretty weird.
Although, that would make a cool start to a mystery novel . . .
I understand your nervousness as I, myself, am a younger man, and am suspicious of other loud people like that kid. But I usually find out that its nothing also, and it’s just some friends “joking,” as cursing at friends is very common. But better safe than sorry.
I’ve been told I have a vitamin D deficiency recently too. I think it’s weird, I’m not a complete hermit, but I don’t tan either. And I must admit, it’s been nice having the cold front come thru Cincy. Haven’t run the AC in over a week!
I hadn’t checked out your blog lately. Glad to see you are posting regularly. I always enjoy your writing.
this is my real name, Marie, and I am the same age as you and basically I feel like I am commiting suicide..I am enlisting tomorrow, partially because I am my age, partially alot of other things, losing family members does not help, but I feel like loser and I guess the only way to feel good about myself right now is to go in to the military..any advice???
i just sent it
i guess my only comment is i need advice quick, I enlist tomorrow
funny, I am a female and I hate Valentines Day also but Your page looks like you just threw up V DAY
heres one for you. What about the waiter that still owes for student loans and gets bullied by the state to go into the military to help him pay for his loans…let me say this, if they can, the state would rather the student die in act of duty, then have to pay for his school like they promise. I love my country, dont get me wrong, but I hate my state
… I think being/having eyes in the neighborhood during the day is cool. Not enough people pay attention, then when ish hits the fan they haven’t got the slightest clue.
Glad you weren’t hurt but glad you were prepared and had your eyes peeled.
I’m a couple days behind on this, but don’t enlist. The military doesn’t need suicidal borderline emotional cripples. And you didn’t have to take the loans, y’know.
You’re an old fowgy.