Forget Hump Day. Try WTF Wednesdays…

6 Nov

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The last week of October was a pretty funky one. Monday started off with a tearful “talk it out” session with one of my closest friends. Our husbands are childhood friends, and as couples we have been friends for over twenty years. Our friendship has changed a bit over the last couple of years due to a situation in their marriage that has since been resolved, leaving them in a better place as a couple. In talking to my longtime friend about where I stand (I still love them both, they will always be a part of me, and we will continue to grow our friendship. Bumps happen in any relationship), I realized things about myself and how I manage the balance between my relationship with my husband and my relationships with friends.

While it is very important to keep things in my home peaceful and sane, I also need to make sure to invest in my friendships and not take for granted that my friends know how much they mean to me. This is something that I can divert more energy into as my kids are getting older and more independent.

I don’t regret sharing tears with one of my oldest and closest friends. I do regret not making sure she knows how much she means to me. Lives get busy, what with kids and activities and work. Staying connected with friends, especially family friends, is important.

Although tears were shed, reminders of how special we are to each other  as well as our families to one another were shared. Not a bad way to start the week.

Wednesday went from Hump Day to “WTF!” day.

My 16 year old daughter, a junior in high school, normally picks up her younger brother, a 7th grader, from junior high on her way home. The junior high where our 12 year old son goes houses the swimming pool that the high school swims team uses for practices.

This is basically the report I got from my daughter when she got home that day.

“I’m so mad! When I picked up Neil from school I parked over by the pool so he and I could get an ice cream from the ice cream truck that parks in front of the school. You know how my car is really dusty? Yeah, well, my friend “So-N-So” (a fellow high school junior and on the high school swim team) was teasing me about it. He started rubbing his butt on my car.”

(Dialog in my mind; “High school boys can be so goofy and immature. Although I think I have rubbed my butt on friends’ cars for similar reasons.”)

“Then, a bunch of freshmen from the swim team, that I don’t even know, came over and started rubbing their butts on my car.”

(Most kids in high school are goofy and immature. So silly.)

“One of the kids started climbing up on my hood.”

(Whoa! While the car my daughter drives is a Volvo station wagon and pretty damn sturdy, climbing on the hood of any car can cause damage. Not cool, man.)

“Then this group of, like, eight kids starts shaking my car back and forth and drawing penises on the hood. I started the car and yelled that I was going to back up. One of the kids reached in on Neil’s side and unlocked the door. They finally moved when I started to back up.”

(At this point all I can see is red while I envision my daughter and my son surrounded by an aggressive gang of teens engaging in basic mob mentality. And what the hell is it with drawing penises on things? My best guess is that it is a way to humiliate and demean someone. Nice.

My blood was ready to boil over out of my ears. “You need to tell “So-N-So” that he is about to have a very angry 6’4″ man explain the ways of the world to him.” I am fuming at this point.)

The group of kids, who had clearly crossed a line, were a mix of boys and girls. I find it ironic that while the girls were clearly smitten with the idea of drawing penises on a stranger’s car are probably at some point going to be on the ass end of a humiliating and demeaning act perpetrated on them.

The situation was explained to her dad. While able to remain calmer than myself, he was pretty disturbed by the incident.

So, with a belly full of rage and adrenaline, I headed off to go teach dance classes for 4 hours. Little did I know that I was not done with adrenaline spikes.

While teaching my ballet class filled with a bunch of painfully adorable 6-8 year olds I noticed that a man was standing just outside one of the windows of the studio I was in. Classes were going on in the other studio situated closer to the entrance of the building, while the studio I occupied was towards the back of the building, and has a door that leads to a small parking lot that surrounding businesses all share. I didn’t think much of him standing there. There are other businesses, and perhaps he was waiting for a child from the studio to finish up their class. He wasn’t looking in and besides, there’s a shade covering the window the pretty much blocks the view from the outside in.

An hour and a half later I noticed that he was still there. By this time my studio room had a bunch of teen age girls in it. I also noticed that said man was talking to an invisible person and making very sharp and agitated movements with his arms. Shit. Not good.

The other instructors and some of the parents from the other room had noticed the guy. So our dance school’s secretary put a call into the police, as well as the dance school’s owner. While the owner was unable to get to the studio, she was going to send her father and boyfriend over. At about this time one of my students informed me that she needed to walk a couple of blocks after class to a local public radio station to do a radio show she hosts. With the sun rapidly going down and a strong reminder that our quaint downtown is being overrun by the homeless and pan-handlers there was no effing way she was going to walk alone. I ended the class 15 minutes early so I could walk her and get back in time for my final class of the evening. Not much could be done in the class I was teaching at the time. No one could concentrate with the phantom of the parking lot lurking right outside the window.

The owner’s dad and boyfriend arrived. Her dad was able to get the guy to move along, several plastic bags in tow. Her boyfriend joined me in walking the teen student the couple of blocks she needed to travel. Ironically, the guy outside the window was settling into the city’s downtown plaza, which was on our route, and which has become completely overrun with the homeless and panhandling community. When events aren’t being held almost every bench has one or two indigent individuals camped out on them. The outdoor stage has become a permanent host to the group for overnight stays.

Once we got back to the studio’s lobby, filled with parents who’s kids were in the front studio’s classes, I noticed that there was a rather tall man at the front counter talking to the secretary. What little I could hear of the conversation sounded like he was interested in dance classes for adult students. I heard Hip-Hop. The class I was preparing to teach was a teen/adult dance class for contemporary and lyrical dance. The city I live in has the population of roughly 100,000. Outside of ballroom, what’s offered as dance classes for adults is fairly limited.

Just as I was getting ready to teach class the guy was standing just outside the door. He inquired as to what kind of class it was. I gave him a quick description of the dance style. Was it just for women? Nope. Could he watch to see if it was something he was interested in? Sure. I grabbed him a chair. While it felt a bit awkward, him being the only guy and a stranger, the room had four or five other people in it, most of whom were grown women. The guy seemed very chill and well spoken. Dressed very causal, he didn’t seem grubby. He had an empty postal mailing box and a backpack. I would put him somewhere in his twenties.

I started the warm up. At this point he walked over to a half wall topped by a wooden counter just on the inside of the room from the door. He proceeded to fiddle around with the empty mailing box that looked like it had perhaps already been used. It didn’t look like he was even putting anything into it. Regardless, he was futzing around with this thing and paying no mind to the class. I don’t know if he lost track of the fact that he was in a dance studio and was suddenly at the post office. Was he in the habit of bamboozling his way to countertops? This bizarre bullshit went on for about 60 seconds. I went over to him, “Hey, David (I had introduced myself earlier). Actually tonight is not a good night to observe the class. Thanks for stopping in though. Okay bye.” He gave me no push back and calmly made his way to the front entrance. For good measure I lagged behind him to make sure he found his way out the door. I slipped into the dance studio’s front office, that looks out over the parent filled lobby and the front door (there is a really bitchin counter there too!). The guy quietly exited the building as I quietly started a quick breakdown to the secretary of what had just happened. Our conversation quickly got intercepted by an irate mom on the lobby side of the (bitchin) counter.

Irate mom- “I’m out! I’m done here. I don’t like the idea that anyone can come and watch my kid.” Her child was in the front studio class.

Me- “He was actually interested in another class. The one in the back that has both teens and adults in it.”

Irate mom- “He was clearly on something. He was touching everything and acting all weird. I’m really mad.”

Me- “Well, I’m sorry and thank you for your input.”

I know of no ruckus that this guy caused in the lobby. Outside of being weird, he didn’t cause much of a ruckus in the back either.

Could the real crux of her problem be that he was a young, tall black man? Mind you he didn’t give off any red flags when he talked to the secretary or myself in that he was well spoken and very calm. If that was at the core of Irate mom’s ire then I have a question for her. Just how the fuck, in 2013 am I to tell a young black man that he has no business inquiring about dance classes during operational hours?  Why should he not have the right of anyone else? Is he breaking some law or code of decency by being black and male at a dance studio? And why should I have to question his motives anyway? Regardless of his age or race? A middle-aged white man inquiring for himself would be a far creepier situation.

Her statement, “I don’t want just anyone to be able to come and watch my kid” was an interesting one. As far as I know he showed zero interest in watching any kids. He barely showed any interest in a room with like five fit and attractive grown women. He really wanted that counter top. On my way home I call the dance school’s owner to give her a full run down of the events with downtown nut job number two of the evening. Even though I handled it the best anyone could have (the way he made it all the way back to the back studio without the escort of the secretary was because she had gone to check in with a neighboring business about the guy from earlier and one of our teen dancers in the lobby had answered his inquiry about where to find a trash can), I still felt like I had screwed the pooch on the whole thing. She scoffed at the level of vitriol that the irate mom had at the thought of someone looking at her child. Just looking can not harm a child. It’s not like their soul is going to get sucked out by the observing stranger. More is to be feared from people she and her child already know. If a stranger is looking and behaving in an inappropriate manner, well, duh, that’s a different story. That simply wasn’t the case in last Wednesday’s situation. He just seemed to be not all together there mentally.

One would be surprised to find out who is capable of getting out of control at a place involving children. Try a mom and a grandmother getting into fisticuffs over visitation and custody of a child. During said child’s dance class. Yike’s!

I don’t know for certain that the race of the young man was the Irate mom’s (herself a white woman) biggest objection. I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not he “was touching everything”. No other parent in the parent filled lobby seemed bothered. It does bring up another issue about the community that I share with her. Our demographics are changing. My little NorCal city/town has, up till the last decade or so, been a predominately white community with the next biggest population being Hispanic. We have a large community of Laos and Hmong peoples. It seemed that when I was growing up there was only one black child at any school I went to. It was far more common to come across mixed race families, one black parent and one white. Two such families lived in my childhood neighborhood. All of us kids played together. I never really thought much about it. The boys from the families were just as annoying as any other boys on my street. I would feel sad if this woman’s anger and fear where about the guy’s race. Fear, especially fear seeped in ignorance brings with it stumbling blocks to truth and a community’s ability to evolve.

Which loops me back to the issue of the homeless and pan-handling community within the city in which I live. Being homeless does not immediately mean you are a criminal seeking to do harm and mischief, and taking to stealing children in the thick of night. Although I still stand behind not wanting one of my teen students walking past the plaza.  A great many of the homeless are people who suffer from various forms of mental illness. Many drug addictions are desperate attempts to self-medicate the torturous buzzing of these mental afflictions. Many states have no funds for addressing these individuals in a way that would prevent them from becoming homeless. This coupled with county and city services that make it pretty doable to survive living as a homeless person. It’s not the best of lives, but it is survivable. The beast stays feed and remains a beast. The little shits that decide pan-handling is a viable career and feel entitled to the monies from the working class just piss me off. My compassion goes out to the veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or the kid, now a penniless 40 something, who fell through the cracks of the system and whose demons were never properly diagnosed. But the economy of a community can not solely function on compassion and tough decisions need to made about how to make a community feel safe visiting businesses so that those businesses can, well, stay in business. For lack of a better way to say it, the inmates can not be the ones running the asylum.

I know one thing though; racism won’t help anything.

So why go into all this bitching about teen mobs who like to draw penises on cars, homeless people wandering into dance studios and irate and potentially racist moms? Uh, because I can? No. These are issues that affect communities. There needs to be a paradigm shift from “kids just being kids”, because they are not just acting like kids. They are acting like insensitive, uncaring, violent thugs with no sense of common sense or compassion. But they get the privilege of being on a school sports team. Reward them for their performance, yet ignore the gaps in the process of them becoming fully realized adults. The last thing this world needs is more adults that are under cooked in the “fully realized” department. That is not who the future should be handed to. I know sports have a tradition of helping to form  fine individuals. I also firmly believe that as a society we have started to lose sight of how important raising good people vs. good performers is.

About the homeless thing. It is an issue that affects communities across the country. It will be interesting to how my community deals with it.

But for now, my husband and daughter went to my daughter’s high school and filed a formal complaint. We are not litigious people by nature and that is not the direction we want to pursue. Rather, we want the school and the coach to be aware of the inappropriateness of the behavior of this group of teens. teens who are complete strangers (except for the one) to my daughter and her younger brother. My husband asked that he be informed of how they intended to address the manner, basically stating that blowing him off was not in their best interest. We shall see.

We shall see.

Hey, go hug a friend and let them know how much they mean to you!



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