Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Worthington, Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Yesterday morning I was happily baking with my boys when a cop walked up to our door. I watched him walk up the driveway, looking at our two vehicles and peering into our garage. Our garage is a little sketchy looking, I must admit, and the garage door was opened. It is packed with old metal working and wood working equipment, and Craig is currently “spooging,” a word that makes me blush but apparently means cleaning rust and paint off of metal objects using a car battery and a large tub of some sort of liquid. I’m lucky the officer didn’t ask me about that, since it looks like someone is up to something sketchy.

The cop informed me that one of our neighbors called to report our vehicles because they don’t have Ohio license plates. I told the cop that we are Alaska residents since Craig has always been a student. The cop seemed to imply that we should be Ohio residents, that we shouldn’t live in Worthington, and that I’m a bad mother all in one conversation.

“You need Ohio plates and Ohio licenses in order to establish Ohio residency,” he said.

“Well, my husband is only doing a postdoc, sort of a temporary internship,” I told him, since he clearly didn’t know what I was talking about.

“So he has taken a job here and you have lived here for a year?” he asked.

“Yes, but we are Alaska residents and we intend to return to Alaska after he is done with his schooling,” I answered.

“Well, your tags are expired on the jeep,” he went on, “and Worthington has an ordinance against junk vehicles, even parked in your own yard,” he answered.

Okay, I understand that our Mercedes isn’t much to look at, but a junk vehicle? I just drove it to Target a few days ago! Of course, I didn’t want to tell the officer that because we aren’t carrying insurance on it since we try not to drive much. But it was a hot day—too hot for walking two miles there and two miles back—and Craig had taken the jeep somewhere, an unusual situation since we don’t drive much these days.

“Well, we don’t drive much which is why we forgot about the tags on the jeep, but we’ll take care of that as soon as possible,” I answered.

“Well what if you want to take your kids to the movies or on a trip?” he asked.

I was starting to get annoyed. I’m getting in trouble for trying to conserve gas and for having an ugly car? And what, I’m a bad mom because I don’t take my kids on road trips?

Going back to his residency speech, which I really don’t think is his business, he asked, “Do you work in Ohio?”

“No, I stay home with my kids,” I answered.

“Well, you have purchased a home,” he stated. There aren’t a lot of rental homes in this community.

“Actually, we just rent,” I replied.

Beyond the annoying police officer who made me feel like an awful, unsettled, poor, non-working mother, there is the whole issue of a neighbor reporting our vehicles. Why would anyone care? It must be someone who doesn’t like us for some reason. Someone who is annoyed by the junk in our yard—junk which, by the way, pales in comparison to junky yards in Alaska where we are from.

A month or so ago I met a woman at the park who had a big impact on my perception of Worthington. I was finally feeling a little settled here, recognizing the assets of our community, and then I met a woman named Margot who clinched my appreciation for this town. She is originally from Maine and then had moved to Boston, finally settling here. Her path, so similar to my Alaska, Chicago, Worthington path, made me feel automatically close to her. And then she said to me, “Worthington is just like a warm hug—it cradles you. People here are so nice and friendly.” And after she said that, I was beginning to believe that Worthington, Ohio was embracing my family and me.

And now I feel like Worthington is mad at us. It doesn’t like our lawn that is a little too long, our ugly (but functional!) car, or our garage that is jam-packed with crazy stuff. Oh, Worthington, you have betrayed me! Your embrace has become a sea of closed doors, nosy people peering through windows, self-righteous citizens who drive gas-guzzling vehicles to the farmer’s market to purchase expensive gourmet pies.


Martha-Lynn said...

You thought it was embracing you, but really it was just trying to tug a Ralph Lauren polo sweater over your arms!


I am greatly amused...and irritated for you, on two counts:

1) What's up with your neighbors going all commando on you like that? Personally, I think you should enshroud the house in an enormous black cloth, then explain that because you're Alaskan, you'll die if you don't experience extended nighttime hours every so often.

2)Don't you just love the cop's projection onto you of how you should be mothering your children? You bad, bad mama you, why aren't your kids at a matinee of the Incredible Hulk right now? And when are you going to...take them on a trip? (That one's just bizarre. Bye, Craig. We're off to take the waters!)

so yung said...

Wow. I don't know what to think about this. I'm sure it's not a neighbor that called in ... it must be someone who uses your road as a regular route.

I thought that if we ever moved back to Columbus, I'd want to move to Worthington. Second thoughts for certain now.

I'm seriously thinking that you're being harassed. As far as I know, it's not a crime to have out-of-state plates nor is it a reason for the police to come to your house. I wonder if he got the wrong address and whoever complained meant the house across the street? You know, the ones with the college age kids that have friends coming and going?

Don't forget UNCA has a math faculty position open!

AmericanFamily said...

Don't be creeped out by this, I found your blog via a mention on Martha-Lynn's blog. I actually think I live just around the corner from you based on a photo of your house in your archives.

We love living in Worthington, but it is such a sleepy little town I think people have WAY too much spare time. There is an old guy on our block who mows not only his own yard, but 4 others too. He also repeatedly lectures us about our poor trashcan management. If you live where I think you live, I am wondering if it wasn't some old, bored busybodys in the senior housing who called. They spend a lot of time sitting around outside looking for some action.

If you read the police blotter in the paper, you can see the police have nothing to do with their time. Last week, the paper actually printed a lecture from an officer stating everyone should make a concerted effort to park their cars in the garage after some hooligans spraypainted some cars parked on the street. Seriously? We only have a 1 car garage and it is so full of junk there is no way we can fit a car in there.

(Not a creepy stalker, I swear.)

Beck said...

Good grief. That sucks. Would you like to hear about the time a police officer came over because of a downed power line, saw that my husband and I had the flu, saw that my husband and I hadn't washed the dishes and CALLED CHILDREN'S AID?
Nothing happened, but I was REALLY upset for a long time. And nervous about getting the flu.

Troy W said...

this would never happen in Asheville! again, potential employment opportunity at UNCA!

ps isn't amazing how one interaction can change your whole outlook on everything?

Ser said...

Oh, I can't tell you all how much these comments have helped. I have a much better outlook now that a day has passed and I have heard from all of you.

Martha-Lynn, you are hilarious and kind.

So-Yung, I love your indignation on my behalf.

Amber, I must live where you think I live, because we are in the midst of all the retirement apartments. I have an image in my mind of who I think you are--but I could be wrong.

I must say, Beck, I can't imagine having a cop question me about my parenting in such a direct way. How awful!

Troy, it is so good to hear from you!

Troy W said...

I am ... I am VERY indignant. Hmmm, I guess I DO have a talent afterall.

If he comes back, you have to let us know! Maybe he'll let you take a picture of him for the blog?

Nancy said...

HA! If the cop knew you were a blogger, you would easily be in jail. I wonder...if you'd told him you were a writer, would he have figured you were more harmless or more dangerous?

I agree that is was probably a bored old person. I think you should make a bunch of cookies and take them to the senior center, with a note that says "From the Alaskan drug dealers next door."