Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome to the Neighborhood

My new neighbors are from Japan. You are probably thinking ‘so what?’ Well, my neighborhood has been very homogenized for the past few years, made up mostly of elderly California refugees who have stopped speaking to me, so it is fun to have someone new to visit with. I enjoy getting to meet folks from different cultures and backgrounds and getting to see the world from a different perspective. Some neighbors like to keep a low profile and prefer not to intrude on other people’s privacy; I am not one of those kinds of neighbors.

I like to know what is going on around my street. Where are you from, are you gainfully employed, have you spent any time in prison, that sort of thing. If you are a foreigner I will ask you all about it; what was it like growing up abroad, do you miss it, were you ever incarcerated, every little mundane detail will keep me hanging on your every word.
That is why I like to take my sister around in my culturally diverse community because, in addition to English, she speaks Japanese, some Korean, and a little Spanish. So I like to drag her around from place to place and play a little game I like to call “what are those foreign people saying?” It is a simple game; basically it just requires eavesdropping on non-native speakers.

“Are they Korean?”
“No, Chinese.”
“What are they talking about?”
“I don’t know, I don’t speak Chinese.”
“Oh. Well, what about those people?”
“Which ones?”
“By the potatoes.”
“They are Japanese.”
“What are they talking about?”
“Oh, my goodness, you will never believe it!”
“What!? What?!”
“It is so scandalous, I am not sure I should tell you.”
“Tell me! What is it?!”
“They are talking about . . . potatoes.”

I think that people, and by "people," I mean me, tend to assume that if someone is not speaking my language, they must be doing something wrong. It automatically casts suspicion on their behavior because we, ok I, assume that they are trying to hide something. Like people who park in their garage. What have you got to hide if you have to park your car inside every night? Or people who clean their house all the time, what is wrong with them? I have seen CSI, the houses on that show are always spotless and all the evidence is easy to find. If crime shows are to be believed, then violent criminals usually frequent spotless homes and leave clues in the half empty garbage cans, or in the sparkling shower drain or right in plain view on the mess-free kitchen counter. The evidence is practically screaming to be found. One lone hair on the sofa and a single piece of broken glass on the carpet and BAM!, you have found the killer. I could hide a body in my living room and it would take an entire crew of investigators a year to narrow down the evidence. That is because I am normal.

CSI person #1: “What did you find?”
CSI person #2: “Six Lego’s, a pile of hair and lint the size of a cantaloupe, and what appears to be a petrified coco puff. What about you?”
CSI person #1: “I found three puzzle pieces all from different puzzles, two playing cards, a dirty sock, a broken hot wheels car, and some dehydrated macaroni and cheese.”
CSI person #2: “Well, send it to the lab for processing!”

I think most people are suspicious of things that are foreign to them. The unknown can be scary, but we need to remember that not everyone who is different is a threat to society. Like skinny people who work at Baskin Robbins, maybe they just don’t like ice cream.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do try to keep my eyes peeled for distrustful people. I don’t want to be the neighbor who lived next door to an axe murderer for 20 years and when interviewed on the news only says, “Well they were mostly quiet and kept to themselves.” There are some scary people I avoid, below is a brief list:

People who paint their house number on their garbage cans.
People who have two, or more, matching garbage cans.
People whose blinds are always closed. How am I supposed to spy on them if they close the curtains all the time?
People who write every check in the check register. If you have to pay with cash you are definitely on the run from somebody.
Flaggers on construction crews. They hold signs; stop, slow, stop, slow. If that is not suspicious I don’t know what is.

In closing, I would just like to say we don’t need to be suspicious, just vigilant. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Blah, blah, blah. And if you see my picture in the post office, please disregard it. Maybe you could even take it down, or at least draw over the face part, one of those little mustaches would be great. Oh, and cross out the name portion, I mean, if it is no trouble.