There are two things you should never be angry at: what you can help, and what you canít.
In our neighborhood, activity is at its peak in the evenings. The ice cream vans drive by with music blaring. The next-door neighbors have groups of kids over from their church and host pool parties. Itís hours of pandemonium. When the kids are in the water, they scream like their toenails are being jerked off. I wouldnít be able to tell if someone was actually drowning.
The kids are back in school now, and itís the first chance Iíve had all summer to use our own pool. Even though itís noon and 105 degrees, I take a glass of tea and towel to the backyard to enjoy a swim and some quiet time.
My toes havenít even sunk themselves under water when the songs of the mockingbird are shattered by a hoarse voice. Another neighbor has come out to clean her dogís kennel. She whistles and chides the dog relentlessly, creating a racket. She kicks a large aluminum feeding pan around as she cleans.
Iím thinking this canít go on long. Itís too hot; sheíll go back inside soon. And a few minutes later, an under-school-aged girl comes out and begins to bawl for attention. The woman replies by yelling, and the two commence a shouting match.
When I think it canít get any worse, a toddler boy comes out and begins screeching like a parrot. The woman returns the ungodly noise with her own shrill blare, and the three send a cacophony of shrieks across the neighborhood in shockwaves.
Iím about ready to give up and go back inside when they return to their den where the sounds of their voices are muffled through the sliding-glass door.
Relaxed finally, I watch the palm trees sway overhead and am just about to drift off when another neighbor notices her dog is digging in the flowerbed. She comes outside and begins shouting and swinging at the dog to make it stop digging. Her husband joins in, and the two yell at one another and the dog.
Itís clear thereís nothing I can do to get a little peace and quiet, so, tranquility interrupted, I give up, make my way back to the waterís edge and go inside.
One way I like to relax is with a luxurious bubble bath. Every evening, I turn on my red lamp and light a candle or two, making the bathroom glow and dance with shadows shaped from the flames of the candles.
A month or so ago, I was immersed in thought and bubbles and then felt a weird scratching on my leg. I screamed, and Spouser ran in from his office to see what was wrong. He couldnít see anything and didnít believe me when I told him something was in the water. So we emptied the tub and found a cockroach the size of a mouse clinging to the drain. Yuck!
My nights of meditating in a comfortable bath are long gone. The roach incident has happened twice since then. Now when I bathe, I keep the lights on and gaze anxiously at the drain overflow to see if anything is trying to come in. When the water drains completely, I squirt roach spray in the overflow just in case a creepy crawly thing is waiting there.
Last Friday, I was working at the newspaperís newsroom. It had been a good day, as workdays go, and everyone was ready to go home for the weekend. I exited, with books and laptop in tow and noticed a clunker parked in the space where I had parked Skyler, my new Hyundai Santa Fe.
Then I realized the clunker was mine! While I was working, someone hit Skyler with their vehicle, leaving a dent and black streaks three feet long down the passenger side. There was no note saying ďIím sorryĒ or ďTake that!Ē ó nothing. I couldnít help but wonder why, when I was parked in the farthest space from the building, someone would pull in so close to hit Skyler.
After contemplating it all, I realize that almost everything is out of our control.
As far as noisy neighbors: I bought earplugs. And roach arrivals: I take showers now. And regarding Skylerís new scars: I suppose I donít have to worry where I park now or think about my doors getting ďdinged.Ē
But no matter how momentous or trivial the episodes may be, having oneís peace taken is like getting punched in the face. The only thing you can do is shake it off, try to stay conscious, and get ready to block the next blowÖ because itís coming.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.