The demographic of our neighborhood is predominantly fifty-something women. One of whom had a tenant in her garage apartment who lived with his girlfriend. He seemed friendly enough when we moved in, and we would exchange pleasantries about the weather and the condition of my yard when I would walk Zeke by his house. One evening last spring while we were still living apart, I heard some yelling and carrying on in his apartment. It died down after an hour or so, and I chalked it up to a bad day and the windows open on such a wonderful spring evening. He helped us unload the truck when Missy and our furniture arrived. They were pleasant, helpful, and considerate. Then it went downhill, with the yelling increasing in both frequency and intensity. However as one neighbor described it, “his vocabulary sure shrinks when he commences yelling.” It was frightening on several occasions. As we got to know the neighbors, we found this was the norm not the exceptional bad stretch that I had assumed, and that the police had been summoned on several occasions before.
His landlord had returned to our neighborhood after an extended period of being with her sister during an illness. Missy and the landlord have struck up a friendship. One afternoon the yelling commenced early afternoon and the police were called again, by two or three different neighbors. Missy convinced the landlord to do something and she did, she sent him an eviction notice. The women were afraid to walk by his apartment so they would go the long way around the neighborhood to get to each other’s houses for fear of not knowing if they would be running into Mr. Hyde or Dr. Jekyll. They would literally check to see if he was there. Yesterday night he was moving out, and the women of the neighborhood were obviously relieved at his imminent departure.
I had put up with this far longer than I should have. We are new to the neighborhood and I worried if I stirred up trouble what would be the result, so I waited. I wonder if this is how bullies get started. When good people fail to act and call them down, it emboldens them. This guy was more of a person with seriously stunted emotional growth and acted more like a spoiled four-year old than a true bully like a Ken McElroy. But the fear in the women of the neighborhood was real, and they changed their movements to avoid running into him.
Bullying is a buzzword now. But as Missy so aptly describes it, bullies are usually packs of kids or people picking on the oddball not the other way around. Your child, statistically speaking, is far more likely to be a bully than a victim. Why, because kids will bend their ethics to stay in the pack and not tell the others to stop picking on the oddball. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to fit in up here in the neighborhood. I was afraid of having the retribution directed at my wife so I did nothing. When he was yelling, he was drunk and unhinged, so speaking with him during a rampage would have been useless. The infrequent meetings while he was coherent didn’t seem to be the appropriate time to bring it up. When I found out about the eviction notice, there was no point. So I did nothing.
That there is the sin of omission. I won’t commit it again.