Speaking up is good for your health

I marvel at how neighbours can both see and hear what goes on but no one seems incensed enough to speak up.

Last night the scream of an approaching ambulance siren woke me in the wee hours. The siren abruptly died nearby. In the news I read that a man had been killed. He had been lying in the middle of the access road in front of Costa Lessa Motel when he was hit by a vehicle.

Why this popularity of risking death?

Last Friday after supper four or five young people in their early teens, several with a bike or a skateboard, gathered to chat sitting down on the pavement at the intersection of Haaland Avenue and Crescent Street. Instead of moving off to the side when traffic approached, they stayed put in the middle of the pavement so that four vehicles had to line up single lane as though passing a paving crew.

Judging by the burn marks left on the asphalt by accelerating vehicles doing doughnuts at that intersection it’s a favourite night time playground for aggressive drivers. But do they and the mannerless teens  not consider what might happen if another nut sped around the sharp corner on to Haaland heading for Walker Street and couldn’t stop in time?

I can imagine the parents’ excuses, putting the blame on the driver who bumped into their loitering kids.

Loitering has become an after school pastime in our area. A recent RCMP incident report for Thornhill has this item: group of loitering youth hanging out on Dobbie Street causing mischief. Ongoing problem.

I know of several incidents that could have led to this item.

First, a group of four or five boys with skateboards hang around the Dobbie Street bus shelter that sits within inches of my front fence. Often you can hear them pounding the walls of the bus shelter with their skateboards or they sit lined up on the bench like crows on a hydro wire. Last week they pounded off one front plywood panel and left it lying in the grass.

A phone call to regional district saw the shelter repaired within four hours.

Two nights ago the boys were back at the shelter. After a few thumps, I spoke to the boys. “That’s public property,” I said. “You have no right to damage it. I don’t want to see it damaged again.” The smallest boy fired off an “f” word to impress his friends.

Second, someone threw a Molotov cocktail against the north wall of Copper Mountain School. A phone call to School District 82 and maintenance promptly painted over a broad wall area to obliterate the burn marks reaching almost to the eaves. Staff also picked up the largest pieces of broken glass bottle and one scorched sock.

I marvel at how neighbours can both see and hear what goes on but no one seems incensed enough to speak up. Fifty years ago no adult would have hesitated to set these kids straight. And 50 years ago our jails weren’t overflowing with juvenile delinquents.

I have always felt a duty as a citizen to speak up to shortcut vandalism or any crime against personal or public property. Since an expert on Anderson Cooper’s noontime show  said stewing is harmful to your health, it is far better to speak up, I feel even more responsible to head off crime.

For a start, I was dropping off a donation to the Salvation Army when a five-year-old boy swung from two hangers holding suit jackets while he yelled to another kid out of sight across the store. Three women customers chatted with the cashier as close to the kid as I was but no one paid any attention to him.

I could picture the suit jackets falling to the floor for him to trample. Impulsively I lightly smacked his bluejeaned butt. “Quit swinging on those clothes. This is no playground.”

He dropped his hands and looked up at me in surprise. One of the three women nudged him and half whispered, “Go find your brother. We’re leaving now.”

Claudette Sandecki observes the world from her computer in Thornhill, BC.