What An Animal …

So … remember this woman?

Not an actual pictures of the crazy neighbor lady ...

Still not an actual picture of the crazy neighbor lady …

Tell you what … we’ll get back to her in a moment.

Ever seen a dog or cat irritated at eating its food? Either from someone bugging the animal or disturbing theri meal or simply because that’s the way the animal eats? Here … let me give you an example:

Yeah … just like that. Keep the dog in mind while I continue.

So … the crazy neighbor lady …

I’m back at my client’s house to continue with those concrete stairs on the side of the yard, extending them down a precarious slope, and the next door crazy neighbor is out watering.

Now, to be fair, she didn’t make a peep this time around. Maybe it was because she was a mere rock toss away and we could have easily been face to face if she’d decided to pipe up and make a stink just for stink’s sake.

Instead, she finished her watering and went indoors.

No problem, right?

Wrong.

I was doing some excavating in preparation for pouring the stairs when I noticed one of her window’s curtains fluttering as I casually glanced up. She was spying on me, watching what I was doing. My actions were exceedingly interesting I guess.

That’s when an idea came to me: I’d noticed several times over the course of about 20 minutes her stealing looks my way. She couldn’t tell that I saw her doing this because the safety glasses I had on were dark and you can’t tell where I’m looking when I have them on. Knowing this was part of the reason I decided on some shenanigans.

That dog video above? Well … as I was hand mixing concrete and saw her peeking at me, I would stop what I was doing and start a low growl, just like that dog. Growl, breathe, growl a little louder. Mix concrete a little bit. Growl, breathe, growl longer. Stop, mix, growl louder and more menacingly.

I can imagine the look on her face. I saw the curtain dart back in place and then, just as quickly, get pulled back again.

Stop. Growl. Growl more loudly.

I kept doing this for about half an hour, suppressing laughter the entire time I was doing so … which was monumentally difficult. Fun times.

I can only imagine the thoughts running through the crazy neighbor lady’s head …

Sarcasm Is A Double-Edged Sword

There were a few things needed at the grocery store so up and off I went.

The meat counter was one of the last places I visited. There were stuffed clam and scallop shells at a buck a piece on sale and I’ve come to really like them. 3 or 4 of them make a meal.

With no one in sight, I accessed the handy button telling me to “Ring For Service.” A quick, short push elicited a rather loud bell (which sounded more like a fire klaxon) which, in turn, yielded quite the commotion from behind the scenes in a prep area out of view. Pans and other metal items could be heard crashing to the floor; I could only guess I startled the poor person who was back there.

Seconds later, however, a short, dark-haired girl probably in her late 20s or early 30s came out, rather cheerfully:

“Can I help you?” she asked pleasantly enough.

“Yes, thank you. May I get 4 stuffed clams and 4 stuffed scallops, please?” I asked. She opened the case and began to pull them individually.

“Do you mind if I put them all on the same tray?” she asked.

“No … no problem,” I responded as she continued pulling the heaping shells.

She finished and slipped away for a moment, returning almost immediately to ask one final question:

“Do you know the difference between the two?”

Now, exactly at this point is where about half a dozen rapid-fire responses came to mind. Should I answer truthfully? Should I answer with a quip? Should I fake ignorance to see how her response comes back? I decided that last one wouldn’t work completely being I had specifically asked for 4 of each item so I figured she’d know I knew what I was asking for.

Or so I thought.

I decided to go with the sarcasm. In my biggest smile – and expecting one in return – I replied:

“Well … one is a clam and the other is a scallop … right?”

Now … I wasn’t certain if the gal helping me was the same one I startled by the ringing bell. Or maybe she was having a bad day. Or perhaps I interrupted her from just having sat down to munch her lunch. But whatever the reason, the response I gave her rubbed her the wrong way because, like a shot, she pulled away from me immediately. She attempted as best she could to resist rolling her eyes (she failed spectacularly at this) and let it be known through her body language she didn’t want anything further to do with me. She headed somewhere behind the counter to wrap my purchases.

As she left, I heard her mumble something to the effect of “Well … *grumph, grouse*some people … *hrumph* don’t know … *gruff* … difference *muffle* …” or something like it. There weren’t any epithets I could detect but there was definitely a big heaping helping of attitude that got wrapped up with my stuffed shells.

On her return she handed the package over the counter. I thanked her kindly and, somehow, she mustered a return “You’re welcome” with such economy it sounded as if she’d compressed the words into a single syllable. It was rather impressive.

Moral: Sarcasm is a slippery slope, folks. Even with the best comedic intentions (and the biggest shit-eating grin you can muster) it’s still sometimes difficult to pull it off.

Construction And The Crazy Neighbor Lady

The side of the house I’m working at offers those of a daring nature a treacherously steep passage composed of lovely compacted dirt, shale and clay. Add wetness to the passage and it becomes a slippery slope just waiting for someone to attempt it and go ass over tea kettle.

An initial set of steps have been poured by yours truly to assist in making things a little safer but there’s more work to be done. But before work can be completed, an irrigation catch basin needs to be relocated – it’s currently right smack dab in the middle of the path of the proposed steps.

So, on this day, the digging began. And the drama came shortly thereafter.

I wasn’t 10 minutes into it when I heard the huffing and scuffling at the neighbor’s house next door. A window was thrown open, I caught a head in the midst of disappearing and then an exaggerated exhale of breath. It sounds as if a phone is being dialed.

I can’t quite catch the conversation going on until I hear the loud-enough-to-be-heard-for-my-benefit question/exclamation:

“Don’t you need a contractor’s license to, you know, contract?!?”

I chuckle to myself. All I’m doing is digging a hole. Last time I checked (oh, that’s right: I’ve never checked) one doesn’t need any sort of official license or certificate of excellence in order to put a hole in the dirt. My immediate thought on hearing the neighbor was “No, you don’t, not in this case. Just like you don’t need any kind of certification to stick your nose into other people’s business, I don’t care how good you are at it.”

You have to understand the neighbor next door to the house I occasionally do work at is known as “a crazy lady.” Now … I’m not certain she’s actually certifiable, but I’ve heard tell of past scuffles with others, neighbors and the like having regaled me with those tales. She likes to yell at kids, I’m told, who are doing nothing but laughing to themselves as they walk down the street past her house. I’ve witnessed first hand her laser stare while I’ve been laboring at some chore or another, glowering at me for simply, well, being there. How laboring with my back turned away from her house, minding my own business, is a source of irritation to her is beyond my comprehension.

This particular morning I’m 35′ away, doing my own thing, digging. I’m not bothering anybody. It’s not crack-of-dawn early in the morning (it’s 8:30-ish) so it’s not as if I’m waking someone at an inconvenient hour. I’m not creating any excessive noise or whistling some annoying tune while working. It’s just a simple fact of the crazy lady being one of those people who likes to stick their nose in other people’s business and raise a ruckus for her own purposes. I’m sure you know the type – virtually every neighborhood has one. Sometimes, they’re even a source of entertainment.

But … you’ve got to give her credit: She’s good at what she does. And throughout my time working away on the side yard in the coming weeks, I expect the drama to escalate to a fever pitch.

I’ll keep you posted. And with pictures if possible …

*Above photo not an actual likeness of the real crazy neighbor lady

Better

superman_logo_royal_shirt

I was walking toward the exit when I saw him.

He was seated in a waiting area. He wore cargo shorts and flip flops and his legs were crossed. His hair was verging on an afro and his black beard was bushy and unkempt.

Immediately, I knew I could take him.

I stopped with about 10 feet between us. I squared up directly in front him and waited for him to look up at me. Finally, he noticed me.

That’s all I did for a second or two — I looked right at him. And he looked back at me. I pointed my finger and jabbed it directly at him. With authority.

He was with a girl. I don’t know if it was a friend of his, a girlfriend, his wife or an acquaintance. But she chuckled knowingly. She got it … he didn’t. You could tell. Nothing registered on his face, despite the giggles coming from the girl.

I walked out the door after out “meeting” … my head raised a little higher. I knew. I was still confident I could take him.

He had on a Batman T-shirt.

Mine was emblazoned with the Kryptonian symbol for “hope” …

Of Sweet Kernels And Nosy Old Ladies

Of all the markets I enjoy going to, the Ranch Market — catering mainly to the latino community — is one of my favorites.

Terrific, crisp produce (and often boasting a host of different items you wouldn’t necessarily find in a regular grocery store), a nifty meat department with fresh-made chicharrones, several varieties of ceviche and more, pan dulce of all shapes and sizes, fresh baked pies and cakes, hunks of flan and more.

I was on a mission to get a few things to make corn salad that day, corn being the main order of the day. (It’s rather difficult to make corn salad without corn, y’unnerstan’ …) Tomatoes, cilantro and avocados were on the list as well.

Eying the corn as I made my way into the produce department, I went over and began picking out nice, large ears and shucking a portion of the husk to spy their freshness (of which I had little doubt).

Of a sudden, a hand touched my right shoulder. I looked and saw a diminutive old lady looking up at me.

“You better watch out for that,” she warned me. “They put the old stuff on the top, there … see? I’m not sure it’s really that fresh …”

I smiled at her. “Oh, the stuff I’m picking out is fresh all right. It’s super fresh as a matter of fact.” I reached for another ear and pulled part of the husk back to show her. She watched me as I did so.

“But … how do you know it’s really fresh?” she asked.

I pulled yet another from the bunch and repeated the process. “See? Clean and firm and ready to go. I can do this all day long,” I told her.

“But … how do you know it’s really fresh?” she asked again. She stuck her finger at the kernels to poke them and feel them. “They’re too hard” she tried reasoning.

“No … with white corn, the firmness assures freshness,” I told her. As I waved the ear of corn at the others I stated pointedly “I guarantee you this stuff is rockin’ and top notch …”

“Yes, but … how do you know? How do you really know for sure?” It was evident I held her attention and she was interested in what I had to say but I could tell she was doubtful. You could see in her eyes she wanted to believe me but there was skepticism there.

I squinched down to her level and looked right at her. Then, I looked to her right down the aisle past her. Then I looked left, away from her. I again came back to her questioning eyes and whispered to her “This is how I know … don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our secret” I confided.

I grabbed the ear I was holding with both hands and took a gaping bite out of it with exaggerated florish right in front of her. “Oh, man … THAT’S sweet stuff. Perfect!” I offered joyously. I know I had juice dribbling down my chin. I smiled at her toothily.

The surprise in her eyes made me wish I had had my camera right then and there. She gaped open-mouthed and began smiling at me herself. She raised her hand as if she was going to swat me, began laughing and shooshed me away while she made tracks down the aisle, chuckling all the way.

I’m certain she kept an eye on me while I continued picking out corn. You know … to make sure I didn’t put the one I took a bite out of back in the lot …

You Touch, You Die

It wasn’t that many years ago I found myself at my youngest daughter’s open house at school.

This was a different sort of open house: Student-made flags of various countries and relief maps and toothpick/popsicle stick creations. Papier-mâché masks. Lots of detail work. Each class had a different theme.

Interestingly, the order of the open house was that groups of students were allowed to walk freely about the classrooms and gaze at all the creations, this being done so in 12 minute blocks. At the end of a block of time, a bell would ring and the classes of students would exit and head to a neighboring room. The kids had two minutes to get to a class when another bell would ring indicating the beginning of another time slot. Teachers and parent volunteers were posted outside classrooms to direct kids along. Also, parent volunteers were posted inside the rooms (no teachers were allowed as a grand experiment) to make certain the kids behaved themselves. It was made abundantly clear in a pre-open house meeting the students were to keep their hands to themselves so they didn’t break, ruin or otherwise mess with any of the wares on display.

A few of the rooms were missing “volunteer police.” A teacher asked me if I would oversee the goings on of one room — there was already one parent but it they wanted two per room. I gladly accepted the challenge. I was instructed to make certain no one touched anything. Each and every project was to remain exactly as it was: Complete and pristine. I was told the students worked diligently at each of their creations and it would be a shame if, at the end of the open house, someone didn’t have the wherewithal to look and not touch and thus exact some sort of damage to one or all the projects laid out around the place. I assured the (somewhat uptight) teacher that wouldn’t happen in the class I was assigned. My partner in crime — someone I’d never met — came up to me and introduced herself. “Ms. Fisk” relayed that since I was the last one to “volunteer” (and that I struck the more authoritative figure as a deep-voiced man) the class was mine when the kids came flocking in … but she would be there to assist. She grinned at me rather evilly. I smiled back at her and told her “No problem.”

When the first bell rang indicating the kids had 2 minutes to get to their first assigned class, I was ready. I had a plan. As they shuffled in I asked everyone to gather in a corner of the room, one that not only housed the teacher’s desk but which was furthest from all the projects. I asked everyone to please pay attention as I wanted to relay a quick bit of information prior to them viewing anything.

“Good evening, students. My name is Mr. Noble. And this is Ms. Fisk beside me. Before we let you wander around to see all the neat things your fellow students have made, I have just one thing I want to say. Is everyone listening?” I scanned the group and made certain I had everyone’s attention. Including Ms. Fisk. “Good. I have one rule I want you to follow. I’d like you to repeat it after me, then we can get started. And that rule is this: ‘You touch … you die.’ Everyone needs to be clear on that point. So … repeat after me: ‘You touch … you die.'”

The kids just looked at me. Some giggled. Some were wide-eyed I would even suggest such a thing. Ms. Fisk fidgeted beside me, obviously uncomfortable with this tactic.

“Come on, everyone. Say it out loud so I know you’ve heard it: ‘You touch, you die.'”

I heard a few timid mumbles. “Really? Let’s go! ‘You touch, you die!’ Everyone!”

I detected a few bold voices but not nearly enough to satisfy me.

“Oh, you guys. You can do better than that! I want to hear you shout it out: ‘You touch, you die!’ Everyone, let’s go!”

“You touch, you die.” They were beginning to come to life.

“Again!” I said enthusiastically.

“You touch, you die!” they repeated.

“I can’t hear you!” I responded.

“You touch, you die!” they yelled back to me.

“One more time! Everyone put there hands in the air and yell it like you mean it: What’s the rule?”

You touch, you die … !!!

“Very good. You guys can wander around and see everything now. But … if, all of a sudden, I ask you what the rule is, what are you going to say?”

YOU TOUCH, YOU DIE … !!!

I had the kids just where I wanted them. They broke up and began looking at the projects around the room.

I looked at Ms. Fisk. She was aghast and horrified. “You can’t do that!” she whispered at me incredulously.

“Why not? Look at how well behaved they are. They’re being perfect little angels … and they won’t dare touch anything.” I smiled at her.

She shook her head, put her hand to her temple and walked away. I took the opportunity to further advance any headache I thought she might be forming.

I called out. “Hey, guys: What’s the rule? Let me hear it.”

YOU TOUCH, YOU DIE!

“Very good.”

Not long afterward, the bell rang. The students shuffled out on to their next room assignment. A new crop of recruits meandered in. I corralled this new group in the corner and went through my spiel once again. I did it with each successive class. In the end all of them yelled my rule back at me, loud and proud. I had successfully put the idea in the kids’ heads they were getting away with something and they had a blast with it. There was nary a problem in any class.

At one point about an hour into the session, the principal and a couple teachers from other classrooms wandered into my room. The principal paused just inside the door observed the perfect manners of the kids. I noted she was impressed at what she saw. She came over to me.

“Wow. The kids are so well behaved! How in the world did you get them to do that? Every other class I’ve been in has some parent either reprimanding someone or reminding everyone to behave. This room is incredible!”

“I just gave them one simple rule to follow and they’re good.” I informed the principal.

“And what’s that?” she asked.

“Guys! What’s the rule?” I called out to the room with a grin.

YOU TOUCH, YOU DIE … !!!” they responded with gusto.

The principal was slack-jawed and gaped at me. She looked over at Ms. Fisk who was making “Don’t look at me!” gestures. I felt a tongue lashing might possibly be in the running but nothing I couldn’t handle. Ever-so-slightly, however, I saw the corners of the principal’s mouth begin to rise. She brought her hand up to help stifle a guffaw forming there. “Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Mr. Noble. I have a daughter in the 5th grade,” I told her. She reached out and shook my hand.

The handshake she gave me was a very telling one. It was one that said in no uncertain terms “We really appreciate you helping us out Mr. Noble but we don’t think we’ll be asking you to do so anytime in the near future.”

Yeah … that kind of handshake.

Of course, when the school carnival came up at the end of the year, the school staff (who were well aware of who I was by that time) didn’t balk at me assisting in the running of the event. Boom.