Friday, July 27, 2007

"Ah, the bucolic summers of small-town Canada!"

It's been a lovely summer by Ontario standards — warm and breezy, rather than the humid and hot suffocation we're used to. Still, so long as heating and food are not an issue, I generally prefer winter to summer because winter is quiet. Small towns don't have quiet summers. Their youths are too busy walking up and down the streets deep into the night, getting angrier and angrier because "there's nothing to do." Tempers get especially tetchy if the kids have indulged in the latest chemical concoction. Now that marijuana is being laced with crank, the only way a kid's going to get mellow is through clean living. Fie on that! Let's do something nasty! Break a window, steal something! Start a fight! Start a fire!!

I'll never forget our meeting with the lawyer when we bought the house here. He had this beatific smile on his face as we signed the papers. "So, small town living, eh?" said he. "The great thing about small towns is they have so much less crime."

He went on to expound the hoary theory that because everyone knew everyone, the parents of would-be offenders were shamed into tightening the leash on their kids. Clearly this was not a criminal lawyer. We were looking forward to the move from city to small town, but harbored no illusions about the crime rate. My in-laws were already living here, and gave us updates on who'd been arrested for what. Besides, I'd spent half my childhood in a small town, half in the city, and could attest that the number of times I'd been offered "a thumping" (or worse) by townies greatly exceeded any such threats I'd received from cityfolk — and I'd been an urban cyclist.

In the eight years we've lived here, I've only called the police twice (last night being the second time, which is what gets me musing). Mind you, there again I'm faced with a disparity: my previous decade in the city only required one such summons, and that was over a case of double-parking. Out here I made both calls out of concern for my family's safety.

Last night's episode didn't amount to much. Some kids appeared to be interested in our shed, and a pickup truck was parked nearby. This was at 2:00 in the morning, so I made the call. Had it been daylight, I would have walked over and introduced myself but given the hour I figured the police were better equipped for that sort of thing. Three cruisers and a lot of high-beam searchlighting later, the kids were gone while the pickup truck remained. The owner of the truck couldn't be found, but this morning he got in and drove off as if nothing had happened.

In the end, I guess nothing did. All in all a quiet night, really. Just not as quiet as it gets in winter.

13 comments:

DarkoV said...

Sounds as if a dog of substantial size and "enthusiasm" with a strong protective tendency is in order.
That, or one of those automatic loud bells-wistles-strobe lights setups.

WP, I empathize strongly with you on this issue. You dont; want to come off as the heavy and yet the sit-'n-talk thing will most definitely not work, especially if the lads are wanked on unnaturals. I would've suggested handing out joints as one hands out needles to potential AIDS victim/addicts. You know, a community mellowing agent. But the youth of today, with their need for everything to be edgy would probably have laughed you off.

Perhaps that inventive spouse of yours may have picked up some tricks while travelling in the hinterlands. She bring back any tze-tze flies? They may make a good alternate type of "pet".

Trent Reimer said...

I lived for a while in logging town in British Columbia. One thing about logging towns; the adults are just as unruly as the kids so it changes that aspect of the crime dynamic.

Not that there isn't just as much, or more, crime. Just that there are boundaries after which the vigilantes administer either a sound beating or some instant lead poisoning - while the police look the other way.

Trent Reimer said...

Oh, and the vigilante part can be pretty ugly too. I don't know why it's so much cooler in the movies. So now in addition to the original offense you have vigilante violence in the streets. I talked to someone who lived beside a violent criminal who got whacked by the locals - they were terrified.

Law and order is not a bad thing.

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - The dog option has never appealed to me, but it certainly crossed my mind as I tossed & turned last night. This morning I found a pitcher full of hooch stowed among the weeds beside the shed. I'll be curious (to say the least) to see if anything happens by way of retribution.

TR - often when a city dweller moves to a small town within commuting distance they expect city-type service from the local constabulary. This is typically deflated by two or three episodes where officers show up much too late to be of help. But just try getting a former city dweller to start thinking like a lumberjack - especially when it's the rowdy kids who look the most capable of delivering the beating, followed by lead poisoning.

DarkoV said...

Well, when faced with a surfeit of lemons one can make lemonade or a sorbet of lemons.
Now, when faced with a dilemna such as yours, some writers turn the criminal into the novella noir.

Rob in Victoria said...

"Fie on that! Let's do something nasty!"

Well, if nothing else, the school system in your town seems to be working...

Whisky Prajer said...

Rob, I laugh because I had such a good sleep last night.

Peter said...

Your experience would likely be surprising to most Americans, who tend to think of Canada as a peaceful, largely crime-free country.

prairie mary said...

My little American village really IS quiet at night. When bad things happen (which they do) they are usually quiet. Otherwise, little old ladies will know who exactly did what and tell their mothers. And anyone else who will listen.

Our struggle at the moment is over watering and the worst miscreants are oldsters who insist on doing what they want to do. Our young town cop is new and not related to any of the key families in town, so he's having a really hard time enforcing the anti-sprinkling law the way the town council wants it done. They are sick and tired of being defied and they say NO EXCEPTIONS there will be a $100 fine for every offense. They are so definite about this that the city employees have actually turned off citizen water at the curb. We are breathless to see whether the inevitable lawsuit will center on the danger of fire or the danger of unflushed sewage.

As for juiced youths (and many other problems) I depend upon a compressed-air boathorn. It comes in a can, looks like bear spray, and sounds like an enraged moose. (I assume that Canadians will recognize this sound, though they will be surprised that an American village is quiet at night unless one uses this device.) It also works on dogs that chase bikes.

Prairie Mary

Whisky Prajer said...

Peter - I suspect (and Mary seems to confirm) that Canadian small towns aren't significantly different from US small towns, but I'd be curious to read some crunched crime-stats. Right now gangs are a news-worthy problem in Toronto The Good: an eleven year old boy died of gunshot wounds last week, and he's just the latest headline of many. However, I remember hosting a New Yorker who, just before he stepped down into the TO subway for the first time, nervously asked if there were subway stations he should avoid. Such a question would never have occurred to me, even though I've heard horror stories about people getting off at the wrong stop in NYC.

Mary - a boathorn would never have occurred to me. I think that's rather inspired!

Cowtown Pattie said...

"Hey, you little shits, I know your mother!"

Always works for me...

DarkoV said...

....unless (CP) the mom's one of the bottle-chuckers.

"Hey you petite connard, I know your grandmothers!" just doesn't have the same ring. Besides, le grand mere may be here; a lot of good that would do you.

Whisky Prajer said...

Actually, I'm wondering if there isn't some way to hook up CP's invective with Mary's air-horn. Maybe mix it up a bit with Cookie Monster vocals, or somesuch?