Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hey, Lighten Up: A Sunday Morning Self-Indulgence

It's my favorite time, Sunday morning when the family's sleeping in. I've got the house to myself, a hot pot of fresh coffee, WPFW on the radio. This post will not contain any new information, I'm just talking off the top of my head for a minute, OK? Just thinking out loud.

I was surprised this morning to look out and see the neighborhood covered with snow. It's still coming down steadily, looks like it has been for a few hours already. This wasn't predicted, was it? We were almost clear yesterday, and now it looks like two or three inches on the ground.

Last night my kid went to a party. He's sixteen, and he was kind of excited about this one, because he was going to get to see some friends he hasn't seen in a while, over in Derwood. It was a girl's birthday, and her parents were throwing a nice party for her.

My wife dropped him off, guided with the usual Google map, at about seven. He was dressed especially sharp, and -- oh hey, did I mention? Remember when I told you he got jumped and had his tooth knocked out? It was back in July, he was walking across the schoolyard and some older guys beat him up in the middle of the night, right across from our house. It was a hard lesson for him: there are some places you don't go by yourself when it's late. Anyway, this week he finally got his new implanted tooth. It's a long (expensive) process, but man, he is glad to have the whole smile again. This party was like the debut of that new tooth.

I called his cell a little before eleven, and he didn't answer. Normal, there's probably noise. A few minutes later, he called me back. The party was starting to break up, but there was another party, and maybe he'd want to go to that. Well, I don't like that much, but I'm glad he's having fun. I told him to call me back as soon as he knew what the plan was.

Ten minutes later he called, he's ready to come home. (This is pretty typical, I'd say more than half of "planned" events fail to materialize, for either of my kids.)

My turn: I took the Google map and headed to Derwood. He called me twice on my way out there, to ask me where I was. I'm almost to Shady Grove. I'm almost to the house, hold on, I need two hands to drive. He was waiting outside, and it was getting cold.

He'd had a great time. The parents had hired a DJ, and everybody danced all night. Did you know they still do that? He was beat, dead tired.

He said the cops came. They'd heard there was a "house party," he said, one of the neighbors must've called. So the cops came and made all the kids stand in one part of the house while they searched the whole place. They were there a long time. He said, in so many words, that the police were not nice.

Then everybody left.

Personally, I don't think the parents should have let the police into their house. They didn't have a warrant, there was no evidence that any crime had been committed, some teenagers were dancing to a DJ. Maybe it was loud: Yes, officer, we'll ask them to turn it down. And maybe you can go back and suggest to Mrs. Jones that she turn down her hearing aid. Oh, and while you're there, officer, could you ask her if she was ever young once, herself?

But people are reluctant to say no to an officer. Sets a bad example for the kids, for one thing. And most of us understand that they have an unappreciated job to do, it's hard enough already, and besides, if you didn't let them in it might imply that you were doing something wrong. (Think about that logic for a minute.)

Anyway, my opinion: the cops don't need to be looking around people's houses when there's no crime.

I'm not saying my kid's an angel, he knows where to find trouble. Well, he's better these days, but there have been times, y'know, when you just grit your teeth and deal with it -- if you've got kids, I don't care how wonderful they are, you know what I mean. Here you had the most benign situation imaginable, a bunch of teenagers supervised by parents, dancing at a birthday party. If kids were staggering around the neighborhood drunk, or burning rubber or peeing on the neighbor's flowers, or something, that would be different, but it wasn't that at all. Someone had heard the music, saw some cars pulling up and letting kids out, and they figured something criminal was going on.

As far as I'm concerned, as soon as the police saw parents at the door, they should have tipped their hats, gotten back into their cars (there were four or five police cars out there), and gone back to chasing criminals.

I was talking to a guy the other day at work about when we were kids, and you'd just ... go out. I mean little kids, nine ten eleven. You'd just go out and play, and at some time the neighborhood moms would stand on the doorsteps and holler. J-i-i-i-m-m-m-m-m-y-y-y! T-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-m-m-y-y-y! Then the game -- football, five hundred, army, tag, whatever -- would break up for dinner. Nobody was standing there watching us every second, nobody organized our games. We played, we organized ourselves, we monitored ourselves, and we had fun.

That doesn't happen any more. Kids don't go out and play. It would scare their parents to death. And as teenagers, OK, again, we weren't angels, but driving up and down Central didn't really hurt anybody. The cops'd stop you if you were obvious about turning around at the library, but otherwise, the grown-ups figured it was better that we were cruising Central than parking up on 56th Street somewhere. Somehow most of us survived it, we learned a little bit about life and then we went home.

Now, people make the ugliest assumptions about kids. We hear about dope-dope-dope, sex-sex-sex, and the kids hear that all day, too. People, dope and sex aren't new. And it turns out that there are lots of things teenagers do besides that. Like, the most important social event: chillin'. A bunch of guys can sit in front of a game console and do absolutely nothing but push buttons for, like, all day. They will report afterwards that they had fun.

It seems like people think it's their civic duty to make ugly assumptions now. They assume that the world is an evil place, and that if kids are out of our sight they're doing something bad. And if you don't see that, there's something wrong with you.

Call me weird, but I refuse to go along with it. Maybe this makes me a "liberal," I don't know about that, but I think kids need to learn about life by experiencing it firsthand. I think people are pretty good, pretty interesting, I don't see a world where everybody just wants to hurt everybody else all the time. I see a world where people are interconnected, where people care about each other, where people depend on each other to do the right thing, and where people fulfill that expectation. It appears to me that people can handle freedom, and that people would rather get along than fight.

It doesn't mean you don't have to be careful, it just means that most of the time people are pretty cool. The world doesn't have to be something you're afraid of.

I just get a little tired of the ugly assumptions sometimes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim, this is a pattern with the Montgomery County Police. Perhaps the parents let the police into the house and allowed the indignity (and mess) of a search without a warrant because they feared that, if they didn't, every car parked on their street would be ticketed for fake parking violations and every car leaving the party would have to go through a sobriety checkpoint.

The hosts of the party and the parents of the guests need to complain to Ike about this. Police continue to harass parents who provide supervised drug-and-alcohol-free fun for their teens.

February 25, 2007 6:26 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Thanks, Tish. It just seemed like good old-fashioned fun, the kind the authorities should encourage, not bust up. Which is effectively what they did.


February 25, 2007 6:49 PM  

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