Ding-dong ditching and glass packs – Beside the Point

Back in college, we used to watch a lot of David Letterman. As a matter of habit, I would try to get back from the library before 10:30 so I could catch the late night host.

One of my favorite bits of the legend was when he would conjure up that old man’s voice and bellow “You damn kids get outta my yard.”

It was funny at the time, but I think I’ve entered my own cranky stage. Someone ding-dong ditched me early this morning at about 12:45 a.m. I just happened to be watching a movie at the time after a night of surf and turf at Martini’s. I had the surf, and Lee had the turf. I had some of her turf, and she had a bite of my surf.

By the way, they have a chocolate mousse cake there that comes with this side blanket of Kahlua whipped creme drizzled with strawberry and chocolate sauce. That concoction should be its own food group. I left about half the cake…. and finished an old-fashioned with Maker’s. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite after-dinner sips.

But back to the story at hand. So someone dings the door and we’ve had transients knock on the door at all hours of the night here before. I usually grab the 3-wood because I hit that better than the driver, but this time I picked up a lightweight Louisville aluminum 33″ the girls used to hit softballs with, and stepped out on the porch.

“Chuck, get back in here,” Lee said from the recliner scrolling Facebook after alerting Fort Madison’s finest.

I think I know who it was because he had a history of doing it in high school and he was back for graduation. But with all the crap going on in town (Someone actually stole the wheels off the trailer for the new cruise boat out of Nauvoo – really???) and the vandalism going on in Old Settlers Park just a quick walk from the house, I decided I better let the police in on it.

They stopped by and we looked around the house.

“We’ll probably get more calls tonight.” the officer said. “I wouldn’t assume it was kids because it is the time of year transients are in the area.”

We had a guy knock on the door a couple years back who couldn’t speak well and was trying to find a hotel at about 4 a.m. Cops paid him a visit as well. I’m not usually one that’s easily intimidated, but not doing anything could put someone else in harm’s way, and that doesn’t work for me.

So the ding-dong ditching’s getting a bit annoying, but what really puts me in the class of the grumpy is the loud vehicles. We live on E and have windows on the E side. When we try to get some air through the house we have to deal with the glass packs and muffler-less trucks that guys, and some girls I guess, like to stand on off the new stops signs that catch most.

Then there’s the manhole covers that bounce trailers about six inches off the ground only to clang back down to the ground. This is no exaggeration. It really sounds like a collision at the intersection and I’m constantly pivoting to look out to make sure everyone’s okay.

But I don’t begrudge men and women their vehicular toys. I’ve never been in the group of people who like loud cars that leave their impact on the neighborhood decimal limit, or rubber on the streets. I don’t even really mind the people down the street who shoot fireworks off and then run into the house when the police make a drive-by.

I didn’t narc nobody!

It’s their likes and passions and fun. For God’s sake we need more fun. It used to drive my daughter crazy because she enjoys the small neighborhoods and trees and people associated with rural Iowa. She lives in Manhattan and doesn’t get that anymore. She would yell something provocative out the window as they gunned it at the stop sign or whistled a bottle rocket up and let it smack over our house.

But trying to watch the final round of the PGA Championship (right now) and having a truck or cycle gear up at the intersection is getting annoying as I try to see if my sawbuck on Phil Mickelson to win (12 to 1) is gonna pay off today. I just had a feeling at the start. He’s trimmed down and focused and has one more major in him. Might as well be today.

Now thinking just logically, and not with the testosterone that started to leak from organs magically and tragically about 25 years ago, a person could rev up the glass packs out in one of the 539 other square miles in Lee County – or Des Moines County, where only the pheasants, opossums and birds would be annoyed. But as our Mayor Matt Mohrfeld likes to say – it’s part of Americana.

Matt’s been known to leave a flew skid marks around town and that’s where his quality of life comes in. It’s their joy and pleasure, and brings a smile to their face. I’m good with that. Bouncing a shot in on hole 15 at Sheaffer’s from about 110 out on the second bounce brings a smile to mine. That’s only happened one time, but it was two weeks ago and my brother saw the “hole” thing.

So I’ll just turn up the volume, continue to enjoy the breeze, and tip my hat to those that, as my wife likes to say, “Vroom, Vroom” their way past our home. I won’t tell you the exact address, some of you know I’m sure. But if you choose to gun it, just look in, wave, and smile as you go by.

That…. will bring a smile to my face.

We also need to start having conversations about real answers to the all the crappy, petty vandalism that’s going on in town. Thefts, BBs at windows, damage to parks. The answer may be adding to police staff, but they’re still going to have to rely on information from witnesses and those keeping an eye out. And that means more community financial support. Personally, I don’t see it solely as a responsibility of the police or the city, but all of us. How do you keep an eye out at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. when the riff-raff is out and we’re all trying to get REM sleep?

Vandalism is a part of life, but the proactive communities can contain it. Maybe this is a topic for the city’s new safety committee…But that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor and co-founder of Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com

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