Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soapbox Alert!

Randy and I live on Lake Springfield. There, I said it. I usually avoid divulging this fact if at all possible. As a native and resident of Phoenix's "Avenues" (in the west side of town) for most of my life, since moving to Springfield I have cringed at the thought that if I mention my neighborhood to a local I may sound like some of the East Side Phoenicians who are all too quick to provide “I live in Scottsdale,” followed by a meaningful pause for dramatic effect. Truth be told, Randy and I purchased this small house, built in 1947, for less than we could have a Phoenix condo three years ago. Nonetheless, the associations in Springfield with “living on the lake” are a positive stigma with which I am not comfortable. When asked, I tend to say other things that are also true, like “We live near the power plant,” or “We live in southeast Springfield.” Even if our financial status did fall into the category people would probably assume due to the topography of our backyard – which it does not – I am not the sort of person who would ever want to present myself as privileged or wealthy in the typical sense of the words.

But privileged and wealthy I certainly am. As the thrilled parents of a precious baby who we are raising on one full-time income and with one full-time parent, Randy and I currently have a tighter budget than either of us have had since college. But we certainly recognize how fortunate we are to have, amongst other things, our loving partnership, his income, our healthy child, terrific health care, and our country’s high standard of living. We also live in a house that meets our needs and has a beautiful, restorative view of Lake Springfield. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we love our lives.

Okay, I will get on with presenting my characteristically buried lead: I was disheartened yesterday evening after attending a neighborhood meeting with a group of my fellow privileged community members in a room brimming with hostility. All lakeside residents, all able bodied and visibly healthy. (And, come to think of it, all White... Not that being "white" is inherently a more desirable state of being but unfortunately, in the history of the United States, those of us with fair skin have certainly enjoyed far fewer social obstacles… which is almost the definition of privilege.) The informational meeting was hosted by the Hope Institute to discuss changes the organization will be making to its campus in our neighborhood. The Hope Institute provides residential and educational services to children whose level of autism and/or other developmental challenges is such that they require a higher level of care than can be provided at home with their families or at a mainstream school. Most homes in our neighborhood back up to the lake shore, with fronts facing a wooded area shared on its other side by the Hope Institute’s campus. Apparently, plans are underway for Hope’s dormitory facilities built in the 1960’s to be removed in favor of two new, more child-appropriate, more homelike residences on campus. The modifications will result in fewer buildings on campus, more green space, no intrusion into the surrounding woods and, upon completion of the projects, fewer children residing at the current location; nearly half of the residents will be relocated to smaller homes elsewhere in the community.

However, the seemingly positive developments did not stop most of the neighborhood from essentially expressing disdain for the organization’s entire existence. At the start of the meeting, when each neighbor in attendance was asked to introduce herself, the first to do so said, with the gravest, most dramatic expression possible, “I’m John Doe and I live across the woods from the Hope School, so I hear their generator every Saturday morning.” (Names have been changed to protect individuals from the public embarrassment they rightly deserve.) Seriously? You’re complaining about being inconvenienced by children with special needs because you can occasionally hear the generator that services their home? Doesn’t that seem on par with complaining that a neighbor’s wheelchair ramp is an eyesore, or that the decreased speed limit in a school zone intended to eliminate incidents of children getting hit by cars increases your commute by thirty seconds, or that having to pull over to make way for an emergency vehicle rushing a sweet old lady to the hospital for lifesaving treatment made you late for a cocktail party? But I digress. Later, the third or fourth time the faculty member facilitating the meeting mentioned our lane, she casually referred to it as “Hazel Dell” instead of its full name of “East Hazel Dell Lane” while also pointing to it on a map, prompting a neighborhood lady to scoff loudly, disgusted, and spat, “Get it right!”

Eventually another neighbor basically asked whether the children could just live elsewhere, another if the neighborhood was in danger at any point in the future of the school providing services to more children, and several wanted to know how the construction trucks are going to get to and from campus without inconveniencing the neighborhood by using our road. I am serious. More than one neighbor asked the institute to build a separate road for the construction trucks. I should clarify that a few of the attendees, like me, seemed genuinely interested in better educating themselves about the organization’s work and plans in a non-charged way. (“Non-charged” as in the opposite of the nature of this blog post. I do get it.) But for the most part the neighborhood perspective seemed to be cohesive: Neighborhood residents made it clear to the Hope Institute’s faculty that the school has made “enemies” of the neighborhood in the past by not asking permission before making changes to the campus, and by the fact that the facility’s staff uses the public road to get to work. Yes, you read that right; the same road that eventually leads into our neighborhood first turns into the campus, and it is a scathing injustice that we have to share the first few hundred yards of our quiet, mile-long lane with those darn kids’ caregivers.

So, needless to spell out, I left pretty disgusted. Anyone who has ever had clients, friends, family members or other loved ones with severe physical, emotional or mental challenges knows how fortunate most of us are simply to enjoy our basic independence. We are able to live where and with whom we choose, take classes, choose our work, earn and spend money how and when we like, make whatever we would like to eat whenever we feel like it, leave our homes whenever we would like to spend time outdoors or in the community, carry on friendships and romances and sexual relationships in complete privacy, travel to exciting places and discover and enjoy a thousand other little and not so little things that we take for granted every day. Listening to some of the most privileged, least encumbered residents of Springfield express concern about the “inconveniences” inflicted upon them by the most challenged children in our community was a disappointing display of human insensitivity.

So I came home and ignored my husband all night while I vented my distaste to my laptop. Luckily it is mostly out of my system now, and I suspect that later today I will rediscover my holiday spirit and gratitude, even if I do happen to detect the soft hum of a generator while we stroll down our beautiful, wooded lane. Actually, come to think of it, I will feel especially fortunate if I do.

- Sarah


jeccles72 said...

Disgusted with type of nonsense too!!! Where are our morals the privileged will say these days? And I would say where is your compassion? Good thing I wasn't there! I can't stand people like this, who are out-of-touch with reality. But on another note. I guess when I get an RV and park it in the front lawn of your humble abode, I will be force to draw electricity from your house instead of running the RV's generator. Now I'm inconvenienced! The nerve!. Reminds of the time when I lived in Chicago and the band I played in practiced in the house the guitarist owned. Well some new, obviously from-the -quiet-suburbs moved in to the I-paid-way-too-much-for-this-loft-status-symbol type across the street. There was plenty who lived in the building before they moved there. Well we used to practice alot but no later than 10pm. Well all the sudden Chicago's Finest started to knock on our door when we would be practicing. They said they had a noise complaint and that we would need to turn down or stop playing. Never before did we have any complaints. Heck I never bitched about the gunshots I would hear every now and then. I mean its the city, it comes with the territory. The police did say that they didn't think the noise (music to me) wasn't that loud. So we turned down, hour later they are back.
This time they said they couldn't hear us till they got to the door. The one officer rolled his eyes. He was laughing because he was wondering when they were going to start calling for noise complaints of the "EL" on the other side of that complainants building. I guess some time these people who are displeased with the environment they live in should of done better research before habitating there. Or maybe they should just deal with it. Worst things can happen.

TJ said...

You GO, Girl!!!! I am so proud of you
and love your sarcasm !!!

Life Flipping said...

Thanks for the validation, Jeff! Randy basically said the same thing: "Um, we willingly moved across from a POWER plant. We signed up for occasional noise."

Basically, I think the point is that we can each choose to live in an isolated bubble, or in a community. In a neighborhood, or in a downtown building like you described, residents have to accept (or, hopefully, embrace) that they live amongst others. Music, lawn mowing, construction projects, pets, etc. are all a part of the quirky mix of life in a human setting.

Granted, if something dangerous or inappropriate is going on then a discussion is warranted. General consideration applies, too - for example, I doubt you'd have practiced at your loudest at 2am on a weeknight, and at the meeting I was prepared to become an environmental advocate and ask the institute to modify their plans if their project was going to involve deforestation.

The whole thing brought to mind a quote and one of the "morals of the story" from the giant metaphor that was the show Lost (which I never actually finished...). "We either learn to live together, or we are going to die alone." A little dramatic, but I think it applies :)

- Sarah

WilliamsWorld said...

I would ask the same thing...Was the facility there first or the neighborhood? If the facility was there, then people who moved in should realize where they are living. If the neighborhood, then maybe some of the complaints are warranted...Maybe. Who knows what it was like there before that. But it sounds like a lot of griping.

I can understand being upset with work trucks, etc., if they fly through the neighborhood with no regard for the neighbors, etc. (as some truckers tend to do...not all, but some) I don't think they realize how loud their trucks are to everyone else. The ones that fly through our neighborhood shake our walls and rattle the glass in our home. It does get annoying.

I used to be cool with a lot of things, but I have to say...I get VERY ANNOYED with a neighbor who continuously works on his motorbikes at night in our neighborhood and revs the engines and flies up and down the streets (and we have no through streets in our hood) and I just wonder, "Where is the consideration people used to have?" There is a lack of consideration these days and it drives me NUTS! If you are disrupting your neighbors, then I can understand them being upset about it. I've been on both sides of the issue, don't get me wrong.

And...I'm surprised to hear you live in the Snotsdale (I think you spelled it wrong in your post. :)) of your area! But I'm glad that you are enjoying your "uppity" life. LOL! Just kidding. :) maybe you can spread a little genuine cheer to the area!

Life Flipping said...

Good points, Ms. Williams! :) I have to agree with you that noise pollution in general is a valid issue. And safety issues (i.e. construction trucks possibly traveling too quickly) are always a personal concern of mine as well. So I can't begrudge anyone those concerns! But oh NO you di-in't just call me uppity ;) Ha!