Monday, July 23, 2012

Attack of the Car Lady

Whew. It’s Monday and I need a vacation from my vacation…

I thought I was being soooo smart, plotting out an illustrious mommy staycation – a kid-free, hubby-free week to rest, write and re-center myself.

I picked a date when my daughter would be in camp, my son at preschool and the hubby in school and work all day. I wanted “me time” – moments of solitude to lie on the sofa, watch reality TV and snack until I am lulled into a high-caloric coma-like nap.

I was all set. But, it backfired BIG TIME.

Soooo…for weeks before the staycation, our neighbor from across the street had been parking her dusty, white car in front of our house. (My car is dusty, too, but my dustiness isn’t imposing upon anyone else.) She hadn’t moved her car for nearly six weeks and it really got on our nerves.

Several times, my husband knocked on her door in hopes of speaking with her to find out what is going on. No one parks in front of her house so why ours?

The woman never came to the door (Had she been kidnapped by the dust police?), so he sent her a letter asking her to move.

No response.

Well, early into my staycation last week, while I am lying on the couch, someone beats on my door like a SWAT team looking for Bin Laden. It was “car lady.”

When I opened the door, she stood there wearing a black shower cap, her head cocked to the side and standing with a stern-faced chick who looked like Roz from “What’s Happening!!”

Car lady told me that the cops put one of those bright orange warning stickers on her vehicle with a notice to move. I said that we hadn’t called them, but that we had been trying to reach her to get her to move it. (We live on the same street as our neighborhood association officer and she will call the police on someone for batting their eyes too quickly. I suspect she is the one who called the cops.)

Car lady said she had the right to park in front of our house – even though it would leave no room for our visitors – because it was a public street and, besides, she likes the shade underneath our tree. Never mind that when she is parked there, WE DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO THE SHADY PLACE.

I relayed the message to the hubby and he told me to tell car lady she had better move that car by Friday or it’s going down. I went to her house to give her the message and, of course, she didn’t answer. So, I wrote her a nice, passive aggressive note.

The car still sat.

Later that day, my husband called the cops to find out what we could do about the situation. They came to our home and put another orange sticker on her car.

Once the cop pulled off, I settled down and figured that between my note and the police sticker, the car would be gone by morning.

Well, the next morning it was still there. Now, I am pissed.

A few hours later, I hear a noise outside, look out the window, see her get in her car and drive off. “VICTORY,” I think to myself.

Well, about an hour later, the car is back, sans the orange sticker.

I am fuming now.

I called the police. When they arrived, I told him the story. He knocked on her door to see if she was there. I see out the window that he is talking to someone so I figure it must be her roommate or neighbor.

I walk outside to see what is going on and the closer I get to the womab, she looks a little familiar. I asked, “Are you (Car Lady)?”

“Yes,” she says.

I did not recognize her without the shower cap.

From the first moment I opened my mouth, she did not hear one word I said, she just screamed out, “YOU ARE A LIAR! YOU…ARE…A…LIAR!!!”

She is all in my face. My blood is boiling, and at that moment I was thanking God that my parents hadn’t raised me to be a knife-wielding hothead because I wanted to cut a sistah.

Anyhoo, she said that she had the right to park in my shade. The officer said that he would check the laws to see who was right.

He left to check and when I looked out the window I see that one of car lady’s guests is now parked in my husband’s usual space, leaving him no choice but to park in front of someone else’s home.

I just cried – not from sadness, but from the anger of not being able to do anything.

Turns out, car lady DOES have the law on her side. So, each day I have to see her dusty car parked in my optimal shade and PRAY TO JESUS that I don’t mistakenly sideswipe it with Chevy Tahoe.


Is it time to go back to work, yet?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Do me a favor: thank a journalist

I still remember my first day working at The Birmingham News. I wore a peanut butter brown pants suit, heels (a little overdressed for a print journalist, I know) and was green as can be. When I walked into the building and got my badge that read REPORTER, I was on Cloud Nine.

All my life I wanted to be a writer and tell stories. They gave me that chance.

In the newsroom, one of the first things I spotted was a saying taped to an editor’s computer monitor that read, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Yikes, I thought, these people mean business.

During my tenure there, I got to work alongside some of the best editors and writers anywhere. They inspired me, pushed me and challenged me to have an unquenchable desire to be a great writer and seeker of the truth.

Within the community, the name “Birmingham News” carried a lot of weight. People allowed me in their homes, told me their funny stories, shared their tales of horror; they trusted me to be honest, thorough and give their story wings.

Fast forward to today: I am long gone from the News, but am still a big fan. Now, word is that in the fall they will print only three newspapers a week. Layoffs are inevitable. 

That makes me sad.

Call me old fashioned, but there is nothing like sitting down with a crisp broadsheet and flipping through the Local, LifeStyle and Entertainment sections. You clip the stories you like so you can read them again and again. You remember your favorite bylines and think of the writer as a friend.

I know the value of getting news instantly online, but what of the morning ritual of waking up, getting out of bed and heading out the door to the porch with an expectation of great stories?

Those pages represent the immense work that goes into making a great newspaper. Every day, while the city sleeps, passersby the News building can see the lights on and in the windows silhouettes of bobbing heads. Inside, reporters, editors and designers are putting something together that will reveal a greater truth about who we are as a community and where we are headed.

They are the ones who, in search of a story, racked up an ungodly amount of parking tickets so they can stick around City Hall and get “that interview,” risked life and limb, ran from dogs, dodged bullets, drove into shady areas, chased storms and politicians just to get the truth.

For those reporters, who are now trying to figure out Plan B, you are in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine how you must feel when you were born to be, and only want to be, a newspaper journalist.

So, on behalf of the community who will certainly miss the daily paper, thank you for all you have done. It won’t soon be forgotten.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Will black folks turn away from Obama?

When President Barack Obama announced his support of gay marriage last week, you could hear a collective sigh in much of the black community.

Moments after the story began to trend on the Internet, my inbox began to fill up with messages from loved ones lamenting, “It’s a sad day” and “Who am I supposed to vote for now?”

African Americans have historically been conservative Christians, which means that they consider gay marriage in violation of what the Bible deems acceptable by God. Pres. Obama’s words, for many, were like a kick in the gut. The man they adore – the one with the brilliant mind and rock star swag, the one who can belt out an Al Green tune and give speeches like Martin – had let them down.

This past Sunday, the effects were still being felt. At the church I attend, the pastor expressed his displeasure with the president’s announcement and the congregation signified with a chorus of “Amens.”

"I am disappointed, Mr. President," he said. "I am very disappointed."

But, is this enough to make African Americans shift their vote to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney?

I don’t think so.

Although gay marriage is a divisive, and for some, nonnegotiable issue, many African Americans would feel like race traitors if they voted against the president.

When Pres. Obama was elected in 2008, many African Americans wept. It was, for them, the fulfillment of a dream that seemed too big to even wish for in this country. He represented, and still represents, the hope of African Americans. 

On that election night, many blacks thought about their great-great-grandparents who had been slaves, and who could not have even fathomed such a historic event. It was the ultimate validation.

For that reason, I believe that many blacks would not want to be the one to vote against the black president and end the high of having a “brother” in the White House. Plus, Pres. Obama’s announcement comes months away from the actual election, and the future news cycles – that will surely be filled with crime reports, unemployment numbers, etc. – will likely cause the gay marriage issue to drop toward the bottom of the rung of what is important to a great majority of people.

Some African Americans are upset now, but I believe that when all is said and done, in November, they are still going to vote for Pres. Obama. What last week's announcement did do, however, was get his named added to many of their prayer lists.