Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Bike on the Front Lawn


Back in the 80’s, I visited a friend on Peak’s Island, Maine and was impressed how her kids could leave their bikes overnight on the front lawn—without locking them up! Leave their houses unlocked, their cars. It helped that it was a small island and there’s not many places a thief could hide (though there was a ferry!). But it was understood that this was a culture of trust in that respect and like all cultures, it fulfilled it’s own prophecy and became taken for granted that this is just the way things are.

By contrast, life in Johannesburg, South Africa is lived behind high gates alarmed and electrified, with armed security guards at the entrance to streets. Plenty of “reasons” why, but once the culture of fear was running, it also perpetuated itself and just became “the way things are.” Within three days there, I couldn’t remember what it was like to have a house with a front lawn that just went to the street with no high gates to hide it.

Here at my daughter’s house in Portland, little Zadie’s tricycle sits out on their front lawn and is still there in the morning. My sister in a small town in California leaves her house unlocked when they go out. I lock my bike everywhere I go in San Francisco and my house when I go out, but I leave my computer and even wallet around in any room at my school without worry. I don’t want to be naïve (I’ve had four bikes stolen in San Francisco, many of them locked!), but it sure feels better to live in a culture of trust than one of fear. And sometimes all it takes is for someone to start the assumption that we will not rob our neighbor for that to begin to fulfill itself.

The most telling example is luggage at airports. Remember how we used to have show our slip to some guard at the baggage claim exit? I haven’t done that in 25 years and despite the fact that anyone could just walk off with anyone else’s luggage (or drive up to baggage claim with someone else driving, hop out of the car and grab a few suitcases), no one does. If you think about it, that's pretty extraordinary. (I hesitate to write this, because now I’ve given some thieves some great ideas! But I’ll assume my blog readers are trustworthy folks—do not post this blog to the general public!).

That’s my thought-du-jour while waiting for my grandson to appear. Oh, I also hopped on a bike (my daughter’s, not her neighbor’s left on his lawn!) and rode over to an old college friend’s house without calling/e-mailing/texting that I was coming! Just showed up, like we used to in my childhood and dropped in! They were there, offered me lemonade, we chatted for ten minutes and I biked back. So simple, yet so rare these days!

Simple pleasures on summer days.

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