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Encounters with friends & strangers

When Life Gives You Lemonade Stands, You Get Yourself Evicted!

, , , , , | Friendly | December 25, 2021

We have our very own neighborhood HOA monster who often thrills us with her unwanted interferences. From calling the police on neighborhood kids for setting up a lemonade stand to putting notes on everyone’s doors telling us that we “need” to seek her approval before having a garage/yardsale at our own homes because she doesn’t like a lot of cars parked on “her street” as they upset her dog and scare her children, or telling everyone to not allow their children to ride their bikes past her house, and trying to dictate what color Christmas lights we should put up, it has been never-ending entertainment. Usually, I laugh and ignore her. This last time she forced me to engage.

The family directly across from me is Hispanic, and they are some of the nicest, most thoughtful people that I have ever met. They have a son who is ten years old now, and for the last few years, he has helped many of us and our elderly neighbors with chores around our houses, and he never asks for any money. Of course, many of us give him money anyway, but if you know him, you know he doesn’t do these things for money. He does it because it makes him feel good to help people. He told me one time that he likes to help people and make them smile.

His family has lived in the neighborhood for many years, even before our dear HOA monster moved in and tried to take over. It seems like she has always had something against this boy. Another mean old man and woman in our neighborhood also don’t like him because of his ethnicity and have tried to cause him trouble before.

He and a couple of other neighborhood kids set up a lemonade stand in his front yard with the goal of raising money to donate to the local children’s hospital in the next town over that recently treated one of their friends from school for injuries from a farm accident. They have a nice stand set up that his father helped them build and a large painted sign saying that they are collecting money for the children’s hospital. Our neighborhood is in a rural area; we have no sidewalks, but the road is wide with room to pull off and stop. Many people ride by on their way to town and back. They are doing a good amount of business at their lemonade stand.

[HOA Monster] decides that he and his friends are intending to keep the money and not donate it at all. She calls the sheriff’s office and accuses these children of defrauding a charity. She also calls the local newspaper to announce this major fraud going on in our neighborhood. As I said, we live in a small town, so the newspaper actually sends someone out to see what’s going on, but not before the police show up.

When the deputies arrive, a few of us notice them right away as we do not see them much in our neighborhood. [HOA Monster] also sees them arrive and marches down her driveway holding her dog. I swear this Yorkie has the same haircut as her, but it looks better on the dog; the dog is also more well-behaved.

She starts yelling about how the kids are using the children’s hospital’s name to collect money to spend on themselves and how they should all be arrested. Also, people are stopping in cars and parking “on her street” and scaring her dog, who looks like he wants to get down and play with the kids.

After her tirade, the deputy turns and asks the kids for their side of the story, and that is when [HOA Monster] makes her first fatal error. She screams at the deputy:

HOA Monster: “I am the one who pays your salary. It’s your job to do as I say, not take the word of some border-jumping Mexicans!”

She really hadn’t noticed that the deputy is himself Hispanic. I have a hard time not laughing out loud as the deputy starts talking to my young neighbor in Spanish. The look on [HOA Monster]’s face is priceless. After talking with the young man, his friends, and his father, he is satisfied that they are, indeed, intending to donate the money.

But [HOA Monster] is not to be denied her justice against these children who have committed this vile offense on “her street” and insists:

HOA Monster: “They don’t have a permit to operate a business and should be written a ticket and forced to close down. Besides, no one asked me if it was okay to open a lemonade stand in my neighborhood.”

At this point, the deputies have had enough of her, and so have I.

Deputy: “There’s no law against having a roadside stand; no permit is needed. As long as your stand is on your property and far enough back from the road, it’s legal.”

We have farmers with roadside fruit and vegetable stands all over this county. I don’t know where [HOA Monster] is originally from, but it isn’t around here.

It has been about an hour since we have all been out in the street, and I ask her, loud enough for everyone to hear:

Me: “Where are your children while you are out here in the street?”

HOA Monster: *Snidely* “It’s really none of your business, but if you must know, my children are playing in my swimming pool in my back yard.”

Me: “So, while you are out here b****ing about someone else’s kids, you left two children under the age of six all alone in a swimming pool? Your little girl is around three years old, and you left her and her brother, who is around five, alone in a swimming pool?”

That makes both of the deputies take an immediate interest in her and she visibly shrinks; it’s like watching the air going out of a balloon. The lemonade stand is completely forgotten about and things shift to her.

Deputy: “We need to go to your house and make sure that your children are safe.”

That is exactly what they did. After making sure that her children were, indeed, okay, the deputies came back and asked several of us if she often leaves her children alone like that. I wanted to say that she did, but I told the truth and said that I didn’t know; others said the same thing.

I don’t know what happened with that, but a “for sale” sign went up in her front yard about three weeks later.

Because she had called the newspaper about this to make sure that everyone knew about her stopping this major criminal activity, there was a story about it in our local paper several days later making sure that her fame as a monster neighbor was well known.

That’s Just Plain COLD

, , , , , , , | Friendly | December 24, 2021

If you want to book a large table for your Christmas party at a restaurant, you need to order and pay for your meals in advance. In November, you think, “Roast turkey with all the trimmings? Yum!” But a week before Christmas, by now you hate the sight of turkey, and you know you are having it again next week. During the meals, it’s like watching military exercises — the precision of those teams of cooks and servers moving like an army, serving more meals than they usually do in a week each night. There is no room for specifications or special orders that haven’t been informed about and paid for in advance.

My sports team had organised Christmas dinner at a pub to commemorate a successful year. As the meals we had ordered a month ago started arriving, it was clear some dishes were more impressive than others. My — ahem — friend expressed her disappointment that [meal #1] she had chosen looked relatively unappealing. Then, a few moments later, the waitress came out.

Waitress: “I’ve got three more [meal #2]s.”

My friend’s hand shot up.

Friend: “Yes, I ordered [meal #2]!

And she shamelessly took someone else’s dinner. When the final dish was brought out, the poor team member had to accept the inferior dish that was all that was left. I still remember her disappointed face.

I didn’t say anything. For a moment, I was just shocked that she would do something so blatant in front of me, and by the time I regained my composure, she had started eating, so nothing I could say would rectify the situation.

Some Children Don’t Understand “No,” And Some Adults Are Worse

, , , , , | Friendly | December 24, 2021

After a family emergency, I’m asked to look after my little nephew. I decide to take him to the seaside to keep him occupied.

He has a great day. We walk the beach and the pier, go on rides, and have lunch. On the way back to the car, we walk past a sweets and ice cream shop.

I agree he can buy something small for later. Unfortunately, he spots a massive peanut butter cookie cake sitting by the till. He’s tired and wants sweets, and he starts to get a little upset when I tell him he needs to pick something else that’s smaller.

Something too big would make him sick, he’s not allowed peanut butter, and we agreed on a LITTLE something.

Cashier: “We have smaller cookies in that style.”

Me: “Actually, what other flavours do you have?”

Nephew: *Getting more upset* “But I wanted that one.”

Me: “Look! They have lots more over here; this one is your favourite.”

Nephew: “I want that one.”

Me: “We’ve been over this; you need to choose another one. Look, they have cookie lollies over here.”

From behind us, this old woman chimes in.

Old Woman: “Oh, just give him the one he wants, for Pete’s sake!”

Me: “Look, this has nothing to do with you. You’re confusing him.”

Old Woman: “Fine, I’ll buy it, then!” *To my nephew* “Can’t have you going without, cutie.”

Me: “Don’t you dare. Mind your own business.”

By this point, my nephew is confused and more upset than he would have been. I order him a few different flavours and cheer him up with a promise of one more ride.

We go outside. 

Me: “How is your cookie?”

Nephew: “Mmm, good!

Me: “I’m sorry you couldn’t have the one you wanted, but you know your mum doesn’t like you having it.”

Nephew: “I know. It just looked so good.”

After several stops to look at stray caterpillars, retie shoelaces, etc., the old woman catches us up.

Old Woman: “Here you are, cutie. I bought this for you.”

She tries to hand him a paper bag, but he hides behind me. I open it up to see a single peanut butter cookie inside.

Me: “Seriously? I’ve told you to mind your own business. He can’t have peanuts. How hard is it for you to mind your own business?!”

Old Woman: “Oh, nonsense. One little cookie won’t hurt.”

Me: “Yes! Yes, it will!”

I thrust the cookie back at her and left in a hurry. She started to shout after me that I was a bad parent, something about allergies being fake, and other nonsense. Thankfully, my nephew seemed to not be as bothered and the rest of the day was salvaged.

My Eyes Are Up Here. LOOK INTO MY EYES!

, , , , | Friendly | December 23, 2021

I’m on a train going to work. At the next station, two people join me in the four-seater: a beautiful young twenty-something woman and a guy around forty or so. She sits next to me, takes off her coat, and dives into a book.

The minute she has her coat off, the guy actually LEANS FORWARD to stare at her breasts. I frown at him. The woman looks up and frowns too. The creepy guy keeps staring. The woman sighs, puts a bookmark in her book, sets it on the table, and SNAPS her fingers in the guy’s face!

Woman: *Very fast, without stuttering once* “Look into my eyes, look into my eyes! The eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes, look into my eyes… Three, two, one…” *Snaps her fingers again* “You’re under. You will not, I repeat not look at my chest again. Boobs do not concern you. You no longer care about boobs! Three, two, one.” *Snaps her fingers again* “You’re back in the room.” 

She then continues to read as if nothing happened. The guy splutters in utter disbelief. He has no idea what’s going on and, being in the Netherlands, probably didn’t even understand her. He tries to get some support out of me

Creepy Guy: *In Dutch* “Can you believe this stupid chick? I didn’t do anything wrong! If anything, I was complimenting her!”

Me: “Computer says no.” 

Because of the ongoing health crisis, I left out the signature cough. The guy got up to sit somewhere else and the woman and I had a nice conversation about our shared Little Britain interest. She was actually Dutch, as well!

The Toddling Adventures Of The Baby Whisperer

, , , , , | Friendly | December 22, 2021

I’ve been volunteering with both special needs and neurotypical kids for years, which means any time I’m visiting family or friends and there are children that need to be taken care of, I’m naturally the one left in charge of them. That’s fine with me since I really do love kids and enjoy watching them.

It’s pretty common for children, especially kids with delayed speech development, to be taught some basic sign language to help them express simple concepts without words. I’ve been around kids taught to sign long enough that I’ve picked up all the standard signs through osmosis.

I’m at a pool party at a friend’s house. I’ve offered to keep an eye on one toddler so her mother can get into the pool. The girl is very communicative, babbling nonstop, and surprisingly good with her signs, given her age. At one point, she approaches me, babbling unintelligibly the entire time.

Me: “Did you want something?”

She signs for food.

Me: “You want to eat something?

She nods.

Me: “What did you want to eat?”

The girl takes my finger and pulls me along to where she has been sitting, and I see there is a can of toddler-bite-sized snacks sitting on the table near her. I pick them up and show them to her.

Me: “Is this what you wanted?”

She starts babbling more excitedly, reaching up toward the snack can in what is a clear “I want” gesture regardless of not being a proper sign. I quickly get confirmation from her mother that the girl is allowed to have more before returning to the girl.

Me: “Your mommy said you are allowed to have some. Do you know how to say, ‘Please’?

She signs, “Please.”

Me: “Oh, very good! I’d be happy to help such a nice girl.”

I pour some more snack bites on her plate.

Me: “Do you know how to say, ‘Thank you’?”

Surprisingly, considering how hard it is to teach “thank you” to such young kids, the girl manages a decent approximation of the gesture.

Me: “You’re welcome!”

As I return to my seat, I see one of my friends staring at me as if impressed.

Friend: “You can understand her? That just sounds like gibberish to me.”

I realize he thought I could understand the girl’s constant babbling. I consider telling him the truth but decide that would ruin the fun.

Me: “Yep, that’s me: the baby whisperer.”

For the rest of the day, he would occasionally ask me to “translate” the toddler’s babbling out of curiosity. Instead, I translated what she was probably thinking based on her body language and actions. He never caught on that I couldn’t magically understand babbling.