• Paula Tiberius

You Do Not Monitor Me!

This weekend always makes me think about the difference between Americans and Canadians. I’m a dual citizen, so I celebrate Canada Day on July 1st, and the 4th of July three days later. Sometimes I’m reminded of how different the two nations are.

I love talking to my neighbor Edward because he always has some philosophical slant on the mundane, which he belts out in his booming voice. He’s a six-foot-four African American man with an incredible knack for gardening. Last time he told me that taking care of the fallen leaves on my front walk was a lesson in patience.

Another time I found out he was in the Navy during Vietnam. He said he knew something was up in the White House back in 1963, but they didn’t get the relayed message about Kennedy’s death until four days later. I thought about his partner Steven and ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.’ I guess that didn’t really come up back then.

One day we were talking out in front of our Silverlake homes which are perched on top of a steep hill, the street rolling down in either direction at an incline that will definitely prohibit Violet from learning how to ride her bike on her own block. Edward had just finished weed-wacking the public grassy slope opposite, and I complimented him on taking care of that plot, thinking of the Christmas tree he ‘plants’ on it every year for decoration.

Suddenly a smallish Australian man came running down the stairs of the house kitty corner to mine.

“Hi, sorry to interrupt. We’re filming up here and we’re picking up your voices on the microphones. Could you possibly keep it down for a few minutes?”

Being a filmmaker myself I automatically agreed and made a joke about his gall in not wanting to listen to our riveting discussion about the weather. The Aussie laughed in a rushed way and looked over at Edward who was silent. His brow was deeply furrowed.

“What are you saying?” Edward was registering the situation a lot slower than me, and he was not liking it. The Australian summarized his request, causing Edward to bow his head and shake it in a way that was making the Australian very uncomfortable. Edward took his time choosing his words, then the booming voice rang out, “You do not monitor me!”

While I had to agree that this Australian guy certainly did not monitor Edward in any way other than having picked his voice up on a microphone, I also abhor confrontation and immediately started wincing. I opened my mouth to say something soothing but couldn’t think of anything. The way Edward had said “monitor” like “monit-uhh” was so cool. He’s originally from the South so he’s got that drawl. I wondered if Aussie noticed he was in the presence of a true American. I certainly felt it.

“You do not monitor this woman!”  Edward pointed at me, then back to Aussie. “We speak, what, maybe every two weeks in front of our houses like this. Who do you think you are? I own this house. I pay taxes. Do you live there?” Edward gestured to the house up the short steep walk. The Australian looked up the walk, then back at Edward, then to me. He was unable to speak. Good thing Edward wasn’t done. He waved his big hand toward Aussie. “Get on back up there! Go on, now!” He was shooing him away!

My Canadian non-confrontational roots were so exposed I felt like I was going to shrivel up and die. And apparently Aussie felt the same way because he scurried back up those steps as fast as I’ve ever seen a grown man scurry. I felt bad for the guy but I also felt that glee of being on the winning side of a fight.

Edward was still looking up the walk, a deep frown on his face. He began to shake his head. “That movie they’re shooting up there. They towed my car a few month ago because they decided they owned our street suddenly,” he said. I thought, hey – they towed my car too! But was it the same production? I would give Aussie the benefit of the doubt. But why? Why am I cutting him a break? Why am I so eager to help him shush me? I need to stand up for myself! Be more American!

“You know, I was weed-wacking a minute ago. He didn’t say a peep then! I’m gonna go weed wack some more. See if they pick that up with their damn microphones!” Edward picked up his wacker and powered it up. He held it up high and its buzz bit the air. He smiled at me, his white teeth flashing as he laughed.

Happy 4th Edward!

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