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NEXT DOOR.  Some well meaning internet inventor said to himself one day, what can I do to stem the tide of social media deteriorating the ability of humans to interact as well, humans. I know, I’ll invent a new website so that neighbors never have to leave their swivel chairs to talk to other people living on the same block. Great idea. So now when those sirens are blaring and tires are screeching and you hear metal twisting into metal, you no longer have to walk to the corner to see who’s dead. You can just get on NEXT DOOR and type “Hey, anybody know what that noise is on the corner of Artesia and Yukon?” And get replies like, “Not sure, could be an accident” or “Maybe the circus was in town and one of the elephants got loose and smashed into a car, yuck yuck”.  “Could happen”, chimes in Floyd from Dublin. DUBLIN? Really? I have been living in North Torrance for 30 years, and there has never been a neighborhood called “Dublin’ until NEXT DOOR. Did I miss another potato famine? And the comments go on and on speculating about what happened. And not one, not one of these people, not even the ones living on the corner of Artesia and Yukon who could have just got up and opened the blinds and looked out their window can tell you what happened.  Two days and two hundred comments later and I go to the Daily Breeze- where the news used to belong- to find out what happened.

I am reasonably sure that the person who invented NEXT DOOR had a best friend or maybe a college roommate who invented RING. You know, that camera with the quality of an old disposable Kodak that you can hang on your front door and sleep soundly at night knowing your house is protected with its own virtual SWAT team? That is, until a cat walks across your porch at 3am and RING starts screaming at you that you are under attack so go check your front door. But when an actual human, who may have nefarious intentions walks up to your door, you get a video of a gray blob with eyebrows that you will never be able to pick out in a police lineup. My kids want RING and surveillance cameras now. My younger one insisting we need it, cause who knows who is going to storm the new studio he has. No, I say, if I have to live with security cameras, I will move first and sonny boy, if you are doing anything out there that is going to attract criminals, stop it. In my 62 years I have never known anyone whose house was robbed other than one person who left his doors wide open at 2am and went out for a burger or something. Might as well have put a sign on the corner, saying, ‘robbers this way’. Nope, I will not ever put surveillance cameras at my house, I say, to which my older son replied, “Really, what are YOU doing that you don’t want cameras here?” Let’s move on.

I particularly like the gunshot versus firecracker debate. It’s 3am on a Saturday night in December. You live four blocks from some of the biggest illegal gun dealers in Gardena, take a guess what it is. But no, the debate rages on. I hope it was a firecracker. This from Earl. Well, what else could it be? This from Ursula who actually lives on the same block as the gun dealers. I want to visit one of those gun dealers right about now.

Then there are the NEXT DOOR political debates. Nothing like a coyote sighting to make neighbors debate politics. Before NEXT DOOR, I never knew there were coyotes in our neighborhood and frankly, I could have gone to my grave without that piece of information. I love the ‘Hey, somebody is chasing a coyote down Van Ness Avenue” type posts. How is that even physically possible, when the only people who even KNOW the coyote is on Van Ness are sitting at their computers on NEXT DOOR!! And these posts always devolve into a political slugfest.   Damn those Democrats, allowing the coyotes to come to the city and get free food by eating our cats and dogs and not earning the food like they should be. And then the rebuttal; damn those Republicans wanting to make those coyotes pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the wilderness and get food via the survival of the fittest, eating of smaller, weaker coyotes method. It never ends. I was so much happier when I thought all the rabid liberals lived in North Torrance and all the ultra conservatives lived in South Torrance.   As a PTA President for eight years in this neighborhood, I also have the unfortunate pleasure of recognizing a lot of the NEXT DOOR names and knowing first hand the person is an idiot. O look, Mary Jo’s crazy mother is commenting and to quote Paul Simon, she’s still crazy after all these years.   I was happier when I didn’t know how many abject morons lived in my neighborhood.

The most fascinating thing about NEXT DOOR, though, is you never know what subject is going to get everyone up in arms. And it’s never what you think. It’s never the coyotes, nor the fact we are being robbed every five minutes. It’s things like “The Malevolent Mailmen” and “The Vodka Lady” that can keep the comments coming.

One day, someone’s RING – and I use the word loosely- camera caught a mailman pulling into her driveway with the little mail truck and throwing her package on to her porch. He never got out of the mail truck. Just hurled the package right out the truck window. My God, the furor this caused. People debated what to do about this rogue civil servant. Call his boss? Go down and report him to the Postmaster General? Behead him?  It went on and on. Sometimes I can’t resist. So I commented that a good friend of mine is a high level supervisor with the Postal Service and the law is that if you do not write FRAGILE or HANDLE WITH CARE or DON’T THROW THIS PACKAGE OUT THE WINDOW on it , according to Postal regulations, mailmen are within their rights to just chuck it out the window. I was thanked for clearing that up by a few people. I still chuckle.

Then there is the Vodka Lady. Follow closely. There is apparently a woman who goes to the liquor store and buys lots of those little airplane size vodka bottles, drinks them in the street and then leaves a trail of these like a drunken Gretel sans Hansel, all along a walkway into a cul de sac and onto some lawns in that cul de sac. And someone suggests, perhaps, just perhaps, that she is an alcoholic and doesn’t want her family to know she drinks. And this is pondered and debated for a while. And then a plan is hatched and the villagers with their RING cameras and torches decide to collect the bottles for a few weeks and dump them on her lawn. What? No, we can’t , say the cooler heads that prevail. There is a rumor of a possible abusive husband who no one here has actually ever seen who could then find out she drinks if that plan is carried out.   The thought that maybe the husband is a bit perturbed because his wife is a raging alcoholic doesn’t seem to cross their comments or minds. And so the virtual hand wringing continues. What to do? What to do? Talk to her, someone timidly suggests. She used to throw cigarette butts on my lawn and I asked her to stop and she did, they say. Well, why didn’t you include vodka bottles in that conversation, genius? And it goes on and on. By this time, I have polished off a fifth of vodka myself and threw the bottle at my computer. This is a fresh story folks, I know not the outcome but I do have an update. There is still division amongst the commenters between just putting out a trash can for her or talking to her and seeing what the problem is because and I quote, “people sometimes do things when drunk that they wouldn’t do when sober.” I’ll continue to keep an eye on the developments here.

And finally, the ever popular, “does anyone know why there is a helicopter flying overhead?”   Now mind you, there are helicopters in this North Torrance/Gardena neighborhood every night of the week. The only thing that changes is on Friday and Saturday nights it ramps up to the equivalent of the opening credits of the old TV show MASH. Our neighborhood has changed drastically in the past several years. The real title of that movie was Straight Outta Compton and into Gardena.   I have been so tempted to do a post that asks,” Hey, anyone know why there are no helicopters flying overhead today?” But I’m also too afraid of the comments. Well there you have it, folks, a website that gives new meaning to the old saying “too much information”. So if you really want to know how badly your neighborhood has deteriorated or just how nutty your neighbors can be, get yourself a RING camera and sign up for NEXT DOOR.