The Mystery of No Smoke

September 4, 2016

On the way home from somewhere, driving through our neighborhood, a woman walking with two children yelled at us, “Slow down!” She had her fist raised and everything.

Joe yelled back, “I’m going 20!”

The speed limit is 25.

Her anger was truly a mystery! Her face was so enraged by our perceived offense that it made me think of a murder plot. This woman was pissed, so much so that she yelled at a stranger right in front of her kids! Dang! And we weren't even speeding!

In the same weekend, we discovered that our downstairs smoke detector is WAY TOO sensitive and we can't figure out the mystery why. Anytime I use the oven over 375 degrees, it inevitably goes off when I open the oven door. The oven’s clean. Nothing’s on fire. But, the smoke detector screams bloody murder anyway, scaring the hell out of our dog Brownie, who raced upstairs the first time and cowered in our closet, behind the clothes.

Now, every time she sees me start the oven, she goes and hides.

I didn’t put these two seemingly unrelated incidents together at the time. They were two random notes I made in my journal - that’s it. But, now I see that they’re kinda the same and it's a mysterious coincidence that they happened around the same time.

Two completely oversensitive things (one a person, one a smoke detector) rushed to an unfair judgement, complained loudly, and consequently left a very bad impression.

I suppose every neighborhood has to have one of “those” people.

Hell, I’m sure I’ve been one of “those” people.

But, don’t you hate “them”?

Just like Brownie questioning her safety every time I open the oven, stupid incidents like these set uncertainty and doubt in motion.

Why was she so angry?

Are all the neighbors like this? (I already knew they weren’t.)

Is getting yelled at a normal thing around here?

Did we pick the wrong house/neighborhood/town?

I thought of Ethan getting yelled at over and over about stupid things like not tucking his shirt in properly or failing to keep a low whisper in the hallway. We got yelled at once and it bothered the crap out of me (maybe most of all because we weren’t guilty of anything). Does Ethan feel like that all the time?

Sure, there’s a time and place for acceptable yelling. Sometimes, you have to yell to be heard.

But, if I’ve learned anything from years of teaching, mothering, preschool directing, and generally being human, it’s that yelling rarely does any good. Neither does being so sensitive to what others are up to that you rush to judgements. All that only makes you look bad, feel bad, and makes people want to run away from you. Maybe we could argue that the woman was protecting her neighborhood from speeders, but her yelling encouraged us to speed just to get away from her. So, I can’t imagine that it worked - even on actual speeders.

“Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding;

a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.”

Proverbs 14:29 The Message