On July 1st, 1999, traffic in San Diego's north county came to a stand still as critical mass congealed when road rage sent an already fragile woman over the edge. Janet Lucero may have been the catalyst to an afternoon of commuter hell, but it seems she was prompted by an impatient driver who was unhappy with the way Ms. Lucero was riding her breaks as she came down Valley Grade into Escondido.
The instigating motorist followed Ms. Lucero into a fast-food parking lot, deciding to verbally berate her. What Miss Road Rage didn't bargain for was the fact that the woman, who neighbors describe as a loner, had a gun in her possession. Seeing the gun on the front seat of the car, Miss Road Rage then ran into the nearby restaurant to call the cops. The only crime I can see at this point was Janet's decision to give her gun a ride in to town.
Had the angry motorist acted in a mature way, and not accost Ms. Lucero, Janet would have more than likely gotten her lunch and returned to her home in Ranchita. But due to the actions of a woman whose tantrum was cut short by the sobering reality of a fire arm, commuters all over the county had to wait for a very frightened rabbit to come to her senses, and out of her Honda Civic coupe.
The reason I bring this up is because I see the Janet Lucero breakdown as the latest incident of angry, unhappy people feeling the need to police their fellow citizens. Ride you breaks and go to jail. Granted Janet should not have led the authorities on a low speed chase across the county, but from what I saw from the live footage of the stand off, Miss Lucero was not all there.
Gone are the laid back days of a live and let live Southern California. With more and more people becoming increasingly intolerant, nasty neighbors are now commonplace and civil behavior a thing of the past. Case in point are the family feuds sprouting up all over Encinitas. The most recent one to surface involves some very good friends of mine, and a crazy neighbor who feels that acoustic guitars are intolerable and casual conversations a disturbance of the peace.
My friends, who I will call Sonny and Cher, are being harassed because they choose to use their home as a place to enjoy with family and friends. The neighbor however sees his home as a fortress, and anything that makes his neglected dogs bark, as an evil that must be stopped. Imagine hanging out in your living room giving a friend a guitar lesson, when the cops knock on your door because your crazy neighbor has called to complain about folk music drifting through the neighborhood.
This Nazi neighbor now has Sonny and Cher afraid to have friends over, because that will mean a visit from the Sheriffs Department. It seems that officers are required to check out every complaint, regardless of their frequency or validity. Although my friends are not breaking any laws, they are forced to justify their actions by a neighbor who has no desire to get along with anyone. Psychological warfare has come to suburbia.
When my friends mentioned this predicament to me, I decided to check it out. What I found was two homes with significant space between them and a goat tethered in the nasty neighbor's backyard. No longer concerned with my friends, all I could do was plot the goats liberation. My friends, being of cool minds and practical nature, told me that the last thing they wanted to do was heighten tensions. So instead of animal liberation they have started to use protection spells to ward off the bad vibes emanating from the house at the end of the driveway.
While I am on the subject of bad vibes, I know for a fact I am one of the most cheerful people you are likely to meet walking down the street, that is why I am always taken aback when a friendly hello is greeted with a cold stare. Civility and common courtesy are becoming as rare as the California gnatcatcher. Could it be that over crowding is beginning to take it's toll. When mellow Californians start behaving like angry New Yorkers it is time to reassess exactly what has turned neighbors against neighbors.
Personally, I go out of my way to cultivate friendships in the community. It is my belief that by reaching out in friendship, I can avoid striking out in anger. I also believe that diplomacy is a sign of intelligence that is highly underrated.