In truth, we live in a planned community, a clean and shiny place that didn’t even exist before 2001 except as 2,500 acres of farmland. It is apparently ranked as the 6th best master planned community in the country by whoever it is that ranks master planned communities. We’ve got more than 10,000 residents, two pools with two more on the way, a ton of schools, parks, ponds, trails, soccer fields, football fields, baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and a shopping plaza with a grocery, a bunch of restaurants, a gym and a movie theater.
We also have about 40 or so independent Facebook pages, each one devoted to one aspect or another of living life where we do.
There is a Facebook page to let people know about upcoming events. There is a Facebook page where you can find out who is a reliable plumber or where to go to find a Spanish tutor. There is a Facebook page to buy stuff and a Facebook page to sell stuff. There is a Facebook page for lost and found pets. There is a Facebook page specifically for the trading of kids toys, clothes and accessories.
My favorite, however, is the Facebook page that was set up to let your fellow planned community members know stuff they should be concerned about. The Alerts page. I love the Alerts page.
Please understand, crime is so low in our area as to be laughable. We live in an entire ecosystem that is specifically designed so you don’t have to be alert about shit. Nature abhors a vacuum and planned communities apparently abhor the fact that there is very little around here to abhor which makes the alerts page awesome.
Recent posts included someone whose morning paper was being stolen from their front yard, someone outraged at a car rolling through a stop sign and a repair man who went to the wrong house. This is what passes for high drama.
Occasionally there is something there that legitimately falls into the category of “something we should be alerted to” for example when it turned out that a local art teacher got arrested for child pornography. Strangely, this didn’t get as many replies (3) as when someone walking down the street got water poured on them by some teenagers (8) or when someone parked in a perfectly legal but not necessarily safe manner (24).
Recently, a woman posted that she had seen a suspicious van on her street. It was, she said, driving around like it was casing the neighborhood. It was a white panel van with a ladder on the top. With the exception of Priuses, there isn’t a vehicle you see around our neighborhood more than white panel vans. There is construction everywhere. You don’t get to be the number six master planned community in the country if you aren’t constantly building. There are hundreds of construction, maintenance and repair guys in our area every day. Essentially this woman was freaked out by something only slightly less ubiquitous than sparrows.
It got tons of replies, many of which simply said something along the lines of “I’m so sorry this happened to you.”
What does that even mean? Sorry what happened? She saw a van? There is a variation of the “sorry you are going through this” post every time someone reports seeing teenagers wandering around the park, someone racing up and down the street, or the garbage men being late. It tells me two things. The people in our neighborhood are, for the most part, very nice and are also, often, completely lacking in perspective.
My favorite post ever has since been deleted, which is a shame. It said, “Multiple shots fired at the corner of [Happy] Street and [Nice] Place. Huge police presence.”
People, as you might expect, freaked the fuck out. The streets (whose names I have changed to protect the innocent) are the central drags in our little Pleasantville. When someone’s planter being stolen off their porch is big news, actual shots fired with the bonus of a huge police presence is like our Kennedy Assassination.
Except, of course, it turns out there were no shots fired. There were firecrackers. Three of them. The huge police presence was two cars, one of which left almost right away. As the facts trickled in, the replies to the post slowly evolved from people freaking out because we were suddenly living in Beirut circa 1984 to people being pissed that they were in their panic rooms for nothing.
Then something funny happened. Someone, who was totally not me, started suggesting that perhaps the perpetrators had fled in a white panel van. Someone else joined in, saying that if only the people with the firecrackers had illegally parked in front of the grocery store, we would have been alerted to their reign of terror earlier. The whole thing devolved into everyone making fun of the fact that nothing ever really happens around here that is alert worthy.
Some of these people are spazzes, but most of them are okay. I’m going to send that in as a pulled quote to be included in the PR packet for when we make our move towards the number five master planned community spot.
Be alert, number five. We’re coming for you.