Humm Column: Stevie Rave On

Raised on Robbery

Stevie Rave On, by Steve Scanlon, Columnist, theHumm

February 2014

theHumm's Steve Scanlon

I changed jobs recently and, shortly after I started, the business I was working for was broken into and robbed. I won’t go into detail — suffice to say money was stolen, police were called, and fingerprints taken. There is nothing funny about being robbed; it felt like a lead weight dropping in the pit of my stomach. It makes you realize that the world, at times, just plain sucks.

Now here’s the weird thing about being robbed. It took me completely by surprise. I didn’t see it coming and I wasn’t prepared for it. Twenty years ago I would have expected it. I still wouldn’t have liked it much, but I wouldn’t have been as gobsmacked as I was.

I live in the Village of Westport, but I grew up in Ottawa. When I was growing up, break-ins and robbery were as common as muck. You wouldn’t go a month without a house of somebody you knew being burgled, a car broken into or a bike stolen. It was just the way things were — you adjusted to it. Not being robbed seemed to be the exception. You prepared yourself for the inevitable: someday, somehow, somebody was going to take something of yours and keep it. You did what you could to prevent this from happening — locked doors and windows, chained bikes to posts, locked cars — but eventually, despite all the precautions, you were going to get robbed. Ottawa wasn’t alone with this issue; pick any city in Canada and you’ll get the same thing. Some people are going to take advantage of you when you are vulnerable. In a city, it’s a question of odds — more people, higher odds.

So, now I live in Westport, where neighbors know neighbors, people smile when they see you, and folks go out of their way to help you when you need it. I have a neighbor who dropped off a casserole when she found out the lovely and talented (my wife) had hurt her back. We have another neighbor who clears our driveway every time it snows. Every time it snows! We’ve come home to find presents for our children hanging from a doorknob, with no note or card. When we first moved to Westport, a neighbor baked us a cake. It was like arriving in Mayberry. Kids leave bikes and toys on driveways. We are not special — things like this happen all the time to all kinds of people here in the village. People travel from miles around to trick or treat on Halloween in our town. Why? Because it’s safe (and in this town it’s pretty much one big family reunion). If you forgot to lock your car, chances are you are not going to rush back outside to make sure it’s locked. If you leave the house for a few minutes, chances are you are not going to lock your door. We keep an eye out for each other’s children; we make sure they are safe. If we see strangers near someone’s house, we make sure it’s kosher. We feel secure. We don’t worry as much about our security. Sure, we still lock up when we go out (note to any potential burglars: we lock our doors and I have a big dog that enjoys fresh meat…) but we don’t have sixteen deadbolts and a crossbow aimed at the front door… yet.

I’ve been living in a small town of one kind or another for the better part of twenty years, and have grown to love the lifestyle. I’ve grown used to a small town with no traffic lights and seeing guys hanging around the coffee machine at the corner store. I’ve become accustomed to walking to the post office to pick up my mail and smiling at the people I see on the way. I get a kick out of the fact that the local arena is a second home for some parents. Seeing the same faces around town, whether you know them or not, is just plain cozy. I think it’s fantastic that my kids might just have a little extension to that age of innocence that, potentially, would have been taken away from them if we lived in a city. I feel blessed to have all this and we’re quite prepared to suffer through the inconveniences inherent in small town life, like access to activities for the kids. We adjust to having to drive a distance for some forms of entertainment or to see family and friends. It was a decision we made when we decided to have children.

My problem is (and it’s really not a bad problem to have), I’ve grown small-town complacent. I’ve grown used to not being security conscience all the time. I haven’t bolted, welded, strapped and trip-wired all my doors and windows (potential burglars see above note re: dog and fresh meat) because I didn’t see a threat. I was raised on robbery but I’d let it go… now it’s back and some of the shine has gone from small town life.

So, to the person or persons who robbed the business… you took much more than money, you always do.

The good news is I have to go to the post office today — I’m sure to run into somebody who’ll help put the polish back.