Opinion

Crazed California

In a small town nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains I recall welcoming small furry visitors who would drop by our house, sometimes in packs of three. These collarless and very friendly little dogs would stop by our front porch as if visiting an old friend. It would brighten my day, if not cause me to worry why these little guys were out roaming free along a busy North Carolina highway.

Here in the desert of California we have a different type of visitor. They wander in from the desert.

A man materializes out of the shrubs wearing a top hat and a red cape, walking with a cane. He hobbles past the school bus stop, leering at the children waiting for the bus. Just loud enough to be heard by the small children, he mumbles, “Come over here buddy” and “give me a high-five.” He then wanders off into the desert. He has been spotted multiple times.

A disheveled woman dressed in pajamas wanders the neighborhood approaching young children playing in their yards. She attempts to lure them away by asking for directions to the local grocery store and offering them candy if they will come with her. She appears to be drugged. She is spotted a couple of weeks later attempting to break into someone’s house, in broad daylight.

A friend, readjusting to the time zone, stands in his yard looking out over the desert at three in the morning. He hears an unidentifiable sound. Spotting movement to his left, he watches as a figure, hunched over and dragging one leg, crosses through the desert just feet from him. The dark figure doesn’t even give him a glance.

One afternoon as my son was laying down for a nap, I noticed a figure shuffling past my bedroom window. Peering out, I spotted a woman with her young son, lazily strolling through our gated courtyard, as if they lived here. When asked what she needed, she claimed she was looking for a friend. She left in a hurry, but not without checking the car doors parked along the street as she scurried away. We later found evidence that she had been looking through our garage.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these things do not happen in other areas of the country. However, there seems to be an overabundance of strange people wandering around in the desert, and a curious tolerance for crime and attempted crime amongst much of the population. Sometimes, against my better judgment, I scroll through the Facebook page for our community. If the horrible grammar and atrocious spelling doesn’t get me down, the stories posted certainly will. The people here seem to have a skill for explaining these events away. It’s as if the California culture of permissiveness encourages the bizarre, borderline criminal behavior.

A tweeker wandering the community attempting to abduct children? No problem! She’s probably just lonely.

A woman with her child searching your private property for something to take? Not an issue—if she is stealing then that means she’s in need and we should just give her what she wants.

A strange man looking as if he has stepped out of a Stephen King novel, lurking around the elementary school bus stop? Um…maybe he’s rehearsing for his Hollywood debut.

It’s all good. No worries.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Shelly Mateer

Shelly Mateer is a former CIA officer and author of "Single in the CIA, Mission: Stand Down" and the "Mingling in the CIA" series, as well as a children’s picture book, “Mommy Thinks She's a Monster.” She's also the creator of the Cooking in the CIA app and the BurpMitt® product line. Her books are inspired and influenced by her experiences working undercover for the CIA's Directorate of Operations.

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