A Scary Morning

4 01 2011

Yair and I like being independent and rockin our own schedule. Nevertheless, we enjoy being with the local Jewish community for Shabbat. Since several friends in the area have offered to host us, parking has never been a problem.  This past Friday night, we found a quiet spot alongside a local park (not in front of anyone’s home) just a half block down from our friend’s house.

Imagine our surprise on Saturday morning when we were awakened at 8:20 am by an aggressive-bordering-on-violent pounding on our window. The thudding immediately startled us out of our sleep and I wondered if the window was about to shatter.  Yair and I had slept “downstairs” that night on the sofa bed, and opened our blinds to face an angry man who began to yell at us.

Get out of here!  You’re not welcome.  We don’t want your kind around here!  You’re not allowed to be here!” and so forth.

Yair kept his cool, though I was thoroughly freaked out by this potentially threatening man who had assaulted our vehicle.  Half-asleep, I considered reaching for the gun for our own security.  The man refused to tell us his name and continued his barrage against us.  Realizing that the guy was probably on his way to synagogue (dressed in a suit on Saturday morning in a Jewish neighborhood), I whispered to Yair to tell the man that we were guests of the X family down the street and that we were only in town for Shabbat.  Boy, did he make a 180.

Well, that changes everything.  I didn’t know that you were part of the community.  You see, we’ve had problems with RVers in the past parking in this neighborhood.  A lot of these guys are drug dealers or child molesters or even dump their fecal matter in the streets, and I have to protect the community.  I’m a detective with the police here and my name is X.”

Yair appreciated his change in tone, but still explained that pounding on someone’s private property and yelling at them is no way to interact with people and is a very scary way to wake up.  On the one hand, I understood the man’s concern that there were ‘strangers’ in his neighborhood and I understood how someone being Jewish puts them on more familiar, comfortable and therefore trustworthy grounds.  On the other hand, if we had been just as nice people but not Jewish, we probably would have been booted out of there, and RVers are not a bad lot!  Every person should be treated with respect no matter their background (within reason).

The detective returned a few hours later and gently knocked on our front door.  He proceeded to apologize for his earlier behavior and invited us to his home to join his family for Shabbat lunch – an odd and unexpected turn of events.  We turned down the invitation as we had prior plans (and I was still a little spooked by / angry at him), but it was a jarring morning that made me appreciate the permanent hook-up that we have on private property behind a locked gate in Van Nuys.

One of many lessons learned:  Small town policemen are super helpful and welcoming, but steer clear of the LAPD!

PS- Speaking of assumptions that people make about strangers, check out this fascinating article on the Chinese perception of Jews.

posted by ayo




9 responses

4 01 2011

Wow, that aggressive nature is totally uncalled for. I can understand if they have had problems in the past, but he has no right to bang on your vehicle for parking on a public street. I assume you guys weren’t breaking any laws (i.e. no parking, restricted parking on the street), and he should have just minded his own business unless he saw you do something horrible.

As a police officer he should be familiar with the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”.

4 01 2011

You have a gun? Guns scare me. Make love not war. Quack.

4 01 2011


I agree completely. LA does have a sporadically enforced law against street camping, however the way to talk to someone about it is not by banging on their window. The few experiences I’ve heard about involve friendly police officers politely letting people know that they can’t sleep in their vehicles.


I don’t think that the detective’s actions speak badly about the LAPD. Yes, they have a reputation, but his coming by wasn’t in a police car, undercover, or even as an off-duty cop. He was an aggressive (until we found the ‘instant calm’ button) and protective guy, but just because he is LAPD doesn’t mean that the LAPD is something to steer clear of.

What I thought to be an interesting observation from that morning is that in five months of parking wherever we want, the only real bad experience we had was in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Fortunately, that bad experience was very short-lived, but still, how ironic.

4 01 2011
Susan Blanchard

Speaking of assumptions that people make about strangers, I hope that we will not assume that all LAPD officers are “bad” just because of this one. Also, how do you know for sure that he was with the LAPD? Did he show you a badge?

As a child, I remember one rude awakening when camping in our RV. We had parked behind a closed restaurant to get a few hours rest. In the early morning, we were awaken with loud banging, much like you described, but it was by the restaurant owner. He wanted us to leave immediately, which we did. My dad drove a bit out of town and pulled over, next to a cabin, which was not in use. You can imagine our surprise when again there was a loud banging on our RV door. What are the odds, we had chosen to park at a cabin owned by the same man who had awakened us earlier! Haha! True story.

4 01 2011

Very nice post – I agree with everything and admire Yair for the way he handled things. People have got to learn that RVers are not bad people (usually) just as those who live in houses are not bad people (usually).

5 01 2011

@kayakdov: Guns scare me, too. (Though when you served in the army, didn’t you carry a gun around?) I was very anti-guns and dangerous items in the house to the point of not wanting a sharp set of knives in the kitchen. But Yair convinced me that with all the dry camping we would be doing in the middle of forests or out on the street, it would be good to have something lying around “just in case”. And besides, it’s a BB gun which makes it much less scary.

@Susan: He did not show us a badge, but did give us his name and others positively identified him as a local detective with the LAPD. We also cross-checked his name online and it came up on official LAPD sites.

Of course not all LAPD officers are bad, but stereotypes can often be a reflection of reality and the LAPD are not known for being the friendliest police force out there. So I’d be happy to kick back over dinner with an officer but aim to keep my non-social interactions with the force at a minimum.

Also, funny story! I’m sure that getting booted out twice by the same person wasn’t a pleasant experience at the time, but what are the odds?

@Diana: Very true. There are a lot of things that I could do to learn from Yair and patience is certainly one of them.

6 01 2011

Scary stuff which came to a happy resolution. But, it has to make you think of the possibilities of less fortunate outcomes. It should also make you super careful about where you park. (Synagogue parking lots and gym parking lots with the permission of the owners seems pretty ideal!) I, too, found the gun part jarring and would urge you to rethink the need for keeping a weapon on board.

7 01 2011

Yes, I always had a gun. Sometimes I had two. I lived with a lot of fear of death and that helped to make me a good soldier. I was constantly scared that I would shoot myself, scared that somebody else would accidentally shoot me, scarred that I would accidentally shoot someone else, scared that when I needed to shoot somebody my gun would jam, or I would miss.
I dealt with these fears by training hard, taking a lot of care of my weapon(s), and being as careful as I could be. Also regularly telling people to watch were they point that thing.
In a civilian life you have the added problem of needing to be ready to use a gun as soon as you bring it out, and then needing to deal with the consequences.
The amount of mental discipline, maintenance, and training I think would be to much for most civilians who don’t spend most of their free time fearing death.
Guns should never be needed in the woods. Care with food is the best defense against bares.
Sorry if this opens up a can of worms. I wouldn’t want to offend any psycho republican gun nuts.
All the best, and don’t shoot anybody unless you mean to!

7 01 2011

@Bernie: You’re right. Perhaps living out west has made me a little more complacent or just used to people having arms. I like the set-ups we’ve had for so many reasons: safety, privacy, often an electric hook-up on rainy days where our solar gives zilch and we don’t want to run the generator all the time, as well as a sense of community and connection with our hosts.

@Dov: Thanks for sharing. I never realized how intense an experience military service and carrying arms was for you. You’re right that you need to be ready to use a gun and face the consequences as soon as you bring it out. I don’t think that I’ve internalized that piece of it as much as I need to. My comfort factor (if there is one) is that – for the most part – I can’t kill or seriously injure someone with a BB gun but like mace, it hurts and stings upon impact and therefore can potentially be a deterrent without inflicting real harm. But I still don’t know what I’d do if actually facing the situation. I think that part of me intended to bring the gun to hand’s reach for safety, but you don’t really know until it happens. Maybe it was more talk than anything else. Either way, thanks again for your insight.

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