February 26, 2009
The Planned Community
My basement is one of the last few parcels of undeveloped land in Philadelphia. I had hoped to turn the plot into a community open space, but the inability of the territory's three inhabitants to keep their appendages to themselves forced me to subdivide it with masking tape.
"For the next 15 minutes," I said, "I'm going to feed the baby. Everyone is going to play in their own square. Stay out of other people's."
For the first 5 minutes, the tenants respected the property lines and played quietly by themselves. When the novelty of being confined to a 3x3 square of carpet wore off, the residents turned into bad neighbors. Cortlen's imaginary dog began to bark. Camber began to sing songs from Camp Rock in false bravado. Kellen wiped a booger on Cortlen's leg. Everyone dangled their appendages precariously over the tape fences.
My master-planned community collapsed in a heap of dust when Kellen army-crawled across his neighbors' front lawns.
"What do you think you are doing?" I barked from the sofa.
"I have to go the bathroom!" he protested. "This is the only way that I can get to it!"
My son's complaint drew attention to a small oversight in my building plans.
My subdivision didn't have streets.