This little critter -- one of two raccoon kits lurking and chirping amongst the plants along the far side of the yard along the house next door early morning -- scrambled up a young Horsechestnut tree (above) to get out of harm's way as Tiny and Baby emerged onto the terrace after breakfast. Had the Chelsea Grays not been constrained by their tethers, they might have felt obliged to take the law into their own paws and run the raccoons off the land. As it was, they listened and stared and sniffed the air and then decided to come back inside and keep an eye on things through the kitchen window screen. Once they were inside, we ran for the camera. Back outside in the half-light of dawn, we set our Optio 450 for flash and started shooting, scaring one of the neighbors -- who rents a first-floor apartment over there -- out of his wits. Tuck, who was awake but still abed at the time, later reported that he himself had been rather startled at the intensity of the flashes and jumped out of bed to see what was going on.
The neighbor, a middle-aged family man of Middle Eastern appearance and accent whom we had occasionally seen moving about his apartment but had never met, appeared at a window near the raccoon tree and started yelling at us hysterically. "What are you doing?" he screamed. As we tried to explain that we were taking pictures of a raccoon -- a what? -- he continued to rant: "You can't do that. This is a private house." Huh? "It's our yard and our tree," we ventured, but he was having none of it. Determined to defuse the situation before it escalated further, we disarmed the fellow by dropping the defensive mode and going dhimmi: "Good-neighbor policy. I apologize. I'm sorry." That seemed to calm him, and he retreated to his chambers.
This first face-to-face with the neighbor set our conspiracy-theory juices flowing. Why would someone be so upset even if we HAD been taking flash pictures of his house at 5:30 in the morning? [Come to think of it, he may have had a point. --ed.] Later, Tuck would suggest that the window near the tree where the flash was aimed probably opened into the neighbor's bedroom, fergossake, but in the immediate aftermath of having been verbally abused at high volume by the Muslim [based upon amateur profiling] next door, we surrendered ourselves to paranoid fantasy and hurried inside to google the local FBI office. Startled neighbor or jihadi making improvised explosive devices in that room behind the window near the tree? We actually started to type out our concerns on the FBIs "Tips and Public Leads" page, where they have a special form for reporting "suspected terrorism or criminal activity." Then Tuck came downstairs, listened to our story and put it all into perspective. Had he been in the neighbor's position, he told us, he would have had very much the same reaction: "What the hell are you DOING?"
Fascinating how easy it is to misunderstand the other guy's intentions, not to mention how easy it is for him to misunderstand yours. No wonder the nations rage so furiously together.