A Doug's Life: He's Still Somewhere Out There, Watching Me

About five months ago, I wrote a column in this space titled "I'll Get You, You Rascal," about my efforts to track down the raccoon, or gopher, or whatever the heck was tunneling through my back yard.

Never did find the little guy, and the tunnels are still out there. But as you can see from the photo above, we had a new type of visitor the other night.

It started with a scream from our daughter Jill, who had wandered onto the front driveway in her bare feet about 9 p.m. "Tarantula!" she shrieked.

"Now there's a new one," I thought, racing out into the front yard. "Finally! The desert produces a real critter."

In my 11 months as a resident of Menifee, I have not seen one snake. Not that I would know what to do if I found one, but this is the edge of the desert -- if you ask me -- so I sort of expected it. I've seen a few rabbits, one coyote, a frog, zero scorpions and zero prairie dogs. Lots of sheep (see a previous column) and zillions of horses, but how exotic are those creatures? C'mon, at least give me a roadrunner or two!

So when the "tarantula" call went out the other night, I was curious to see one in person for the only time other than during visits to those dark little rooms at the zoo.

By the time I got outside, Jill was pointing to the other side of the pickup truck. Sure enough, there he was. OK, so I have no idea if it was a he or a she, but it's a he in my book. I wasn't about to try and figure that one out.

The first thing I noticed -- he moves pretty slow. About five inches across, from the end of one hairy leg to the end of another, he was headed for the garage door. Run for the hills, Jill! If he can scale that door, your bedroom window is next.

But alas, the ugly little thing couldn't negotiate the slippery surface, so he was content to crawl along the base of the garage door, seemingly not irritated by the cell phone camera light I was now shining in his face.

Later, I got various bits of advice from folks about what I should've done -- everything from shooting him to dousing him with bug spray to picking him up with a shovel and transporting him the heck out of there. Instead, I walked off and let him alone -- after checking all the doors and windows, of course.

Yes, he's out there somewhere, perhaps waiting for his chance. But I don't think I'm the prey. Maybe my dog will get him. Maybe he'll get my dog.

Or maybe he'll take out the gopher. If so, he's a hero in my book.

A Doug's Life: All I Ask is a Little Respect -- and Not for Me

Pardon my ignorance, but will someone please tell me when respect and common courtesy went out of style? Apparently, I never got the memo.

I think I can remember the last time I heard someone express respect for another's opinion, but the memory is fading. Anyone else notice that people these days are far more likely to tell you why you're wrong than why they're right? Even worse, they're downright nasty about it.

The most extreme examples are in the political arena or anything involved with government. I mean, there are no two sides to an issue anymore. Either you see it my way or you're an idiot, right?

Yeah, that's a real adult attitude.

Take the current presidential race, for example. I refused to watch any of the Republican or Democratic national conventions, simply because character assassination isn't tremendously appealing to me. Just seeing the many rants on Facebook is more than enough for me. If a candidate spends half his time telling me how bad the other guy is, I'm thinking he's pretty darn insecure himself. Whatever happened to stating your beliefs clearly and letting me decide whether you're better suited for the job than your opponent?

But as bad as this whole Romney-Obama showdown is, it pales in comparison to what goes on every other Tuesday in the Menifee City Council Chambers. You want to see and hear bitterness and hatred? Stop by City Hall just after 7 p.m. on Sept. 18. Sadly, it's guaranteed.

And this time, the politicians aren't the main culprits. It's people who live and work right alongside us here in Menifee. I call them the Haters -- that small group of residents who show up at every meeting, determined to use their three minutes of fame to denigrate, humiliate and castigate council members.

City policy allows residents three minutes each to speak during the "public comments" portion of city council meetings. At various points of the meeting, they are allowed to address issues not on the agenda and to speak during public hearings on a specific subject. The last line of Menifee's "decorum policy notes" at the end of each printed agenda states that "while we encourage participation, we ask there be a mutual respect for the proceedings."

Good luck with that.

From what I can determine, the Haters have made it their mission to disrupt city council meetings ever since Menifee voters approved cityhood in 2008. Most of these folks are residents of Sun City, and it's obvious they wanted to stay that way and not be placed under the umbrella of a Menifee government with which they don't agree.

I can understand where they're coming from. Sun City was a relatively quiet, rural community of mostly senior citizens for decades. But in the last 10 years, new housing has cropped up all over the place. Without meaning to, young families are starting to surround the old folks. The resulting demand for growth has led to the arrival of new businesses and traffic that is at times unbearable.

Fine. I get that.

If I were in their position, I'd be frustrated, too. I might even share their belief that the "pro development" faction of the city council outnumbers the "traditionalists" 3-2 in most votes. Yeah, that would probably stick in my craw.

But I darn sure wouldn't embarrass myself the way many of these folks do during their three minutes of "fame." I mean, what does it prove, other than you can't control your emotions?

There's a whole list of these people who speak at every city council meeting, whether they have a legitimate gripe or not. After a while, it becomes clear that their purpose is not so much to address specific issues as it is to attack certain council members out of frustration and hatred. You hear these people often enough and their credibility goes right out the window.

No one is claiming that Menifee city council members are perfect, or that they always make the right decisions. But no one deserves the kind of treatment these politicians are given on a regular basis. It's cruel, unprofessional and childlike, and it's an embarrassment to others who have to sit through it week after week.

You don't agree with something the council does? Fine. State your case. If you absolutely disagree with something a council member has said or done, express your feelings in a respectful manner -- being respectful not just because the council member is a public official, but because he or she is a human being. Believe it or not, it can be done.

Because of public meeting protocol, council members do not respond to public comments. They have to sit there and take it while the locals take pot shots at them. To a degree, that's part of the job. But when someone calls you out, attacks your political party beliefs or uses sarcasm in an attempt to humiliate you, it's time to clear the room.

If you ask me -- and I know the Haters didn't -- a little respect would go a lot further than personal attacks against these public servants. Don't like what they're doing? Don't vote for them in the upcoming election. That's your right.

But while they're still in office -- and if they remain in office come November -- try some constructive criticism for a change. Really, it should not be about the Haters and their personal issues. It should be about what's best for all of Menifee. And that will only come about if common decency is observed.