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The other side of gated communities

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The Scenic Route

My heart-felt thanks to Miss Curtis, Joy O’Donald and Florine Dooley, English teachers all.

The American Heritage Dictionary, which I have been using for a long, long, long time and which I trust to know what it’s about, has eleven definitions for the word gate, nine of which are nouns and two which are transitive verbs and none of which are active verbs or adjectives. Nonetheless, it seems that we now have here in our little corner of the world about the same number of gated communities.

I’ve checked the spelling in various real estate publications and on certain websites, and these communities are not gaited, though at least one of them is based on an "equestrian lifestyle," whatever that is — do they eat horses, or what? — so, I’m not sure of the usage. Are the promoters of these communities using gate as an active verb, as in "We then did gate the community;" or an adjective, as in "a community with gates?" We had a community with gates on Sixth Avenue when my relationship with the American Heritage Dictionary first began, but, our gates were in the back yard and primarily used to keep things — dogs, small children, the occasional herd of chickens — in, not out. Big kids knew how to open the gates and come in if they were welcome and knew better if they weren’t.

Many of these new gated communities are being touted by their developers as "exclusive," which some people seem to think means "up-scale," "quality," "luxurious" or simply "expensive." However, exclusive really means that not everyone is welcome. Some are excluded. The gates (and the walls between the gates) are to keep the excluded people out. So why not simply call them "walled communities," like when speaking of those cities of yore huddled behind fortifications built to keep out the thundering hordes?

In truth, gated communities are not new to me. It’s just been a long time since I lived around (but never in) one. When I lived in Las Vegas about three eons ago, there were gated communities galore. As a newspaper delivery guy, I had to get into some of them on a regular basis, but the guards — who didn’t live inside either — would just look at my pile of papers and wave me through, especially after I started handing them one of the papers.

Anyway, I’ve been amazed to discover how many gated communities are around here all of a sudden, and that led me to look up that word, gate.

One of the definitions of gate from the aforementioned dictionary is of the transitive verb, gate — gat-ed, gat-ing, gates. Chiefly British. To confine (a student) to the grounds of a college as punishment.

Hmmm.

So, do you think these people living in the gated communities have done something for which they need to be gated? And what should we do to make sure that they don’t ungate themselves? I’m pretty sure that we can’t trust guards they hire themselves to keep them in, and some of these communities don’t even have a guard, just a little box that you punch numbers into or slide something like a credit card into to open the gate (maybe only platinum cards work).

So, I propose that we put up guard shacks — er, I mean guard chalets — at the entrances to the public roads outside these gated communities and hire guards to, well, guard them. This could be expensive, but with the new tax base created by these gated communities and the folks who are exclusive ... uh, I mean wealthy enough to live in them, the county can probably afford to build guard chalets and hire guards to hang out there day and night and make sure that the gated folk don’t leave home for no good reason and get back in there where they belong before dark — or have a damned good excuse or a note from their parole officer to stay out late.

This could turn into a couple of new industries: gated community guard chalet construction and gated community guard cadrés.

Imagine. A car approaches the guard chalet from inside the gated community and stops at another gate at the public road entrance. A guard — outfitted in forest green (so they match the forest, you know) with white belt, Buster Brown shoes and the occasional 9mm handgun for those especially secure gated communities — comes briskly out of the chalet, takes note of the license plate and approaches the driver’s window.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Gotrocks. Where were you going today?"

"Just running into town for a few things."

"Who will you be visiting, please, and how long do you think you will be — uh — out?"

"I plan to go to Safeway, the gas station and stop and see if I can get my hair cut at Plaza Del Coiffe."

"Um, are these places expecting you?"

"Uh, no. I thought I’d just drop by."

"Let me make a few phone calls, Ms. Gotrocks. Please pull your car over here. This might take a moment."

This is a revolutionary idea, I know, but it could make the world more secure for all of us living outside of gated communities, and isn’t security what all those gates are about?

You can buy Sandy Compton’s latest book, Archer MacLehan and the Hungry Now, online at the General Store  or in downtown Sandpoint at Vanderford’s Books & Office Supplies.

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Author info

Sandy Compton Sandy Compton Sandy Compton is one of the original contributors to The River Journal, and owner and publisher at Blue Creek Press (www.bluecreekpress.com). His latest book is Side Trips From Cowboy: Addiction, Recovery and the Western American Myth

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The Scenic Route, gated communities

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