Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Neighbors, Not Always Neighborly

We live in an allotment, the sort with restrictions that keep you from having things like clothes lines and shabby storage buildings and rusty old car parts in the yard. As you turn onto our street, you see that our house is the first one technically inside the boundaries of this allotment even though there is no sign. The people right next door to our house don't have the same restrictions on their property, but their yard is free of clothes lines and shabby storage buildings and rusty piles of debris. The people across the street, however—katty-corner, actually—have most of those things. Along with the shabby sheds and piles of rusty crap, they've got barking dogs kept behind a sort of privacy fence so the dogs can't see passing neighbors or deer that tend to rile them up; they've got an old trampoline and old bicycles and a portable basketball hoop with a fraction of a net; there are weeds where there is grass, and there is dirt where the grass has been worn away by dirt bikes the kids ride in circles around the house for hours at a time; and now there is a horse.

Yes, there is a horse in the yard. This isn't a pasture or a double lot—it's your typical yard with a driveway and a single-family house, and now a horse. The people stuck some fence poles in the ground and strung rope around to keep the horse from wandering the street, and they put hay in an old kiddy pool stuck under a shed roof.

The horse apparently the final straw for someone who then reported the slob to the county authorities, and now the hapless pig is being forced to comply with laws. Actual laws. He has to either get rid of the horse because he doesn't have enough land for it—he needs an acres—or he has to get a variance, which means he has to get his neighbors to all agree he can keep the horse. These are the same neighbors he has disregarded for years with his accumulated crap, bringing down the property value of everyone adjacent to him because who would buy a house next door to the Clampetts?

As a gesture of good will to these neighbors he should be courting, the community-conscious neighbor painted a kind message on the rotting privacy fence that shields the barking dogs—MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. I have a feeling we're going to have a neighborly block party this year, and everyone is going to be best friends.

In contrast:

The nice house that faces the painted fence, the tidy one just outside the allotment, is home to a nice couple who tends to their property and is kind to everyone. They have even been kind to the slobs that make their house nearly impossible to sell, having conversations with them and generally minding their own business, as the sign says. They wish their neighbors wouldn't live like pigs, but they treat them with respect.

Over the weekend, the kind man in that house quietly died in his sleep, apparently having had a heart attack, and his wife found him in the morning. She's now trying to figure out how to live, she said, without the man she's been married to for 39 years. They met when they were 17 and have been inseparable ever since. They have seen each other through difficult years and moves and children and all the things people survive in a life together, and now the wife, a sweet heart of a woman, is left to survive being alone.

And she has to survive looking out her kitchen window at a neighbor whose only message to the neighborhood is MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. What a contrast, and in a situation when we need to mind the business of our neighbors in need, what a missed opportunity to be loving and generous and...well, neighborly.

9 comments:

dive said...

Sheesh! Life in Small Town sounds like quite a soap opera, Robyn. Perhaps you could turn it into a new Lake Wobegon.

kyle@sift said...

They can't even spell Lake Wobegon around here. As a pillar of optimism, Dive, you might be the next thing they teach their four year olds to shoot with their Daisy BB guns.

dive said...

Hee hee, Kyle. I'll stay over here out of range.
I confess I'd not heard of Daisy until I saw what I thought was a spoof ad on a blog and looked into it further. Some things about the USA scare the crap out of me.

Eric said...

You could post a sign that reads: "My property values are my business."

Scout said...

Kyle, the idea of Dive wandering around Dover is unsettling—he really would be a target. Keep your distance, Dive, for your own well being.

Eric, I'm more inclined to offer him twice what his swamp is worth, level it and start over.

dive said...

Robyn, do you really mean that atheist Marxist intellectuals are not welcome in middle America?
I am shocked!
Hee hee hee.

Eric said...

Dive - Come to Dover and I'll buy you a drink. No...forget it, the bars here are...well...

Dives! LOL!!!

So, we'll do a brew at Robin's place. Marxist atheist intellectuals are REALLY popular there!

And let us not be discriminating toward that perhaps most maligned of minority groups...white trash.

dive said...

Hahahahahaha!
Excellent idea, Eric! If I could find a way across this pesky Atlantic pond I'd be right there.

Eric said...

This is all a propos (which, to those of us with a hyper-attention, can and does mean anything) so I have to relate:

Robyn is from Alabama, and so is a friend of mine who was on faculty at U of Akron. For her fiftieth birthday, she invited everyone she knew for a party at her very nice home in a very nice neighborhood in West Akron.

The invitations went out notifying us that she was going to celebrate in a manner that honored her ethnic heritage: "white trash".

Arriving at her lovely home, we found that she had decorated. In the front yard was a car on blocks, various rusted kitchen appliances and a toilet, broken bicycles, tires, 55 gallon drums, and a tethered goat.

Robyn, you'll love the menu - we got into the house to find a buffet of baloney sandwiches on white bread, aerosol cheese with saltines and cases of Budweiser.

Later, the caterer arrived with the real goods but for a while the arts community of Akron stood on the front lawn munching baloney sandwiches washed down with cans of Bud. It was a marvelous time.