Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Persnickety

In general, I really like our neighborhood. Quiet streets, lots of families, nice people. Folks seem to take care of their places - there aren't really any dumps or eyesores that make you cringe when you walk by them. It's a nice place.

As for our immediate neighbors, the neighbor kitty-corner from us has become a good friend and we enjoy getting together at each others houses and letting our kids play with regularity. Our oldests are the same age (only their daughter goes to private school whereas we are public school people), we baby-sit each others kids, and we've gotten together for dinners and drinks. Good people. The people next door are Perfect Neighbors and have a beautiful home, a big (7 kids! Homeschooled!), beautiful family, and impeccable landscaping. Never a weed in sight or a stray leaf on the grass. Which could be annoying, but they are just so nice that you simply can't be irked by their seeming perfection. On our other side is a family we've gotten friendly with as well, dog-sitting for each other, drinking wine, borrowing tools back and forth, and their two teenaged daughters have babysat for us on more than one occasion. So see? A very nice place to live by any standard.

Except....

The people who live directly across the street. They are those people. You know the ones - the ones who seem to have many issues and complain about stupid, petty shit. They're an older couple who moved here about a year before we did. Semi-retired. This summer, her adult daughter (grad school age) moved in, too. The guy (let's call him Tim*, shall we?) is a pleasant enough fellow. Helpful. Observant. He knows what's going on in the area because he's always out walking his ugly-ass white poodle, Captain Fantastic** (no kidding, that's the dogs name.) And yet, despite the fact that I kinda like this guy, codger that he is, the women in his life are the types I'd have a hard time living with. Shoot, just living across the street from them is proving difficult.

I think we're good neighbors. We keep up our lawn and yard. We've improved the visual appearance of the house. We take in our garbage cans and recycling bins the day they're collected. We don't throw wild parties and make a lot of noise. We're friendly and say hello and wave when we see folks. Granted, our stupid dog tends to bark when someone walks in front of our house, but we're not the only people with a dog. And that's what dogs do: they bark when people approach their house. She has gotten out of the yard a few times (literally broke through the new lattice Mr. Chick put up) but I've done a good job barracading the hole and she doesn't get out anymore. And when she did get out? She was waiting for us at the front door. Stupid dog.) Plus, when we take her on walks we pick up after her. That pile of dogshit on your lawn? It didn't come from my dog.

The people across the street? I'm having a hard time smiling and making nice anymore. A big part of me wants to go T.P. the crap out of their yard just for spite, just because they're so damn petty. First, let it be noted that they have 3 adults living there, yet there are no fewer than 5 cars associated with that house, recently whittled from 6. One is the daughters. Tim has both a sedan and a pickup truck. He finally got rid of the compact a month or so ago. His wife also has a sedan and a minivan. The minivan is for those times when she has to drive her family around. I think I've seen them drive it 3 times, and never with other people. They have a two car garage, but only one car is parked inside. The others? Lined up along the street. Sometimes Tim parks his pickup on the driveway, but mostly he leaves that space open for his wife to have wide access to the garage. Plus they have a sailboat parked next to the garage under a side carport thing. I understand needing multiple cars in a family. I do! The people next to us? With 7 kids? THEY need several cars. But they park two in their driveway, and one to two on the street. That seems reasonable. Our babysitters? They have 3 cars for 4 people. His, hers, and a shared car for the girls. That, too, seems reasonable. The car to people ratio across the street is a little out of hand. I'm just sayin'.

Then, there is the wife's ultra-sensitive nose. Last spring she knocked on my door to tell me that we were "smoking her out of her house" by burning wood in our fireplace. She literally couldn't even be in her own house because of the smoke. My house? NOT SMOKY. I told her that we needed to fix the ducting of our furnace and were therefore burning wood for heat until Mr. Chick could do the repair. I also pointed out that both Perfect Neighbor and my friend kitty corner to me (right next door to them) were burning wood solely for heat as well. But no, she assured me that she didn't smell smoke from their chimneys, only ours. She had actually studied the way the smoke came out of our chimney and Perfect Neighbor's chimney to make this assertation. 'hmmm, " I told her. "I'm really sorry you're smelling smoke. I don't smell any at all. I'll try to keep the burning down to a minimum and urge Mr. Chick to fix the ducting quickly so we can use our furnace." And she waddled back down my steps (yes, she's fat and I'm pissed at her, so I'm not feeling charitable about my description at the moment. Get over it.) A couple of weeks later her husband, Tim, sort of strolls across the street to tell me that they were worried that we were freezing in our house since they hadn't seen much smoke from our chimney lately. He then tells me that he KNOWS his wife has a super-sensitive nose and can tell if the people in the car in front of them on the freeway are smoking a cigarette or not at 65mph. I think he felt bad she bitched at me. He seems to be the one to apologize on her behalf.

Next, it was the daughter. Every morning around 7:50am a gaggle of kids collect in front of my house to catch the bus to school. It's at my house in the morning because Nicholas is in kindergarten and the school tries to pick up each kindergartener at their house if possible, even if they live within one mile of the school (which we do, barely). So we're a convenient, close bus stop for all the older kids nearby and they come to our house in the morning. Every morning. Like clockwork. And I'm usually the only adult out there with the kids, it being my house and all, and Nicholas being a tender 5 yrs old. I've gotten to know the kids and enjoy seeing them everyday. Well, in December on a typical school morning the daughter from across the street comes out of her house and onto her lawn and starts shouting at me. I didn't realize she was addressing me at first, and then I sort of clued in that she was saying something. "I'm sorry - what?" I say. And she proceeds to shout from across the street that she's "been woken up 4 out of the last 5 mornings by the kids and could we PLEASE keep quiet before 8am??! I've got finals!" "um, okaaayyyy.... this is the busstop and these aren't all my kids, but I'll ask them to keep it down." I respond, sort of bewildered because they kids weren't being inordinately loud or anything. They were just chatting among themselves and two of the boys (one being Nicholas) were playing chase around my car in the driveway. It was like any other morning. But she had finals (as if we were to know that or something), so I asked the kids to try to whisper if they could, silently wishing I could cram a chill pill down her throat. And a few days later, as expected, Tim approaches me to say that he thinks that perhaps his step-daughter overreacted the other morning, but that she has been under a lot of pressure lately, blah blah blah. I told him I understood the stress of finals and had chalked it up to that.

But then today? Today I was taking Nicholas to Spanish class at his school and he called out a cheery hello to Bus Driver Don, his bus driver, who then motioned to me. I stopped and Bus Driver Don told me that a neighbor had called to complain about him beeping his horn when he pulled up in front of our house to let me know they were there. I'd say half the time I'm already outside to greet the bus when it rolls up, but the other days I'm keeping an eye out for the bus from inside because it's too damn cold to be standing out there, and the bus comes anywhere between 10:45am and 10:55am. It varies depending on lots of different things. So I can be on the computer, for example, and see the bus from the window as it comes up the street to our house and then I make a mad dash to the front door just as it rolls to a stop. No biggie. He knows I'm home and I'm watching for him. He just gives a couple of short "beep beep's", just in case. It's not like he's laying on the horn or anything, and I'm usually right there opening the door. He's not having to wait for me, tapping the horn over and over to get my attention. But the persnickety lady across the street? Well she ain't happy with the toot-tooting of the bus in the mid-morning and actually called to complain. TOOK TIME OUT OF HER DAY TO CALL THE BUS COMPANY TO COMPLAIN ABOUT AN OCCASIONAL TOOTING OF THE HORN. The guy on the corner can run his leaf-blower at 8am on a weekend without worry of complaint, but the bus can't give a beep-beep when they drop off a kid? I.don't.get.it!

I asked Bus Driver Don if it was the lady across the street from me who'd called to complain. He said it was. I told him I was sorry she'd felt the need to call, that I didn't mind him beeping the horn and confirmed that I don't keep him waiting (he can't let Nicholas off the bus until he sees me.). I told him that I would no longer just keep an eye out for him from inside and try to be waiting on the top step everyday to avoid trouble ("it's no trouble - I know if I see your car you're home"). But he just can't give a friendly horn toot anymore. I guess I have it coming because I admit to one bus fuck-up on my part. School had recently started in the fall and I had a friend over for a playdate with Lauren and was in the playroom where we don't have a clock. My friend and I got to chatting and I didn't watch the time. The bus came and I wasn't outside. So he honked the horn, but I didn't hear it from the basement. But my persnickety neighbor heard the horn. Oh yes, she did. And she came over and rang my doorbell to tell me the bus was there. Oops! My bad. My very bad. I thanked her for coming over and letting me know, apologized for disturbing her, and sheepishly collected Nicholas off the bus. That's never happened again, let me assure you. But it DID happen, and she's the wrong one to disturb, apparently. So now? Now the bus giving me a beep as I open the door is a bad thing. No one minds except her, it seems.

But seriously? Is the bus giving a little toot every few days that big of a disturbance for her? He doesn't beep the horn everyday. Just the days that he opens the door of the bus before I open the front door (usually mere seconds later, literally). I would think the sounds of my kids squealing and laughing as they ride their scooters and tricycles up and down the sidewalks would be more of an annoyance than the school bus. Or the garbage guy. They make quite a racket early in the mornings every Friday when they collect the trash. Same with the recycling people. You hear the sounds of glass breaking as they dump a bag of it into the truck. THAT'S not a subtle sound. Do you think she calls them to tell them to lay off the noise and have more respect for the quietude of the neighborhood? I wouldn't put it past her. But trust me: my kids will play outside, my dog will still bark, I'm burning wood in my fireplace RIGHT NOW, and if the school bus has to toot it's horn to make sure I'm home and avoid driving my kid back to the school, then so be it. It's called Surburban Life. Life is messy and life is noisy, and if you don't like it, move to the country.

She'd probably complain the the crickets were too loud.

*name changed to protect the innocent
**name NOT changed to protect anyone.

Comments:
Man, bad neighbors are the worst. I'm moving to a new place next week and I already have a feeling about the folks on one side of me. Call it a snap judgment, but I just get this feeling from them.
 
Oy! What a pain in the patootie that woman/grown-daughter-mooching-off-her-parents are! I would call the health dept. or some other appropriate department for the auto collection they have going. I would seriously walk across the street like she has soooo many times for piddly shit and complain to her about all the cars they have littering the neighborhood. What an uptight little witch she is.

We have one on our street too. Thankfully they do not live beside us. They are down on the cul-de-sac next to some very VERY nice people. The nice man used to drive his very nice truck around the house to park in the back yard where he has a nice parking spot for it. The not-nice man next door called the cops to complain about the neighbor driving around his own house and parking in his own back yard.

You can't please everyone. And you can't live on eggshells for the rest of the years you will be there. Kids make noise. Life has to be lived. If they don't like it, THEY can leave. Don't cower to her nastiness. Smelling your smoke and asking you to not burn your fireplace anymore?! Get real! Don't be intimidated by her. Like it or lump it, I say. Tell her if she doesn't like how things are, then she needs to change. Not you. You can't live according to her outrageous expectations. And seriously, complain about all the cars. It will probably make her turn purple that someone is actually daring to complain about HER.

More power to you! Keep living!!
 
OMG!!!!!!!! OMG, I Am AMAZED!!! WOW. I had one of "those" neighbors once. I had just gotten divorced and moved (with 2 young boys) next to a early 30's childless couple. The woman called me AT WORK to tell me my boys were outside playing with the babysitter (it was summer) and making her dog bark. Oooohhh, sorry my kids were playing. I thought that's what kids did.

And my home now?? I REFUSE to move, EVER until my beloved, elderly neighbors are gone.

You live there too, I'd just let her keep complaining. In fact, I probably be even more annoying. Hey Kids, let's use our OUTSIDE voices at the bus stop today. Keep Bus Driver Don waiting so he has to toot that horn EXTRA long. Clearly the woman's a witch.

MCM
 
Hi MP,

People are strange. You just never know what is going to set off that one sensitive/strange neighbor. My friend had a neighbor call the police because one child dared to place a toe on her grass. I am not kidding. And it was the grass on the opposite side of the sidewalk, you know, the side that is technically the city's.

Sorry you have to deal with these people!

Renee
 
I dunno, MP... I think I'd be about ready to tell her to stick it where the sun don't shine. Geez, what crappy people.
 
just found your blog...love it! hate the neighbor. they need to get a life.

i'm so impressed with the star sweater...i think i saw that in a book i checked out from the library---i'll have to try it now. it doesn't appear that you are the novice you claim to be.

looking forward to 'getting to know you' through your blog!
 
I just had another idea! Print out your entry AND our responses and put them in her mailbox.

Think she'd get the idea?

(insert wicked laugh here)

Alicia
 
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