Sunday, April 23, 2006

Set to Burn

It should be legal to kill some people. Like neighbors from hell.

The first place Kevin and I lived after we got married was pretty good, except for the partiers upstairs. They dropped a guest’s keys over the balcony – the idea being to stop him from finding them in his drunken state in the bush below, I guess. They landed on our balcony, so instead of hearing them run around, yelling and partying, we got to hear people banging on our doors. Jerks.

For those of you who’ve read my latest short story Twitch’s apartment is my old abode. I deliberately picked the place in New Westminster because it was one of those weird places where the bizarre clashed with normality. I used to get headaches from second hand smoke from joints. Plus there were the neighbors across the street. They’d get into it and start throwing furniture off the balcony. Then the cops would come. We had one of only two suites built on the roof of this building, with gorgeous views, and huge patios. We could stand out there with our closet neighbors (friends Steve and Alison) and watch the fun. Better than Springer and free.

Of course, there was the old man across the street with diabetes who used to drink himself into the hospital, and then we could watch Steve respond to the call in his uniform, glaring at all the spectators getting in their way…

Yes, neighbors can be cheap entertainment at times. But they can also be a royal pain in the ass. Just ask Mr. Van Wormer.

“Joseph Sybille in First Colony, Texas, pounded his neighbor with a shovel in 1996 after years of arguing over every blade of grass and drop of water that crossed "enemy" lines. His neighbor, Charles Van Wormer, suffered a minor concussion.”*

The Japanese don’t mess around with this – a woman gets a one year sentence in jail for playing loud music.

Oh, if only.

And this complaint. “We are trying to put a fence up because of our rude neighbors who think they can drive their vehicles through our backyard. They let their boy ride his bike and play there anytime...”*

Now, let the rant really begin!

Last night I was filling up a water bottle and glanced out the window. Across the street I could see the flames shooting up over the hedges, which are about 5 feet high. When you’re 5’4, you can get a pretty good read on heights in that range, especially when you walk by them all the time.

I went into the living room and asked Kevin if he was going to do his civic duty. Problem is, technically, the chief is responsible for fire bylaw enforcement and he wasn’t home. All the officers were unreachable or too busy adjusting their asshats.

So, where did that leave us? Well, wondering what to do.

Technically, Kevin’s done the training but is one formal piece of paper shy of having the authority to take action. All we could do was watch and hope it didn’t get out of control. Not likely, since if had snowed, but still.

To me, that wasn’t even the point. It gets dry here in the summers – bone dry. We get lots of fires, and these are new neighbors that just moved here. Kevin and I have one of the most-treed properties in town. Fire is a legitimate concern, and this guy’s fire was not only above the metal grating, but also closer than the required 15 feet to both his garage and his hedges.

Where the hell is his brain? On vacation? Or is he a medical miracle, born without one?

It isn’t just that neighbor. Our other neighbor’s have one of those freestanding stoves sitting on their back deck, not 5 feet from the edge of their house!

Of course, those would be the same neighbors that walked all the way on to my property, took a coffee table and set it up on their back deck and used it all summer when they barbecued.

Um, a coffee table that was more than 20 feet on my property, against my garage, that they should have known they didn’t buy, so they should have known they didn’t own it. Duh!

Of course, my annoyance was balanced by amusement. After all, I put the coffee table outside after our puppy had sprayed diarrhea all over it, on the underside (because the dogs had knocked it over) that isn’t treated, and the shit had seeped into the wood.

And they wondered why they had such a bad problem with flies last summer.

Of course, they also let their kids play on our yard. Even adults visiting them have walked onto our property, a good thirty feet over to where our dogs are, and, yup, approached our dogs.

I had one of my best laughs one day when I was doing dishes.

See, the kitchen is in the corner of the house. From one window, you can see the front gate, and across the street to last night’s bonfire people.

And from the other window you can see across the other road. We have another gate there, and a driveway that’s four carwidths – a two-car garage and two extra parking spaces between our house and the neighbors with our coffee table.

This kid apparently thought he’d run across from gate to gate and cut the corner.

He rounded the corner of the house and ran back in a hurry when he discovered a full-grown husky just ready to jump up and greet him.

Chinook would never intentionally hurt anyone, but seriously, this is a dog that was so excited he jumped up and broke my nose.

And what’s wrong with these kids that they have no respect for property? When I was a child you understood that if you didn’t own it, it wasn’t yours.

All of these annoyances have culminated with one revelation today.

The other day, some kids knocked down part of our fence.

Why didn’t I notice, you ask? Well, our property is 130x100 feet, and we have lots of trees. Okay, so I didn’t notice. We also have only one window – our bedroom window – that faces that side of the property. And I do tend to keep those curtains closed.

But our neighbors in the other direction, across the lane, saw it. And they didn’t do anything, except tell Kevin a few days later.

Who then waited a few days to tell me, making him officially the knucklehead of the week.

And I have decided to lurk amongst the trees with our rottweiler cross and a camera, just waiting for those little punks to come back.

The lack of respect some people have for other people’s property, even the local laws, is unbelievable.

Come on. Indulge me with your horror stories. Make me feel petty for whining about this. I mean, it isn’t really that bad. I can’t complain much about our neighbors. Okay, the theft is pretty fucking amazing.

But then, they only took a shitty coffee table.

* quote source


Erik Ivan James said...

Good Morning, Sandra.
Guess I've been fortunate. I don't recall ever having any serious neighbor disputes.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good morning Erik!

I'm glad you haven't had problems. I've certainly read of worse cases than my piddly little complaints. But there was a technical reason I had to pull my post for today - hopefully it'll be up in a day or two...

M. G. Tarquini said...

I lived in a twin house in philly. My neighbor had four air conditions in his windows facing us. Four big ugly old noisy air conditioners and he blasted them all, all the time to the point that we couldn't even be outside and we had to listen to them all night. They were only about 10 feet away and were very nasty people. The kids road their bikes across my gardens. The younger one tossed things at us from his bedroom window, the kids bounced balls back and forth and off our cars...

When they left, the neighbors had a block party.

James Goodman said...

Ok, I have one horror story about neighbors. I used to live in a town called Sapulpa way back when I was single. It’s a fairly large town as suburbs go, but when I moved into the house, I was surrounded by mostly the elderly. After about a year, the neighborhood took a turn for the worst.

One day summer day when I was coming home from work, I noticed a group of men hanging out in the yard of the house across the street and one over from mine. It was clear that they were drinking and by the looks of them, they had been drinking for a long time. I noticed a couple of them staring at me, but I had my radio cranked up so I had no idea what they were saying.

I pulled in my driveway, went in, turned on the shower (Because, damn…I needed one) and had just taken off my shirt when I heard someone just pounding the hell out of my screen door. I go to answer it in just my jeans and dusty steel toed boots and it is one of the drunken bozos from across the street. He’s rocking back and forth slightly on his heels and starts jabbing his finger at me, telling me that I how snobby I was because I was ignoring them when they were telling me to slow down. I calmly explained that I was under the speed limit and the reason I didn’t hear them is that I had my radio up. He starts laying into me about, “That’s another thing, why the fuck do you have to have that radio so loud?”

About that time I heard one of the idgets from across the street yell, “Get em, Bob!”

Well, about that time, I realize what’s going on. They’re drunk and wanting to prove their manhood or some shit. So, I step the rest of the way out on to the porch and let the screen door close behind me. He takes one step back as slip out, but keeps his finger wagging in my face. He’s so drunk that he doesn’t even notice as I angle myself with the wall to my back and my hedges to his (there only about three feet high). He’s yammering on, clearly trying to build enough courage to take that first swing. I slip my right foot back a bit, he never looks down. I swing up hard, steel toe connecting squarely with the bottom of his blabbering jaw. Blood sprays on my awning as he sails backwards. His feet graze my bushes as he lands on his back in my front yard. He’s laying there, blood running down both sides of his mouth…out like a light. Yes, there are teeth laying in my yard. I look across the street at the rest of them and in my calmest most authorative voice, I yell, “You better come get your boy…he’s bleeding all over my yard.

They scramble over each other trying to get through my gate. As they are dragging him away, one of them turns to me and says, “Sorry about that…he gets like that when he’s drinking.”

I kept waiting for the cops to show up, but they never did. I never saw that guy around the neighborhood again though, I guess he decided that was one friend he didn’t need to visit anymore. After that, I had no more problems with any neighbors for the rest of my time in that hell hole.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Mindy, I'd've celebrated too!

James, wow! I know who to call if things ever get heavy.

Technically, we're a corner lot, and we have a road between us and the fire-lovers, and an alley between us and the fire chief (who didn't say anything about our fence). So we really only have the one immediate neighbors. It wouldn't even bug me so much that their little girl plays under our trees (because we have trees and they don't) but they leave their garbage all over our yard. And that does bug me.

Lisa Hunter said...

Yikes. And to think I used to complain about my upstairs neighbors, the Thudders, and their little dog, Barky.

Kate said...

Our neighbours' son took up playing golf (sort of) with golf balls he stole from the local golf course. He used to go to a high point on their property and hit the golf balls towards our house, which was on lower ground. My parents thought that having golf balls raining down was dangerous so they went and spoke to the boy's parents. His mother swore her son would never do anything like that, despite the fact that we'd seen him doing it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thudders and Barky would drive me Looney! I'm not meant for apartments!

Kate, I've had similar experiences many times during my years working with kids. A friend of mine who ran a daycare and I used to talk, and she'd say, "Put the video cameras in, PLEASE!" It was a way to prove to parents once and for all that, yep, little Johnny isn't an angel!

Love your kids, but don't be blind. This is why so many are getting into trouble - they're waiting for their parents to notice.

David Terrenoire said...

I lived below a guy who would eventually play with Hickory Wind, a fairly successful string band out of DC. At the time, he played guitar, but was teaching himself the banjo.

Every day I would hear his foot beat out the rhythm BAM BAM BAM and the the banjo PLUNKA PLUNKA PLUNK and then his fingers would get all tangled up and he'd start again BAM BAM BAM PLUNKA PLUNKA PLUNK until he stumbled again and would start over BAM BAM BAM PLUNKA PLUNKA PLUNK until I started looking at my gun, looking at the ceiling, looking at my gun, BAM BAM BAM PLUNKA PLUNKA PLUNK and then I'd hit the door, out on the street, looking for an angry fix.

One day, Hallelujah! he moved. Two sisters, twins, both a bit on the heavy side, moved into his apartment and I kept a close eye out for instrument cases and saw none. Things were looking up.

Then they began to tap dance.

Yes, tap dancing twins.

And people wonder why I drink.

Sandra Ruttan said...

That's hilarious David! I mean, I'm sure it wasn't then.

Maybe someone should have a character who has a series of bad neighbors - the fat tap-dancing twins, the plunk-bammer learning banjo etc. A bit of comic relief in a noir novel with the best part being the guy decides to off them in th end!

I'd drink too!

Sandra Ruttan said...

PS David - evilkev says at least they didn't tap dance to the Chicken Dance.

David Terrenoire said...

That scene is in a book that hasn't sold, but I haven't given up. Maybe a short story.

You'll see it again.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'll look forward to seeing it!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Sandra...real life...last week in Vestal...a town about 10 minutes down the road. A 57 year old man went upstairs to his 35 year old neighbors house to complain about the noise coming from the upstairs birthday party for the man's 10 year old daughter.

Long story short....the younger guy told the older guy to get bent...the older guy went back downstairs, got his hand gun and shot the younger guy dead!!!

Me, myself...I live in the country have 15 acres and no annoying neighbors...I'd probably be considered the annoying neighbor. :-0

When our new neighbors moved in across the road, I noticed that they had a beagle running loose. I politely told them that the dog would need to be restrained because we have an apple orchard and there's always deer eating in it.

The guy told me that his dog would never hurt a deer, it just liked to chase them.

I smiled very politely and told him if I caught his dog chasing deer...I would shoot it!

I've never had a problem from them :-)

E. Ann Bardawill said...

Oh. Oh MAN!

Could I tell you STORIES!!!

Long stories short - We moved.
It was either that or the shovel.

I could write a book...

E. Ann Bardawill said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
For The Trees said...

For some odd reason this all sounds like a great comedy novel, which would have everybody rolling around screaming in pain for laughing so hard at how funny it is. Or pulling guns out to do some damage. Or shovels.

Oh, Dear God, have I ever been there! And almost got my head handed to me on a beer can several times, until suddenly I got smart and left. Fast.

Good luck with your property. You might try getting an appraisal of trees' value and gates' value, etc., and mail a copy to each of your neighbors with a nice note saying, "We really don't want to have to sue you, but you need to know up front how expensive it's going to be." With the name of your lawyer listed below. Let'em think what they will - or won't.

Okay, enough rage for today. It's a Monday and I'm busy at the keyboard, writing for once. Play time's over.

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E said...

I guess you weren't aware of the rest of the Van Wormer/Sybille story - read more here:

If that doesn't knock your socks off, I'm not sure what will.

Sandra Ruttan said...

E, I can't get the story up, sadly. I'll keep messing around...