Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Feud


There are many perks associated with becoming a homeowner. The moment those keys are handed over there is a tangible feeling of pride that you can point to a specific place on the map and say with certainty, “This is my property and both the benefits and responsibilities associated with it are mine alone to bear.” There is, however, a darker side to home-ownership commonly known as “the feud.”

Feuds often begin as an innocuous encounter between neighbors that evolve into all out wars. Perhaps it originates over a simple observation over parking habits “Do you guys plan the most efficient way to block the street when people visit you or are you just lucky?” a remark about an animal “Your daughter’s new pet hyena sure is a welcome distraction from my peaceful slumber at 3 A.M.” or a classic property line dispute “I can’t tell you how much I enjoy going out to get the paper and seeing your cousin’s burnt out Plymouth Duster straddling my immaculate lawn.”

Unfortunately, I have recently become entangled in a dispute of the “property-line” persuasion involving an elderly couple who owns a large swath of adjacent land. To the casual observer, it would appear that our properties are divided by a dense set of evergreen trees that form a line behind their shed and garbage cans, but in actuality their land extends about a foot and a half past the tree-line. Since we moved into the house four years ago I have always mowed and edged that area (knowing full well that it was not technically my land) since it reflected on my lawn and it seemed ridiculous to have him haul his mower past the trees to cut such an insignificant section.

This unspoken arrangement seemed to have been agreeable to all parties until a few weeks ago when a severe storm came through our area and damaged several trees. Like most residents on my street, I cut up the limbs and placed them in a pile by the curb so that the city would come and haul them away. The pile was admittedly large as both me and my elderly neighbors had been contributing to it and extended from the fire hydrant in my side yard to the tree line with about 70% of the brush residing on their side of the actual property line.

About a week after the pile had been sitting on the curb waiting to be picked up, my neighbor approached me while I was mowing and the following conversation took place:

Her: “Just so you know, some of the brush is on top of one of the lower-limbs of that fir tree and it is going to kill it and we are going to have to cut that limb off.”
Me: “I hadn’t noticed but just give me a few minutes and I will rearrange it.”
Her: “No, don’t bother because you will only make it worse.”
Me: “It really won’t  take but a second…..”
Her: “Please, I am asking you to just leave it alone.”
Me: “If it bothers you then I can fix it.”
Her: “I am trying to tell you that it would bother me more if you tried to move it, I just wanted to remind you that those trees are on our property and we do not want anything to happen to them.”

Putting up the mower, I walked inside and my wife asked me what we were talking about. I informed her that our neighbor had walked over to specifically point out something that she apparently wished for me to completely ignore. In hindsight, it became clear that the entire purpose of the exchange was to subtlety re-establish their ownership of the small strip of land but being as dense as I am just assumed they had chosen to plant an unusually sensitive species of evergreens that did not adapt well to close encounters with brush.

The pile was soon removed and another storm produced another sizable amount of brush. This time I specifically arranged the brush pile so that it would not contact said tree or block the sidewalk and again they placed a few limbs on the pile as well and I assumed all was copacetic. That pile was also removed by the city and about a week ago, I placed a handful of small sticks and one bag of lawn clippings beside the hydrant in the same area as the brush pile.

The next day I awoke to find a metal pole installed at the curb adorned with a large flower pot to make it as conspicuous as possible. My bag, sticks, and whatever items could be raked from the area where the two piles previously rested had been deposited beside my mailbox on the other side of the metal pole.  The message was clear: do not put your stuff on our property.

I was slightly upset that they had raked up some of the pine-needles which were obviously remnants of debris that originated in their yard, but vowed that I would rise above the level of pettiness they were exhibiting by taking the high road and bringing a little class to the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I over-estimated my own integrity and within a few days I mowed a very distinct dividing line between my property and theirs. I then sighted the property line from my fence and took special care to place all sticks and clippings as close to their property as possible even gathering a few extra limbs to make it obvious.

A few days after mowing the front yard I decided to mow the back yard and again generated a small pile of sticks and one bag of clippings. As was my custom, I ceremonially arranged these items as close as possible to the marked property-line to be picked up the next morning when the sanitation department came by. I completed this task just as it got dark and went inside to cool off.

The next morning as I opened the garage door to take out a bag of trash, I noticed that both my bag of clippings and pile of sticks had been moved all the way to the edge of my driveway. I couldn’t believe it. The stuff had been out there for less than twelve hours and they had already moved it on my land. Were they hiding in the trees at night waiting for me to put this stuff out? Aren’t the elderly normally asleep by 8:30 PM anyway?

I walked out to the road and noticed that they had company and were indeed awake. In fact they and their friends were sitting in a gazebo at the back of the house sipping coffee and having a good old time. Not only did they come on my property and move my stuff, they actually invited guests over to witness their handiwork. My first reaction was to walk over and smack the Taster’s Choice out of their wrinkled old hands while telling them what I thought of their little stunt. I quickly decided, however, that I did not want an audience of their friends around when I let them have it so instead I again took the high road that had become so familiar to me.

I picked up the bag of clippings (making sure that I was in full view of the gazebo party) and utilized a series of exaggerated motions to dramatically place the bag exactly where I left it last night. I even made a show of sighting up the property line again and positioning the bag just right. I repeated this process until everything was returned to its rightful place as my neighbors and their friends watched. I concluded with driving by their gazebo slowly and giving them the “stink eye” to let them know that we would settle this when I got home from work.

When I arrived at work I was still so furious from the incident that I vented to my coworkers and told them how I was going to “affiliate somebody” when I got home. After my recounting of the tale, one of my co-workers advised me (between fits of laughter) that I should reconsider my plan since he had been the one who moved all my stuff. Apparently after hearing of our feud back and forth he had stopped by my house that night and moved all my stuff. It was just sheer coincidence that I had only put it out a few hours earlier and that they were having a gazebo party the next morning.

Realizing that my elderly neighbors now believed me to be a mental patient who randomly moves his own bags of clippings around and then makes an idiot of himself putting them back, I was relieved I had not followed through with my first instinct which would have probably led to some sort of hate-crime charge. I admitted that if I had confronted them that morning and they had responded that they “had no idea what I was talking about” I would have sarcastically replied “Oh, yeah, like some random person just happened to drive down our street in the middle of the night and move my lawn clippings and limbs just to mess with me!” This, ironically, turned out to be a completely accurate description of what happened.  I contemplated going over and explain my actions but decided that if they suspect me to be mentally unstable they are less likely to mess with my stuff……

1 comment:

  1. You just better hope that those aren't the kind of old people who get bored in their old age and took computer classes and are secretly following your blog now.

    ReplyDelete