Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Neighbor Guy is Mowing

Neighbor Guy is mowing.

That’s not such an extraordinary act, but it’s January, even if it is January in Florida. It’s about 50 degrees outside – and that’s today’s high. For most people around here, mowing season ended sometime in September when the grass mostly went into a holding pattern.

But Neighbor Guy is mowing.

I’ve lived next door to Neighbor Guy for most of the last 31 years. For 3 years I was gone, when my then-husband joined the Navy. When I returned, the Neighbor Guy family itself was elsewhere, courtesy of the Navy. But, shortly, they came back.

And it’s been fun and games ever since.

I used to think Neighbor Guy had issues because his years in the Navy turned him into a control freak, but after my son joined the Marines and my daughter married a Navy guy and neither son nor son-in-law have developed control issues, I realized that no, it’s the other way around: Neighbor Guy probably joined the military because it fit his control freak worldview.

Look, he can be nice. But whenever I accept a pat on the head from the guy, I always expect a kick in the ribs later. So I maintain a friendly, but-keep-my-head-down-as-much-as-possible relationship with him. It doesn’t take much to offend his sensibilities.

For instance, a few years ago, I was struggling to keep my yard mowed. I had little time, next to no money, and an unreliable mower. When the grass reached a level that was bothering me – probably a month’s growth – I finally went out and rented a horror of a mower. Scissors would have been easier. While I was trying to mow, a police car cruised down our little cul-de-sac and stopped in front of the house across from Neighbor Guy. This was an everyday sight because Other Guy was the frequent target of Neighbor Guy’s calls to authorities. Neighbor Guy didn’t like the truck that didn’t run parked in Other Guy’s driveway. Neighbor Guy didn’t like the length of the grass in Other Guy’s yard. Neighbor Guy didn’t like Other Guy’s dog. Anyway, Other Guy was outside and he the police officer talked a while. When the officer drove away, Other Guy ambled over to talk to me.

“Guess what he wanted?” Other Guy asked.

“No idea,” I shrugged.

Somebody” said Other Guy, and yes, he spoke in italics, “reported an overgrown lawn to the authorities.”

“Is that so?” (We both well knew who Somebody was.)

“Yep,” said Other Guy, “and as I pointed out to him, my lawn was nicely mown as was every other lawn on the street, and you obviously are mowing yours, so I didn’t see where there was any problem. The officer agreed with me.”

Shortly after that, I entered into the agreement to have the kid across the street – Other Guy’s son – mow my lawn. That didn’t go so well, but all’s well now.

When I came home last night, I found a flyer tucked beside my doorknob. Neighbor Guy has revived the neighborhood association.

Our covenants don’t call for one, but ten or so years ago, Neighbor Guy was instrumental in establishing a voluntary association (it lasted about two years). That done, he bombarded us with monthly newsletters reminding us that trash should only go out the evening before pickup day! And empty cans should be pulled off the street promptly! Yards should be kept mowed! No dogs running around! No semis parked on the streets!

That last one was particularly nasty, I thought, because it targeted exactly one family. The main road running through the subdivision is extremely wide for a little old subdivision. And once a week or so a fella who lived on the road parked a semi there overnight. Obviously, driving a truck was his livelihood. Possibly he had nowhere else to put the truck. But apparently it’s technically not legal to do that. Yet he did nothing to block the flow of traffic. Nothing. There’s room for four lanes on that road. However, he did eventually quit parking there. I don’t know where he put the truck after that, but I do know the house was foreclosed upon a few months later. One thing probably had nothing to do with the other, but I say don’t get in the way of a guy trying to make an honest living.

So this newsletter – and I know Neighbor Guy’s behind it because he introduces himself on the letter – is concerned with hot button items such as zoning and “covenants and restrictions” enforcement, garbage, etc. (As a former real estate secretary, I’ve looked into it and I know that our covenants and restrictions expired a few years ago, so I’m not sure what that’s all about.) He’s calling for a meeting this weekend.

Just yesterday (before I found the newsletter) I made the decision to start putting my recycling out late on Monday. It’s not picked up until just before dawn on Wednesday. However, Tuesday is a school day and I am up early – sometimes out the door at 6 am – and home no sooner than 8:30 pm, tired, grumpy, and lately, cold. Recycling doesn’t fit on my Tuesday to-do list.

This might lead to confrontation.

But sometimes, like Neighbor Guy obviously believes, you just gotta take a stand.

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