July 27, 2009

Turf wars

Today I went over and confronted my neighbor Erin about the two large piles of weeds her husband Guy left in the alley yesterday after he chopped them down. One pile was right where I have to make my turn to go into the garage. In fact yesterday as I was returning from running errands, Guy and Erin were standing in the alley watching me trying to make my turn with that same pile of weeds in my way. We have lived in our house for 5 years now and I have not spoken to these neighbors much, I don’t think we are on very friendly terms as Erin doesn’t speak to me when I go to the mailbox if she happens to be there even when I say hello. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I hoped they would have bagged their weeds and moved them.

This morning when I left to run my errands the same piles of weeds were still in place. All the way to the grocery store I practiced what I was going to go and say calmly to Erin, I figured Guy was probably at work. Then when I got home I decided to pick up the weeds and bag them myself and drag them over to their driveway. It is some kind of martyr thing that I think I inherited (and I didn’t think it would get done if I didn’t do it either). First as I bagged them, some of the weeds were really prickly on my bare hands which of course made me madder. Then after I picked all the weeds up, I had to sweep quite a bit of dirt back onto their flower beds; I am especially concerned about that because the dirt turns into mud when it rains and then I carry that in on my wheels to our garage. The whole time I am sweeping I am thinking how maybe this is not a good thing for my bad arm and back so of course I am getting madder yet.

As I write this I begin to understand my anger, but at the time I went to talk to my neighbor I was astounded how furious I had become. I walked around to the front of her house half a block away. When I got there some woman was leaving. After she left I introduced myself. Then I told her they had left their weeds in the alley yesterday and I had cleaned them up. I could barely choke the words out I was so mad, and I continued to struggle to spit words out; it was as if my whole mouth was clenched and I had to push each word out between my teeth.

“Oh you didn’t need to do that,” she said, “my husband was chopping weeds yesterday when he got called out of town.”
“Yes, I did need to, they were right where I turn into my garage. No street sweepers clean the alley, you know?” said I.
“Yes, I know. Well I’m sorry,” she said, “but he was called away on an emergency.”
“I’m sorry, but you really need to clean up after yourselves,” said I. “I know you both think I am the one who runs over your side yard plants too, but its not me.”
“Oh no,” she said, “we know it is the garbage truck, we have seen it.”
“It is really hard for me to express this to you, I am not a person that likes to confront people,” I said.
“Well he was called away on an emergency,” she repeated.

Should I have been more sympathetic? My mind wouldn’t go there, I am thinking ‘so is there some reason you couldn’t take your two 8 year old children and go clean it up yourself?’

“I’m sorry,” I said as she began to shut the door in my face.
Now I was really furious, nothing like someone shutting the door in your face to create further anger. I might have been more sympathetic to Guy’s emergency, except every time he has ‘de-weeded’ his part of the alley, he has left a pile of weeds which he never picks up. My other neighbor Sally has been shoveling his alley weeds back onto his flower bed several times. I didn’t think to say that to Erin, but I should have (the weeds have never been at my turn spot into the garage before.) I went back home and called my neighbor Sherry to vent, and when she didn’t answer I called my other neighbor Deborah. She sympathized with me as these neighbors Guy and Erin never pick up any loose plastic bags or other trash the garbage man lets escape from their cans into the alley by their house, but leave it blow around for the rest of us to pick up. Deborah thinks we should start throwing the stuff back over their fence into their yard. That’s never been my style, but maybe she is right.

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