I Was In The Neighborhood

Neighborhood

I recently wrote about some neighbors from Hell, and some of you indicated that you had some first-hand experience.

In nearly 50 years of marriage, we’ve never had any really bad ones, merely ‘interesting’ ones, like the kids in the other half of our current semi-detached.  A girl, 8, and a boy, 6, who never ‘walk’ down stairs, they sound like they have a collection of bowling balls, which they pour down.  My son works all night, and ‘tries’ to sleep during the day.  These two rattle cups in our kitchen on the side away from them.

In a public housing complex, one neighbor was a single mother. She’d had a son, and then, 25 years later, a change-of-life daughter who she indulged.  The kid wanted a kitten, and was given one, but neither the 10-year-old, nor her pet was allowed in the house when Mom was not there.

Too poor/stupid to buy a harness or collar, the girl put a heavy cord around the kitten’s neck and tied it to a cedar bush while she was at school. One day the kitten was startled by something, and leapt up into the bush a couple of times.  My wife happened to look out our back window, to see it dangling from the cord.  She rushed out in time to save it, and spoke to the mother.  The kitten bit the girl, and she threw it down the basement stairs.  It survived that, but eventually ‘disappeared.’

She was given a pet rabbit. I’d forgotten about the no pets in the house rule.  I came home from work about 3PM one afternoon, to see a blue, plastic, recycling box inverted in the back yard, in the blazing sun.  An hour later, the kid showed up and removed an almost heat-stroked bunny from beneath.  I told her not to leave her pet in the sun.  “Well, it was shady there when I left.”  [The sun moves during the day, you little ****!]

Like daughter, like Mother. She came by her dumb honestly.  I came home one day to see the mother’s car with a coat hanger sticking out of the top of the driver’s window – oh-oh!  Sure enough, when I went inside, the wife told me that she’d locked her keys in the car.  The wife had explained the catch the lock with a coat hanger, but her fingers weren’t strong enough.

I went out and had it open in a couple of minutes, and took a bundle of keys that a building custodian would be proud of, to the door. I told her that she should have another set of keys for just this situation.  “Oh, I have a second set of keys.”  “Well, where are they?” “On the chain, with the others.”

The kid was a little pudgy, and her mother restricted her diet, possibly why she wasn’t allowed alone in the house. We always had a bag of hard candies in our glove compartment, to suck on, on long drives, to avoid the need to stop at Burger King for drinks.  This was when I first started regularly locking the car, when the candy disappeared for the second time.  I also installed a locking gas-cap, because some people in the complex had their gas-tanks siphoned, and others had water, pop, sugar and sand poured in.

In my Racism Hurts post, I wrote of a beige neighbor from Guyana, who was such an asshole that he qualified for the ‘Paki’ label. A problem to others, he was more entertaining, if irritating to us.

We rented a brand new house which a relative had purchased as an investment. A pair of young professionals had it built, but he got a great job offer in another city, even before they moved in.  We had to meet his wife there to get the keys.

She assured us that they had not lived in it, but her brother had, for a couple of months, while getting an apartment after a messy divorce. What few possessions he had left were locked in the garage, and would be gone by the weekend.  I grabbed the garage-door handle and lifted….and the door rolled up.  Of course, he had to surrender the key; it’s not locked.  I rolled the door down and said nothing.  It’s not my problem.

Our problem was the young couple who moved in on the other side. She was the airhead instigator. He was the ‘Yes dear.  Yes dear.’  A new house – we went almost a year without a paved driveway, clattering in over mud and gravel.  Finally, I helped the owner lay timbers as a frame, on their side.

A city by-law requiring that all structures, like fences and driveways, had to be 2 feet inside the property line had been rescinded. The legal maximum width for a single dwelling driveway was 17 feet.  We drove two cars, so he and I made it 18 feet wide, bringing the timbers to about 3 inches from the property line.

After it was filled and paved, I came home one day, and found three little bamboo sticks between the houses, the kind you tie flowers up to. Not very straight, the line between any two would miss the third by 2 or 3 inches, but Hmmm….

Sure enough, the next time he saw me outside, he told me that my driveway was on his property.  “No, it’s not.”  “Yes it is!  You’re going to have to tear it apart, and remove some of it.”  “It’s not on your property!  Why would you think it was?”  “Well, I measured.”  “Measured from where?”  “I measured from the house.”  That explains the gardening stakes.

I asked why he hadn’t measured from the survey marker. “Huh?”  I walked down to the sidewalk and pulled back the sod we’d cut to put the timbers in.  There, 3 inches on his side, was the large steel spike that the surveyor had pounded in at the property line.  “Uh – Okay.  Never mind.”

That winter, I began by pushing the snow on the outside of the driveway, into the drainage swale between the houses. One day, I came home to find my wife embroiled in an altercation.  Apparently (the female) one of them had figured that, in the spring, when the snow melted, instead of flowing downhill into the sewer, the melt-water would flow 3 feet uphill, over the edge of their foundation, and flood their basement.

There she was, on a snowy, December front porch, in a bathrobe and slippers, screaming, “You fat pig! You fat pig!” at my poor wife.  Not exactly the way to win an argument.  Still, from then on, I pushed the snow down a short driveway, and piled it on the City-owned Boulevard in front of their house till they couldn’t see over it, across the street, and there wasn’t a thing they could say about it.

They say that good fences make good neighbors, but even Trump couldn’t build a fence high enough to make this pair of morons good. 😯

Flash Fiction #61

Moths

PHOTO PROMPT – © Madison Woods

DEATH STAR

Tarczyn?? Respond Tarczyn!! Abort mission and evacuate!

Our weapons are too weak to defeat these ‘hoomans’. They hardly bother to notice us.

Poor Veeblefetzer! They hit him with a high-speed, transparent, radiation barrier. I hope he went quickly. They hosed him with some toxic blue fluid, and a giant steel beam flipped him down onto that strange, hard, black surface.

We need to find another world to settle our refugees, perhaps the orb they call Pluto. It may be a dwarf planet, but it should be big enough for us.

I told High Command that this invasion would never succeed.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

#493

They Paved Paradise

So said Joni Mitchell, some years ago.  The same thought was echoed by Chrissie Hynde, when she wrote, My pretty countryside had been paved down the middle, by a government that had no pride.  The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls.

Travel/transportation is another technology which has advanced greatly over the last couple of centuries, and especially the last 50 or 60 years.  Some will say that’s a good thing.  Some will claim it’s necessary.  It has definitely opened up North America, and Americans’ social eyes, but old guys like me still miss the old days a bit, even if they weren’t “good.”

Travel used to be difficult and time-consuming.  BrainRants can rant about taking 36 hours to get from Afghanistan to Kansas, but it’s not too long ago that it would have taken 36 days, and before that, 36 weeks.  I’m reading a series of books about a Virginia town, transported back to 1632 Germany.  In those days not many people travelled more than 20 miles from where they were born.  The Americans found travel particularly difficult, because of what they had been used to.

Twenty miles was about as far as you could go in one day.  The word journey comes from the French word, journée, a day’s work or travel.  Most people had to walk.  A lucky few had riding horses, somewhat faster and less tiring, but not terribly comfortable.  Merchants and the like had wagons, but roads were rutted, pot-holed, and often muddy, and wagons had no shock absorbers.  It was rough on the butt and back.

The Romans built a bunch of good roads which lasted, but were still hard on the feet and spines of travellers.  It was not until the 1880s that the idea of mixing tar or asphalt with sand and small stones allowed the construction of “permanent”, smooth roads, and speeds and personal comfort to increase.

Even a hundred years ago, most freight and passengers moved around the country on trains.  The U.S. has maintained a lot of track, but sadly, much of Canada’s has been torn up.  Both countries now rely heavily on motorised vehicles.   To serve them, roads and parking areas have burgeoned.  The big, multi-lane highways are fenced off, preventing both humans and animals from crossing.  You can’t get on, and you can’t get off.  They’re finally getting smart, and building animal overpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway in a couple of the big National parks

In the areas of Michigan where I’ve driven, instead of blacktop, they’ve built their roads from poured concrete.  Concrete expands and contracts differently from asphalt.  It is laid down in 50-foot sections, with rubberized joints between them.  This creates a most annoying tick, tick, tick, as you drive over them, almost like the steel wheels of the old trains.  The concrete lasts longer than asphalt, but when it does need repair, pouring concrete into a pothole is more difficult, it takes longer to set, and the repair falls apart faster than blacktop.

The American Interstates, and Ontario’s 400-series highways didn’t come into existence until the mid-60s.  As a child, about 1950, I hadn’t even visited the little neighboring town, 5 miles away, and my Father took us to Niagara Falls on vacation.  Nowadays, it’s a four-hour, 200 mile trip.  Back then it took most of a day; even paved roads were only 2-lanes, they ran into and out of every little town, signage was poor, or non-existent.   I don’t know how Dad managed to find the place.

We rented a little cabin for an overnight stay.  Dad was paranoid enough, that he put his wallet under his pillow.  The next day we crossed the border to visit some relatives in upstate New York.  It wasn’t until Dad tried to buy some gas for the trip back, that he realized his wallet was missing.  Two adults, and two little kids got into the States without a shred of I.D., almost no money, and not a bit of fuss raised.  Imagine trying that at the border today.  The owner of the cabins was holding the wallet when we got back.  An honest cleaning lady had turned it in.

If only roads went only where very little grows.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Here in Southern Ontario, and many other places, 10 and 12 lane super-roads are eating up hundreds of square miles of the best farmland in the world.  Recharge areas for underground aquifers which supply drinking water to our cities are being paved over for roads and parking lots.  All that black paving sucks up the heat of the sun, making cities up to five degrees C. hotter than the surrounding countryside.

As a small-town boy, I appreciate the ability to get to interesting places quickly and easily.  I like having all the conveniences that a city can provide, but there are an increasing number of times I wish we could go back to a simpler, more pastoral time.  Do any of you feel the same way?  Residents of Newfoundland need not reply.  Void where society is already 50 years behind the times.