“For immediate release,” said the public relations e-mail. That was three weeks ago. I like to let them know who’s boss.
Now that a decent amount of time has passed, let’s check out this breathless, vital information. Ah, it was a survey conducted by a company that hooks up homeowners with contractors, and it concerned the top five complaints people make about their neighbors.
If you’re thinking, “It’s August, and he still has Christmas lights on the washing machine in his front yard” type complaints, well, it seems they surveyed a rather persnickety crowd. Here are their top gripes:
1. “Being too loud.” I wouldn’t know; we live under the approach to the airport. The neighbors could spend the evening demolishing pianos with jackhammers and we’d never know.
2. “Not picking up after pets.” I figure that if it’s in their yard, it’s none of my business, unless there’s so much my stucco erodes when the wind blows the wrong way.
The real complaint is when they pick it up and put it in your trash, like someone who drops off the dog in the country and says, “It’ll find a good home.” There’s nothing so irritating as opening the lid and getting punched in the snout by eau de offal and it’s not from your dog. Before we put our trash cans in a small shed, I used to bring a broom to poke off the buzzards.
This keep-your-dog-droppings-to-yourself rule applies even if you come across one of those contractor’s garbage bins the size of a boxcar sitting on the street, filled with rubbish. There’s usually a sign forbidding anything but construction detritus; this means that you have to pantomime seeing someone down the block so you can pretend to wave when you’re really flipping your dog-waste bag into the container.
Or so I’m, er, told.
3. “Parking in front of your house.” Oh, come on. A little yellow DO NOT CROSS tape, a chalk outline, problem solved. Or strew something sharp on the space, like nails or the epigrams of Dorothy Parker.
4. “Unsupervised children.” Yes! Nothing worse than the sound of happy kids playing on their own. There should be an adult in a lifeguard chair with a lasso to make sure they behave.
5. Top complaint: Nosy neighbors who look into your yard and “get too personal at the mailbox.”
I’ve never had anyone get personal at the mailbox, but apparently people go out to get the mail and find a neighbor already standing there, eager to know if you’re getting enough fiber.
Obviously, the list is incomplete. Ask the cranky neighbor who hates everyone and he’ll have lots of things he doesn’t like about his neighbors. For starters:
1. They exist.
2. They might suddenly cease to exist (sirens, fire truck, noise).
3. They have recently reproduced, which means an annoying backyard graduation party in 18 years.
4. There is a little tiny patch of peeled paint on the neighbor’s house that will surely send property valuations plummeting like a meteor through the earth’s atmosphere.
5. They keep sweeping up the nails he puts on the street in front of his house to keep people from parking there.
Now that you know what peeves people, consider how you shape up as a neighbor. Personally, I think I’m pretty good; some people just love to complain. I had those decorations off the washing machine a month ago.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks