Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bad Neighbors

the side of the house, and the neighborly fence.SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!" I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.
from Mending Wall by Robert Frost

I'm not sure whether the "bad neighbors" in the title above are John and me, or people who live nearby, or a bit of each.  All I can do is tell my story,  and let you judge from there.  You won't have all the facts, because I don't know them, and anyway, you'll probably be inclined to lean my way because you only have my point of view to go on.

Well, anyway.

The trench was hardly visible by the time the kid was finished.Here in Tucson, there are dozens of formal "neighborhoods," with names and borders, bylaws and neighborhood associations.  We live in one of these little fiefdoms.  Being shy and retiring types, and also busy as heck, we've never been to a meeting of the neighborhood association, never visited the community swimming pool, never voted on which was more important: more sidewalks or more street repairs, or whatever the choices were.  I don't know the name of a single person on my block, other than John, much less the names of people on adjoining streets.  I know the name of the dog next door, but that's about it.

Mind you, the neighbors haven't exactly gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  Nobody ever came by with a cake and a smile, and said, "Hi, I'm Jill, and this is Bob.  We live in the blue house over there."  John's  had a few conversations with the older guy next door, and I've spoken to him and his wife about once each, and their son twice when he had sickly poodle pups.  I've talked about dogs once or twice with the lady across the street, and once with someone just around the bend, who has since moved away.  And Noodle and I used to visit through the fence with a couple of golden retrievers, but I never learned the owner's name.  He's long gone now.  Yeah, all my neighborhood interactions have been doggie-centric.

Oh, and a guy at the end of the block once accused me of letting Noodle and Tuffy leave messes in his yard all the time.  I was walking them down the alleyway for the first time in months and months (they normally went in the fenced back yard, via the doggie door) - and neither dog had squatted once.

Bottom line:  We don't know these people.  They don't know us.  Yet we've lived here for a little over 11 years. 

The offending pipe - the end of it, anyway.Perhaps eight years ago, we had to  call in a plumber because we were having clogging problems.  At the time, we were told that we'd eventually need a new pipe in the back yard, the big one that connects the house to the city's water.  That pipe was probably decades old, and starting to deteriorate.  But we didn't have the $900 to replace it, so we got the bare minimum done to get things under control. The older guy next door suggested that we rent a rooter and do it ourselves, but that never sounded like the world's greatest idea to me, even though the neighbor did it with his own pipe, and presumably did okay on the job. Still, his advice was the most neighborly thing anyone has done or said around here in 11 years.

In later discussions about fixing up the house, I always remembered the pipe in the back yard.  I knew we'd have to do something about it someday.  But I think John half-forgot it.  It wasn't the kind of project that interested him.  Redoing the bathrooms, making a big bedroom out of two smaller ones, building in bookcases, killing ugly wallpaper - those are the kinds of projects that set the wheels turning in John's design-oriented mind.

Well, guess what happened last week.

It was Thursday night, probably close to 2 AM.   I went to wash my hair before bed, and discovered  that the water pressure was even worse than usual.  But it was late and I was tired, and there was nothing I could do about it in the middle of the night anyway.  I finished my shower and went to bed.

At 7:20 AM, John came out of the shower in the other bathroom and said, "What's with the water pressure?"

"I don't know," I said.  "It was that was last night when I washed my hair."  Remembering the pipe, I added,  "Maybe you should go outside and check on it."

By Monday, this was all that could be seen where the gushing had been.So John went outside.  He came back in a moment later, and reported that water was "gushing" from the water meter.  He called Tucson Water at 7:30 AM to report it, and again at 9 AM.  Fortunately, he happened to have arranged to take Friday off from work, and was able to wait around for the water department guy and divers plumbers.  What a way to spend a "relaxing" day off!  And me, I had to go to work.  As I left, I noticed that the water from the leak had made it all the way out to Wilmot.

The person from Tucson Water confirmed that the problem was indeed the old pipe.  It needed replacing, no way out of it this time.  He figured it would cost us about $1000.  This sounded reasonable, given the $900 estimate from eight years ago.  He turned off the water to the house and left.  As for the big water bill that we'll probably get, he advised us that if we explained the situation, we might not have to pay for all of it.

John started making phone calls.  The first estimate came in at $1700 - and that was at a discount!  That was with selling us the 75 foot pipe for the 60 foot price!

John kept at it, and eventually found a plumber that could do it for about $1000.  The person on the phone said they couldn't do it until Tuesday, though.  They did send someone out on Friday, though, to look things over and set up a temporary hookup so we'd have water over the weekend.  The last thing the guy said was, "See you Monday at 7:30 AM."  Monday?  What happened to Tuesday? Not that I'm complaining!

There were two trucks at the house at the endof the day.

You can hardly see the trench.
There were two trucks at the house at the end of the day.
We saw no sign of anyone on Monday at 7:30 AM, but John left a note on the door just in case.  I came home at lunch, and discovered that a young guy had been working for several hours, possibly since 7:30 AM.  I made sure he had my phone number, and went back to work. 

5 PM came, but there was still no call to say that he was done.  I rushed home.  He was almost done by then.  His "buddy," a slightly older, more experienced guy, was showing him some of the finer point of finishing up, and how to make sure everything was as it should be.  They even removed the old faucets on the side of the house, which used to go to swamp coolers (long since removed), and put in a nice new one instead.

The job was done at 5:30 PM that day.  Cost: $1005.  Well done, guys!  I could hardly even tell that the back yard had been torn up.

There were two trucks at the house at the end of the day.Now here's the kicker.  At 4:56 PM on Friday, after the two calls from John to Tucson Water, after they'd actually been out, found the problem and turned off the water, after plumbers and traumas and plenty of effort by John and by me (well, moral support by me, anyway), someone from the city left us a voicemail.  The gist of the call was to say that we'd been reported by a neighbor for wasting water, possibly by illegally discharging water from our pool into the alleyway, which "flooded" Wilmot.  Next time, there would be a $250 fine. Well, John and I were both upset by this call.  Hadn't we talked to Tucson Water repeatedly?  Hadn't we done everything we could?  Were we not totally innocent of this "crime?"

We get notes on the door from the city if the grass gets too long, if there's something in the alleyway that shouldn't be there, if someone thinks our pool is dirty.  If we're at fault, we'll hear about it, and that's fine.  But don't give us grief after we've done everything we can to fix something that wasn't really  our fault!


the new faucet  redoing the faucet.


ondinemonet said...


What a complete nightmare? It sounds like an unfriendly neighborhood, just a couple streets over from "Wisteria Lane." (From Desperate Housewives).  I am so sorry you had to go through this, when we owned a home, we had some run ins with a neighbor over what else? a fense. Uggggg. Makes me quite thrilled to be living in a nice little cottage, someone else owns and has to worry about. Hugs to you and your hubby! Hang in there dear ones.

Always, Carly :)

kalpal said...

Neighbors are great if they live far away and are not burdened with lots of free time so as to be able to help you correct all the mistakes you make every day, at least in their opinion. Just keep on living. Let the neighbor keep on fretting.

jabarett said...

Sounds like our neighborhood - except we don't have a formal association. We live on a main thoroughfare through our end of town, and the city is big on sending letters for tall grass. I even got one when the folks next door had tall grass! Then there was the guy who reamed out my husband because I mowed the lawn and strayed a couple of inches onto his grass. It was obviously HIS fault because he let an incompetent woman get behind the lawn mower. How DARE he go out of town on an extended business trip! The lawn is more important than a mere job! (His wife was a really sweet lady, however.)

gdireneoe said...

LOVELOVELOVE Robert Frost.  He was the first poet that spoke to me.  This "Fences" poem (that's how I've always though tof it) made an impression on my life...still can't stand the damned things.  Sounds like you and I share similar "nobbers" (Mr.'s mixing of the neighbor  and not). ;)  C.

globetrotter2u said...

People are assholes. Period. From working with the public all those years with first my school and then as a realtor I've realized how petty and horrible people can be. Yeah, I'd put up a big ugly fence if I were you. Then plant pretty shrubs on your side of it.

ryanagi said...

I'm like you. I barely know my neighbors. I worked full time until Tyler arrived and by then I guess it was too late to make nice with the other Moms around here.  So far they just leave us alone (except for the people who live behind us who filed a complaint when our house was being built forcing our builder to "re-grade" our property and raise the level of our lot by 5 feet for "drainage". @@ (eye rolls). So now it's going to cost $13,000 to "fix" that regrading and make the rest of our back yard usable. (Thanks neighbor.) That's just part of our landscaping estimate. I about had a coronary when I got the contract from the landscaper. Now I have to figure out a way to break the news to our next door neighbor about the project. They are VERY picky about their yard. What will they think about the loss of lawn? The wall? The ground cover and edging going in at the edge of their property? Ugh. I hope they are reasonable and see it as a good thing. I sure hope you set the water people right about the leak. If they keep a record of those things, yours should be expunged.

georgannawrt said...

I live in a neighborhood like yours.  I had the same sort of problem in reverse.  After weeks of suspicion, I finally caught the woman who lets her three dogs run loose (a violation) and poop in the commons area without cleaning up after them (another violation and rather stinky).  I confronted her nonviolently, only to suffer one of her dogs jumping on me as I stood on my porch in my bathrobe.  Then I reported her to the association office. A few days later, I saw the woman standing in the alley behind my car.  The next day I found a dent and small woman-size boot print on the car door. Nice, huh?  You follow the rules yourself and pay the consequences. My commiserations.

salemslot9 said...

one of my dreams
is to live in a house with some land around it
so there are no neighbors that are too close :)