Saturday, August 25, 2007

Petty Larceny by Next Door Neighbor

It's almost 3am and I can't sleep because I keep going over and over this in my head so I thought, I can post about this on my blog anyway.

My next door neighbors have, uh, fluid boundaries when it comes to where their property ends and mine starts. Several times in the four months since I've lived here they've come over to do whatever pleased them in my property, and so far I've not said anything about this. The first time, they had given us a bunch of sod that they had dug up from their lawn, and I happened to come out and catch the man in my back yard with a wheelbarrow, taking back some of it. He had the good grace to be embarrassed and apologize, and I felt - what? - like I owed them because they had given us this stuff anyway, so I said it was okay. Then they did some work on their walkway that abuts ours, and they just came over and dug up a section of my walkway that was contiguous with what they were digging up of their own, and repaved the entire area with concrete so it ended up in better shape than it had been before. They had been having some flooding in their basement, and this fixed it; it also fixed most of a minor problem of flooding I had in my own basement too. I didn't appreciate that they didn't ask me beforehand if they could dig up the old concrete on my property before they did it, but again, I felt they had done me a favor, so I couldn't complain about the boundaries.

What happened yesterday was weirder. I was home, and I thought I saw in the reflection of my monitor (my back is to the window onto the back yard) something in the back yard, but when I turned around there wasn't anybody there. Later I went out and was looking at the sweet peppers I have been growing back there. I've been watching them with some excitement, as they are finally almost big enough to pick. To my surprise the biggest of them, the first one to come out, the one I've been watching most excitedly ... was GONE! We've had critters (which ate all the apples off my tree) so I thought it might have been them, but there was none of the telltale detritus like leftover bites and whatnot that was always evidence of the critters stealing apples. I thought of course of my neighbor, and wondered, but felt bad that I was so suspicious.

So tonight the neighbors' kid came and rang my bell and said his mom wanted me to come over. Which I thought was a little peremptory, but who knows? maybe something was wrong. So I dropped what I was doing and followed him over there. And she has all this crap that was left behind in the store they bought and are redoing, and she wanted to give me some of it. Stale, inedible ice cream cones in bulk, Camel cigarette swag I don't want, Winston drink cups, stuff like that. And I somehow can't say no, even though I really don't want any of it in my house. And it comes out that she sent her boy over to take some tomatoes from my garden. And two peppers too. I say, Oh, that was you! I couldn't figure out how they disappeared!!! But laughed and let it all be a good joke between neighbors. I was put on the spot, there in front of all three of her kids, and couldn't get in touch with how I really felt. I even invited them to our housewarming party we are having tomorrow (well, today)! When the very freaking LAST thing I want is for them to come over to my back yard!

I told my boyfriend about it later and he was appropriately indignant. He offered to tell them they better never do that again. I took him up on his offer and said, "Yes, say to them, 'She would never say anything because she is too nice, but I will tell you she was upset,'" which is complete bullshit. I didn't say anything because I was concerned first and foremost with avoiding a conflict. I'm absolutely NOT too nice. Anyway, I know I need to have the conversation with her myself, on my own behalf, and not let my boyfriend fight my battles for me.

And now I cannot sleep because I keep playing out that conversation with her in my head. Alternating that with praying for her, and for her kid whom she's now taught it's okay to steal stuff from my yard. Alternating that with telling them we have a gun and if somebody trespasses on our property we have the right to use it. With praying for her. With telling her in front of her kid that she should not have told him to go in our yard to take stuff. Then thinking he will feel humiliated on her behalf and will begin stealing from us BECAUSE of that.

Blah blah blah blah BLAH ... my brain is driving me crazy!

I'm going back to bed and I'm going to pray for them as insistently and nonstop as I can, as it's the only thing that works in interpersonal conflict situations like this. And let tomorrow's conversation with this woman take place when it takes place.

Higher Power!


lisa said...

the nerve! what a lousy neighbor, that's just plain wrong.

congrats on the job!

Vicki Knitorious said...

I have had to have uncomfortable conversations -- not quite confrontations -- with a neighbor. One most memorable was with a neighbor that I LOVED, but something one of her kids said stuck in my craw as something a kid would never come up with on his own, you know, like he was parroting... his parents? Did they *talk* about us? Huh??? So, anyway, it was uncomfortable, but we all got through it satisfactorily and without hard feelings.

One of the things that got me through (and helps to-this-day) was thinking of a bumper sticker my daughter had on her car at the time: Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes.

I really hope you can make your feelings known and still be on neighborly terms with your neighbor.