However as I arrived home I was greeted by a scene (and smell) none too pleasant. Yes this concerned my mechanically inclined neighbor. You see for some reason he felt the need to disassemble his engine on the front lawn of the condominium (or apartment in his case) and spray paint various engine parts different colors.
The entire place reeked of spray paint. But Mr. Pimpmobile was nowhere to be found.
This changed my demeanor quite a bit. I was quite content on my drive across the state until I pulled into my parking lot. It didn’t take me long bring in my bags and do some unpacking. As I was putting a few items away upstairs I saw him return to his work in progress.
Now, people, I’m typically a reasonable person. Ninety-eight percent of the time I have a smile on my face and am quite willing to lend a hand to anyone I see. However after two years of watching someone, by their sheer existence bring down property values, I lost it. I went out the front door yelling, “What do you think you’re doing!” It wasn’t a question.
I think I startled him. He had that deer in headlights look that someone would criticize him for putting time and effort into an automobile. As if there is nothing else to do in this world.
Dale Carnegie would not have been proud of me. I actually started this argument and wasn’t very friendly. In fact for the previous week I had made several snide comments in response to conversations he tried to start with me. As a result he’s not exactly seeing eye-to-eye with me.
That heated conversation about making the place look like a trash heap and the smell of spray paint ended in me threatening to send a letter to the property manager. As I was about to complete I heard a knock at my door. It was the neighbor. Slightly calmer now he offered to compromise. He told me that this was the only place he had to work on his car.
However, I escalated things by informing him that he needed a leash on is dog and to clean up after him. As it happens I looked at the same coil of poop next to my car for about a month earlier this year. His response was, “I’m from Cleveland where a dog craps where it wants.”
We ended things at least not hating each other. But the letter was written. The next day I turned in the following to the property manager:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am requesting the immediate
and appropriate action toward the resident at [Edited]. Over the past two years
of my residency here as a due paying owner I have witnessed several chronic and
what I believe are property-devaluing actions and violations of common courtesy
and condo codes.
- A dog that is freely allowed to run around the courtyard without a leash
- The resident has failed to clean up after the dog has made a mess in the common yard.
- Unbagged trash from the resident has left the alley between courtyards a trashy mess
- The tenant is also constantly working on his automobile in the common parking lot. This has resulted in:
- A fire hazard: an immobile vehicle would block rescue workers from performing their duties
- Potential tire damage from loose bolts and other parts as engines have been disassembled in this common space
- Various discarded parts and other auto-maintenance related trash left in the parking lot.
- On September 5, 2005 after returning home the tenant was in the process of using aerosol paints on his vehicle parts in the common grassy areas resulting in a foul odor.
- Car maintenance equipment on the common lawn in front of both our units has resulted in the destruction of the grass and higher landscaping costs to [edited].
Loud music throughout the day that can be heard through the common wall Hammering: A constant hammering on the common wall which is no doubt damaging [edited]'s property. This noise was loud enough to be heard over the phone.
After two years of these annoyances I have decided to withhold my $110 condo dues until action has been taken.
Tuesday was quiet, but by Wednesday I took the photo below, and as I was outside the inevitable happened… we confronted each other again.
Do you want to walk out of your door and see this?
To anyone else this would have been a very funny altercation. I had read the Condo Charter just enough to be dangerous, while he was arguing for the sake of arguing. I told him working on his car was a violation. He told me the bikes the children were riding were also illegal.
“No those are just kids being kids,” I responded. Then I went back to what I knew was an argument I was assured a victory in, reagarding the unleashed dog (really not much more than a rat with a collar, but the rules are rules). He told me that if we were in Cleveland I wouldn't be able saying anything to him. I'm pretty sure Cleveland has leash laws too. Maybe not in the Dawgpound section of Cleveland Stadium, but in other public places I'm sure.
Well, I’ll spare you the four-letter words, but what happened was a threat to “make me as miserable as possible.”
Over the next few hours I did my best to put him out of my mind. Knowing that misery, much like happiness comes from within, I decided I would not let him make me miserable anymore. I started watching a movie I had rented, did my monthly budget and read a chapter of “I am Charlotte Simmons.”
By 10:30 It was time to take the movie back. I opened my door to see him under his car with a utility lamp, working on shocks, breaks or something in the general wheel area. He was lying on the hard blacktop, probably still sticky from the heat of the sun that day. The banana slugs were abut to come out and make their zig-zags across the walk way. And I’m sure he sliced at least one knuckle down there.
Mentally I contrasted that with where I just was. Inside, in the air conditioning, reading a good book on a comfortable couch. At 10:30 at night if you’re under a car on the hard pavement instead of inside spending quality time with your wife, reading to your children or… well frankly anywhere else, which one of us is miserable?
Nothing happened the rest of the week, other than my fairly constant complaining. However an interesting twist came after Church on Sunday. My pastor, having heard me give a very short version of the story told me that he had met my neighbor and heard his side of things. I’m not sure what the neighbor told the pastor, but I got the feeling that I came off pretty bad in his version. Rev. Steve did a better version of humanizing this guy to me than I have to you.
But what is done is done. That afternoon I opened the letter I had received in response to my complaint. I didn’t open it Saturday when I received it because if it was bad news I didn’t want my evening of Football watching to be ruined. I left that job to the University of Texas Longhorns.
The letter was a copy of what was sent to the neighbor. It sited an abbreviated list of complaints, but contained a key line:
Car maintenance is NOT to be performed on the property.Nothing has happened since then, except I did pay my condo dues.
Going forward I foresee the family next door moving. I really hope they take this opportunity to look into financing for a house. That will give them the chance to build equity, save for their two daughter’s college educations and give him the garage he wants and needs so that he will finally be happy working on vehicles and nobody (okay, this last line’s about me) will say a word about his automotive ingenuity.