Monday, August 23, 2010

EGB's Guide to Winning Friends and Influencing Neighbors

Next door to our house lives this lady. For anonymity's sake, I'll just call her Maxine, like Hallmark does, although she's in the Greeting Card Protection Program and claims a different name. We met her for the first time on the day of the inspection of the house. She came out to greet Obie and to make sure that we knew for sure that the fence separating our property from hers belonged to us. She went on to tell us that the owner who had erected the fence (not the POs that we purchased the house from, but another owner lost to the mists of time) had wanted to put up a 6 foot high "spite" fence, but wasn't allowed to according to Indiana zoning laws. "If they'd asked me," Maxine told us, "I would have said put up a 10 foot fence. Nothing wrong with a spite fence in that woman's case!" She also told us that the garden in the front yard put in by the POs extended into her property. "You don't need to do anything about it," she said. "But you should know. That's on my property."

Maxine seems to have a really good heart, just as her cartoon doppelganger isn't really mean, just a little crabby. For example, two weekends ago J was out of town for a major family event --his great-aunt turned 95! It didn't occur to us when making the plans for him to go to the reunion that I would be 36 weeks pregnant at the time, and that there would be nothing logical to stop LO from making his real world debut that weekend. The last thing J said to me before getting onto the plane was "Just say no to labor!" (This struck me as a kind of anti-union sentiment, and I wondered if LO was picketing in my uterus, and where we might find a scab willing to cross that labor line. But I digress). I ran into Maxine later that weekend as she was out in her back yard. She mentioned that she hadn't seen much of us out in the yard. I might be paranoid, but the undertone I read was that she was wondering why we hadn't starting mowing the grass or cutting back the overgrown wisteria yet. I explained that we were still getting settled and as yet had not gotten our stuff--including our yard implements. I went on to tell her about J's family visit and our half-joking fear that I would go into labor while he was out of town. She told me to just knock on her door and she'd be happy to give me a ride to the hospital. So she's definitely a very sweet person.

But when J spent an hour chatting with her over the fence earlier this week, she wanted to know when we were taking all that "crap" down off the house (meaning the ivy that I love), and she filled him in on all the neighborhood gossip. We're not quite sure how to take her. She's been friendly, in her way, but she definitely is a "glass half empty and dammit, I'm out of cigarettes and get off my lawn!" type of person. I'm hoping to make friends at some point, if for no other reason than because she seems like she'll be very entertaining. (And I don't think she's going to particularly like our plan to hang the [clean!] reusable diapers up to dry on a clothes line in our back yard. So staying in her good graces seems like a good idea.) But ever since J's long chat with her, we've realized that she embodies all that the Hallmark lady stands for. (She even has a little dog, too).

Then, of course, there's Cujo's mother. In a house on the other side of ours lives a woman with two dogs--an enormous Rott Weiler and a tiny yaptastic dog who things he's a Rottie. Whenever we've walked Obie past that house, Cujo, aka the enormous dog, has started barking as if terrorists are threatening his house and has thrown himself bodily against the front window. It's only a matter of time before he breaks through the glass. Obie, for his adorable clueless part, seems to have no idea that anyone is making a fuss. (Although, he does have a habit of pissing or taking an enormous dump right in front of a dog who is barking at him to leave from the other side of a fence or a window, all with the pretense of having no idea that the other dog is there. It's as if Obie is saying "Smell that? That's the smell of dominance, my friend!") In any case, the first time we passed Cujo's house, Cujo's mother came to the window to see what the fuss was, and gave us a concerned look. I was thinking befriending her might also be an uphill battle when I saw that look.

When Obie went for his little jaunt on Saturday that ended with me twisting my ankle, J found him hanging out on Cujo's porch. As we were walking past the house later that night on our way out for dinner, J pointed out that it was where he'd found the dog. "Really?" I said in a tone that could be heard in Indianapolis. "On Cujo's porch?" It was just at that moment that I realized that the woman getting out the car DIRECTLY in front of that house was none other than Cujo's mom. I gave her an enormous sweet smile, which she did not reciprocate, and wished the ground would swallow me up. I can't blame pregnancy brain for this one.

So, between Maxine and Cujo's mom, I'm doing really well in the first impression department. Tomorrow, I'll explain the best way to go about killing your best friend's favorite houseplant, and how to alienate co-workers and casual acquaintances within the first five minutes of meeting them.

1 comment:

  1. How do you know the these ladies will never see this? It's very funny.