Friday, September 4, 2009

How to piss off your neighbor

Remember this?

Which morphed into this?

Then this?

And that's when the fun began.

email: 8/20/09 21:20

It looks like you are experimenting with color on your house. Thought I would let you know we have large sized paint chips over here and I do a lot of color consulting work. I am happy to loan you our architectural paint books. L

L is an interior decorator. She is our next door neighbor. In the 4 years we've lived here we've learned that she is a person of great vision and ideas. Periodically she'll enlist the cooperation of the neighborhood, but she doesn't have the engine to see her projects through. She's a nice enough person and we've gotten along reasonably well. However, I've had a feeling of unease about her, because it often seems she has an agenda when she has approached us. Last year she said she and her partner were planning on some landscaping plants between our property line. She invited us to have some input in her choices and coordinate with some plants on our side. She said she could get us a nursery deal. It seemed like it could be a good idea, but, already acquainted with how she operates, and unsure of where our priorities would be in the fall, we merely affirmed it might be a possibility and figured it would blow over like most of her projects.

A few weeks ago she lent me some landscaping books with her choices highlighted and again invited input. Ominously, she sent an email implying that Gary had made an agreement with her about an overgrown lilac shrub we'd had to remove on our side of the line to make way for our garage construction. She seemed to be under the impression that there was an "understanding" about some sort of compensation to her for this. She seemed to be asserting this entitlement.

So, 2 weeks ago Gary and I stood up on the street level looking down at the house. He was in full buyer remorse mode and I was trying to talk him down a bit. "I didn't realize how pink it is" he said. "It's not pink! It's a warm color. You're having buyer's remorse, particularly because this is a flat grey light" (it was a cloudy day). Don't base a decision on what you're feeling right now! Wait and see how it looks to you at other times during the day, in other light. Haven't you ever been to the store and tried something on and loved it, but then hated it when you got home?" (Grumpily): "That's never happened to me!" In the midst of this our neighbor across the street, Mike, pulled over in his car to talk to us. "This looks great!" he said. "We're having some buyer's remorse" I explained. "Did she come over here?" (He meant L.) "No". Mike drove off. A moment later, from the mailbox, I heard her voice: "Did you guys get my email?" "No, I haven't checked this morning". "Well, would you like some paint chips?" Gary spoke before I could answer: "We have a million paint chips already."

E mail August 25 15:11
Subj: Hi, L
I've been kind of looking for you so I could talk to you if I saw you, but in the meantime just wanted to thank you for stopping by the other day with your paint samples. I know it took some courage to indicate that you thought our color choices might be something we regretted, and I appreciate the spirit you offered your help in. We were feeling a little uncertain when the full gray light of day revealed what we'd committed ourselves to and were in a bit of a quandary. We weren't in any position to change though because we'd already ordered the paint. But as we worked with it and looked at it we also decided we like it--which I guess is a good thing since we were already committed. Anyway, I hope you don't have any hard feelings toward us that we didn't take your advice. I realize you have to live with the color next door to you out your kitchen and living area windows. By kind of a neat coincidence one of the colors you suggested is an accent color we'd already chosen. That's interesting... Anyway, thanks again. D

Aug 25, 2009 2120
Subj: Re: Hi L
Thanks for your email. Yes it was difficult to come + speak with you
but I was spurred on by the fear of what
I now look at every day.

In the interest of making both of our households comfortable, I would
appreciate it if you and Gary would select
+ pay for some year round greenery that will buffer the view between
our lot and yours as well as soften the side
of your house as has been previously discussed and agreed upon.

Replanting with more visually pleasing buffers was the condition under
which I agreed to losing half of the lilac bush
as well as the fruit tree which, is a wreck and needs to be removed.
However, your new house paint color now
warrants a greater effort than replacement of a one tree and one shrub.

You have every right to have a pink house but please consider that we
moved to Skyline Boulevard for the
quiet pastoral quality of life and to us now it feels like we have
been transported to a red light district. I suspect that
Melinda + Nolan are not too thrilled either but there is a sizable
amount of greenery between your two lots.

If the planting effort falls completely upon P and I, we are going
to be pretty upset.

Aug 26 1328
Subj: draft to L #4 Common area plantings
(message accidentally was my 4th draft, and fortunately the one that I felt best reflected what I wanted to say. I'd sent it to Gary for input and somehow it had been copied to L. Also fortunately, I was polite)

Hey, L, I've been meaning to talk with you about your plans for planting the common areas between our yards.

I think I may have given you an impression that we were on board as partners in developing this space. I should have been more clear in letting you know that I had a feeling that you and P might be a lot closer to the action stage then we are, since we've been preoccupied with our own project. I wish I'd told you sooner that I didn't think this was a good time for us, and since you and P seemed ready to proceed maybe you should just go ahead without our input. I'm fine with just about anything you put on your property.

As I said, right now we're consumed with our own priorities, and with Gary out of work and our budget tight, we're just not in a position to do landscaping as well. I'm sure whatever you guys put on your property will be fine with us.

In the interest of making both of our households comfortable, I would > appreciate it if you and Gary would select > + pay for some year round greenery that will buffer the view between > our lot and yours as well as soften the side > of your house as has been previously discussed and agreed upon. > > Replanting with more visually pleasing buffers was the condition under > which I agreed to losing half of the lilac bush > as well as the fruit tree which, is a wreck and needs to be removed. > However, your new house paint color now > warrants a greater effort than replacement of a one tree and one shrub.

I'm afraid there might have been a misunderstanding about any agreements we may have made? Since the lilac, or at least half of it, was on our property, I wouldn't think we owe you any compensation for removing the half that's on our property. I don't recall that we made any agreements about that, as you've mentioned in your last few messages. I'm sorry it changed your feeling of privacy, but you're actually more screened from our view now than before. Respectfully, I have to say that we don't owe you your privacy, at least insofar as to what we do with the plantings on our side. Similarly, when Melinda and Nolan removed plantings from their side that removed some screening, we didn't feel they owed it to us to compensate us or pay for other plantings. It would have been different had they removed things on our side, but what they did on their property was their business. If we don't like it we are free to plant screens or put up a fence or whatever, but we wouldn't expect them to pay for it.

However, if the apple tree is on your side of the property line and our project damaged it, then it would be reasonable for us to compensate you for that.

I just don't recall that Gary and I made any agreements with you regarding plants we needed to remove, or screenings for the new structure.

I'm sorry you don't like the color we've chosen. I guess one person's "Bordello pink" is another's "warm, muted, attractive". We've gotten very positive feedback from Boyd, and from Mike. Had Melinda and Nolan chosen a color that I hated, I wouldn't feel that the burden was on them to come up with the expense to change it or screen it to please me...I'd figure it was up to me to make changes on my side to help me live with it.

Since I got your messages I've been asking myself questions about what is reasonable to expect of neighbors and what they do with their property. Is the color of the side of a building your house looks upon the equivalent of the noise level at one house? I'm not sure where the line of reasonable is. I know I'd be talking to you if you had a dog that barked incessantly, or if you guys had loud parties that went late into the the color of a house equivalent to that?

Aug 26, 2009 1640
Subj: Re: Draft to L #4 Common area plantings

D: I will be having a surveyor out to identify the property line markers. Once I know this, we can determine whose property the fruit tree and lilac bush are on. There have been two or three conversations about planting - one before the removal of the fruit tree and lilac bush with Gary. Had we known that the outcome would be that we were on our own with replanting, we would not have agreed to removal of any greenery. Please return our landscaping books when you can. I will let you know what the surveyors have to say. L

Here's the cause of the fuss:

Please be gentle with me

Really, objects in this picture aren't as pink as they appear. It really is more red. It is, it is...


Mrs. Spit said...

I think the colour you paint your house is the colour you paint your house. I think your neighbour is being a passive agrressive snot, and she needs to be told to keep her opinions to herself, unless someone is paying for them, or she's asked.

scott said...

My opinion, for what little it matters: The color is pink. I don't like it.

On the other hand, I think it should be legal to shoot people like your neighbor with a BB gun whenever the poke their nose into your business. I despise people like that.

Hello, Excavator.

Lavender Luz said...

Da noive! What a ginormous sense of entitlement!

I love how you said this: one person's "Bordello pink" is another's "warm, muted, attractive."

You are handling L much more calmly and introspectively than I would be able to.

Mrs Spit has it right.

excavator said...

Hello, Scott! Nice to see you! Lol, I suppose our neighbor feels shot with a bb gun every time she looks out her window!

Hi, Lori & Mrs. Spit!

Obviously, L & I haven't spoken for a while, and I'm glad to have the garage between us.

It's odd, because her sense of entitlement was so total that I was close to believing there was some merit immediately after the exchange. Now the whole thing just seems funny.

In fact, it probably is kind of a cheap shot to put her in my blog.

excavator said...

Oh, I forgot to mention--the project is still unfinished. There's still quite a bit of trim work to be done--the blue strip on the front is tape.

Final ta-da photos to follow (when the rain stops and we can finish painting)

PaleMother said...

Thanks for the neighbor post! I could write a few myself and I enjoyed knowing that we are not the only ones who struggle with ours.

Your neighbor is spoiled and controlling. Lots of cynical human nature quotations spring to mind. Whenever I deal with people like her, I mostly think things like ...

Save it for your loved ones, Babe.

And ...

Opinions are like *******s, everyone has one.

If L wanted to live in a more aesthetically controlled environment, there are many subdivisions and communities where such details are legislated and subject to group approval. I've never lived in a place like that (though there are some 'rules' in our sub -- we got into trouble two summers ago when we put up --temporarily! -- one of those relatively inexpensive kiddie pools that they sell at Walmart with an above-ground like frame). I imagine those sorts of communites tend to bring out the worst in some people, petty tyrants and the like ... those are always the people with the most to say.

I enjoyed your well crafted replies to L. Hats off. Tell her if she doesn't behave, you'll paint something REALLY offensive on that wall for her to admire. ;)



excavator said...

Hi, D! Thanks for dropping by! I really enjoyed your response, and am filing away the phrase, "Save it for your loved ones, Babe" for future reference.

I'd heard about neighbors like these--didn't know they actually existed! Now I have my very own!

It's nice to have a (pink) garage as an added buffer between me and her!

I'm hoping to get to visit your more private blog someday...I've liked your comments on some of the other blogs.

Ailey said...

I have so completely enjoyed everyone's comments. This woman, I think, is the stuff of good character development in a novel. I agree-your ability to remain introspective in the face of her spoiled and entitled ways causes me to admire you just that much more. One would think that if one were expecting tight controls on how one paints their house and landscapes their property that this neighbor did NOT move to the right place.

Hope she finds someone else to annoy soon.

Love to you.