Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Conflict Resolution

Raise your hand if you love conflict.

Those who raised your hand, slap yourself upside your head with it.

I like a good argument as much as the next guy. I usually feel like I'm going to be able to hold my own there. A decent argument, theoretically, is at least rooted in facts, and I'll take my chances arguing facts with anyone.

It's when opinions and emotions bleed into the dispute that things get dicey. You can't have a fair fight with someone who won't use facts.

This is on my mind today because of some recent neighbor drama. As JJ followers may remember, there were some neighbor issues in our previous stop. Fortunately, to some extent, time proved us correct in that one. At the end, the nutso neighbor girl ditched the adjacent apartment in a flash, leaving behind a bathtub overflow that rotted a ceiling, clothes, food, cat poop, furniture, furnishings, books and more. She basically abandoned the place, taking whatever she could pack away quickly and disappearing into the ether.

Oh, I almost forgot: She also left a flea infestation that required a ridiculous amount of cleaning to eradicate.

We'd been making our case that nutso neighbor girl was a problem for a while before being ultimately vindicated. That, at least, is worth something.

Now, however, after five months of mostly smooth sailing, a neighbor problem could be on the horizon. There have been a couple of oddities that thus far had been considered outliers. This week, however, things got a little weird.

We live in a three-story home that has a single catwoman (10 cats) on the top floor. The middle floor is a Jamaican family of five, or more, people. We're still not entirely sure. We're on the first floor.

Shared space includes front and rear stairwells, a basement, a side driveway of three assigned lanes, and a small half-unfenced back yard that is probably 20 x 25 feet. Trash cans in back and four recycling containers up front are also communal.

Almost every week, I take the trash and (every other week) the recycling to the curb. About half the time, someone else brings them back after pickup. My biggest beefs in regards to these are that for the recycling, people just dump stuff in the bins willy-nilly. My preference would be to separate them by types, but the city doesn't require it and apparently neighbors 2 and 3 don't think this is worth bothering with. So be it.

Re the trash, the high winds here have wiped out all but two of the five lids for the plastic containers. Like Honey Badger, college freshman dude on 2 don't care. In fact, the lack of a lid makes it easier for him to play trashcan basketball with the trash bags. He doesn't miss, but, some weeks we would have the open containers with a bag of trash in each, and zero containers full. Why drag out five containers instead of two or three? Well, if you don't have to drag out the containers, why would you care?

I addressed this problem by overturning the topless barrels. Once the lidded containers are full, then we can go to can 3.

Another side effect of open containers: we've got a squirrel problem here. And the squirrels are quite accomplished at getting into the cans and scattering found food treasures all over the yard... and our back porch. The dogs have appreciated this more than we have.

I've tried to mitigate the squirrel issue somewhat. One way is when picking up dog poop, to make sure and put the baggies on top of the food. Here, squirrels... enjoy some dog-droppings with your dumpster-diving. Also, there is a nice shovel that has enough weight to fit atop the lidded containers and further inhibit rodent attacks.

Now, it appears no one else here cares if trash raids clutter the yard. We've been the only ones to pick up the detritus while out there picking up dog-ends. That doesn't seem super neighborly to me.

Now about that yard and such: Not that since we've been here, it's been me who has been the only one out there picking up broken limbs and such. In the first month we were here, an envoy of the landlord did some occasional yard tending, but most of that seemed related to clearing a half-fallen tree stricken during Sandy. He's been a no-show since November. But even when he was around, it was me who raked that yard a few times. None of the neighbors were ever out there. I don't know what the involvement is like in nice weather, but thus far no one has been out there tending to the yard.

We have three 50-pound dogs. They poop at least twice each every day. In snowy times, sometimes it would be a few days before I'd wade through the snowpiles to pick up their piles. When the weather is nicer, as it has been lately, sometimes a couple of days will pass before I conduct a "poop sweep" and clean the yard. I don't know if this is normal, but it's been my M.O. The key thing is that, the messes are cleaned up. But perhaps I should do it every time they poop.

Because today the landlord called and said there had been a complaint. I'm a little perplexed, because the neighbors hadn't addressed this with us. We'll revisit some details on this in a few moments.

So, shared spaces. Always a challenge. Our drive / allotted parking area could hold four vehicles (we have two). Technically, we could park right at the edge of drive near to the sidewalk if we wanted. The "lane" is ours. But I park both of our cars further back. My thinking is that there is room to do so, and it's more considerate of neighbors 2 and 3 to not park between their cars... it helps them get in and out of their vehicles more easily. It's more easy for me, too, but if I wanted to be lazier and save myself walking a car length less, I could.

This strategy backfired during the blizzard. Because once the storm cleared, neighbors 2 started shoveling snow... into our lane. More than two feet of snow became more than four feet of snow. Not real cool. We did a bit of a workaround by making sure they could pull up far enough so that I could squeeze behind their vehicle to get out. But I thought it was kinda shitty to assume that it was OK to make me have to adjust. I wound up digging out with the help of natural melt over the following week. But the last time we had a big snow, I made sure and pulled alongside them to prevent that from happening again.

I hate living on the first floor, mostly because I don't like people stomping up and down the stairs and on my head. This has been a problem here. Neighbors 2 are stompers. They've got at least three kids and two of them are boys... and man, do they stomp. It's pushed M to the brink more than once. Unexpectedly, I've been the calmer one on these. There's not much you can do. If it doesn't occur to people to tread lightly, it probably isn't something they'll comprehend. We're just kind of stuck with it. It sucks but I feel like we don't have much choice. And with the dogs, it is probably better to be one the ground floor. It makes ingress and egress quite easier. So, it is what it is.

It also makes getting to the basement laundry easier. That basement is a damn joke, though. Seems to me that it should be split into thirds for storage space, but we have almost no storage space. Not a big deal, because we don't really need any storage space. We've got moving crates down there, and two window a/c units that are associated with the apartment and thus were already there. Everything else, with the exception of a washer and dryer, is space taken up by neighbors 2 and 3.

Neighbor kid 2 is trying to launch a clothing line from the basement. Good for him. Although he seems to think it's OK to move our stuff off the washer and dryer if he needs that space. I was sort of OK with that until a week or two ago when there was some standing water from something in a bucket on the washer. Keep it clean, son.

Neighbor 3 gets a lot of packages. Recently she got a big box and the box wound up outside on top of the recycling containers. M tells me that the box wouldn't be picked up by the recycling crews unless it was broken down. Neighbor 2 must know that as well, because a few days ago we came home and the box was in the foyer. Written on an open flap: "Please Break This Box Down."

Rut roh.

Yesterday we came home and the box was broken down and on the porch. In the foyer was a note that said "This is not neighborly. If you have a problem with it, call me."


M called neighbor 3. It wasn't us! And if shit was about to get real, we wanted to make sure our asses were left out of any neighbor dramz.

Anyway, that got smoothed out as far as us and neighbor 3. No idea how neighbors 2 and 3 addressed the issue, or if they did.

Then this morning landlord calls about the dog situation.

About that time, neighbor 3 came home, and we told her that if it was her, we were sorry and we'd address.

Neighbor 3: It wasn't me. I never go to the yard!

So... it seems we have a little issue with neighbor 2. Which sucks. We've not complained about their noise (which sometimes includes piano-tinkling past midnight, even on school nights, and generally is kinda nice except if we're sleepy)... We've not complained about the slack attitude regarding the trash, or the taking over of our limited basement space. Or of the BS snow thing.

We're going to play it slow and cool here and see what happens next. Neither of us want to have another neighbor issue.

One thing not in Boston's favor is a lack of a sense of community. Some people here seem kind of dickish and self-absorbed. The odd thing is that this is exactly the kind of thing people say about LA, a place where people are notoriously into their own shit. But in LA, my experience was that people there at least knew that they had to work together some. If you pulled some of the shit on the roads there that people pull here, there'd be road rage murders on a daily basis.

Some people here are completely selfish turds. I don't think our neighbors on 2 are like that; I think that momma neighbor is just having a bad week or two. Anyway, that's what I hope is the case.

But, it's disappointing that this has played out like it has. I wonder if I could have done something differently. What always concerns me at times like these is wondering how someone thinks their course of behavior was ever OK to begin with. It doesn't occur to me to snowblock a neighbor, but maybe it doesn't occur to them that I should pick up dog waste 12 times every two days instead of once every two days. If that's it, I am guilty, and duly noted.

But I don't get the approach. It seems passive-aggressive and a little shitty. 

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