Friday, November 04, 2005

Unfriendly Neighbors

So yesterday on my way home I went to the bank. When I turned back out on the street I got behind a police car and I ended up following it... all the way home.

It parked in the street across from our house. I went around it into our driveway and got changed to go out with Brian's finance and her family. I looked out and there was a second police car across the street, talking to my two neighbors across the street.

High crimes and misdemeanors? I decided to go see what was up.

My neighbors were out talking after getting home from work, having a beer and wiping down Daryl's truck in the circle drive off our street that goes in front of the three houses across the street from us. Apparently somebody had called the police, saying that there were two guys "drinking out in the street" and they were afraid they might "get in a car and drive somewhere" (presumably intoxicated).

The police showed up, probably expecting drunken people staggering in the middle of the street generally being rude and disturbing the peace -- maybe even posing a danger to the neighborhood. What they found was two neighbors who had just gotten home from work sharing a beer in a circle drive off of the main street, well out of traffic on our cul de sac. And probably on Homeowner's Association property rather than city property, but this hasn't been verified yet.

Now we've been socializing with our neighbors since we moved in. I think it's a good thing. Part of what's wrong with America today is that we don't know our neighbors. We don't have the social bonds we once had. We don't look after one another, we don't know one another, and we are, as a result, generally less polite than we once were as a society.

This socializing often involves beer or other adult beverages.

We are not rowdy. We're not loud. We're polite, considerate people. Our mamas raised us right.

However, there is a city Open Container ordinance, and technically one can not have an adult beverage in an open container on public property, which includes sidewalks and streets. Apparently the people who complained said we were always carrying alcohol across the street to each others houses as well. I'm almost positive this law was put into place to give police a tool with which to ticket people who are disturbing the peace. I seriously doubt it was ever intended to keep me from popping open a beer in my yard and walking across the street to socialize harmlessly with my neighbor. And generally, that's not the way it is enforced, either, because most neighbors understand that and the police generally won't go out looking for it if nobody's complained. I think that was the assumption when the ordinance was passed.

The police warned my neighbors about the ordinance and moved on.

But I got to thinking, who would have complained and why? And there is one set of neighbors that sprang immediately to mind. They are renters. When they moved in, we tried inviting them to join us in our little social gatherings, and they neither politely or impolitely declined. At first, we could talk to the mariarch and she seemed a little standoffish but not downright unfriendly. We'd wave, and they'd nod, or we'd say "hi" and they'd say "hi" back.

Ultimately, they were a huge improvement over the previous neighbors who had fairly frequent late night visits from people who had no respect for others who may be sleeping in a neighborhood. However, one irritating thing about these new neighbors is that they would often come home late at night and park ( our bedroom is in the front of the house) with their bass-intensive music blaring, permeating our bedroom and waking us up. They'd even sit there and listen until the last song was over. We never said anything to them.

On weekends, the daughter and her son would often clean and wash their car with their bass-intensive music blaring on their "Kicker®" type car system. You could hear it all the way to the back of our house, and our windows and doors were closed. Not only was it irritating, but my wife was trying to watch TV and went out and asked them to turn it down and they did. We thought that was the end of that.

Within the next week or so we noticed that they would not look at us. We'd say "hello" and they wouldn't look up or even acknowledge our presence. At first we thought "well, maybe they just had a bad day".... but this has continued to this day.

After a few weeks we also connected the dots and noticed that they weren't playing their music loud anymore, when they came home at night or when they were washing their car. So we figured maybe somebody had called the police on them for disturbing the peace and that they may have assumed it was us. Which it wasn't, but I don't blame whoever did if that is indeed the case. What they were doing was rude, selfish, and anti-social. And also against the city noise ordinance.

So I figure this was a retaliation call. Well, fine. They want to play that way, we will have to stick to the letter of the law and see if they continue to harass us. Mean time, we will continue to be polite. I'm sure they want us to get ruffled -- give them a feeling of power. Well, I'm not gonna do that for them.

This is clearly a case of someone using a law for a purpose it was never intended to be used for, but must be enforced on demand because that's the way it was written. When laws like this are written, it is assumed that common sense and discretion will prevail, but a disgruntled neighbor can use it to harrass his or her neighbors if they want to. That's wrong.

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