Thursday, January 12, 2006


In Which Crazy Meets Crazier...

Okay, okay!

Been sitting here all day, pacing, rearranging paper, distracting myself by re-reading lovely handwritten notes and clever emails from assorted favorite people. Meanwhile, work is not getting done.

Not after what happened to Her Lovely Self this morning.

And it's pretty obvious to me it won't get done til I get this out of my system, so:

The Brief But More or Less Essential Back Story:

Three times a day, every day, we walk the dog, Blaze, who I believe you all know. I walk him once in the morning before work: a quick perfunctory, round-the-block, check-and-hit-the-refresh-button-on-all-hydrants-and-lampposts, bask-in-the-attention-of-the-kids-waiting-for-the-bus circuit before heading back to the house. Some time after lunch, Her Lovely Self and the Brownie (home from pre-school) take him for a longer walk, depending on the weather. At night, after the kids have gone to bed, I take him on a final evening tour of the territory.

It should go with out saying, but for the record, I retrieve all his deposits. This is in compliance with local law, but even if it weren't, I would do this. He's my dog; it's my job. More to the point, I hate finding anonymous droppings on my own lawn. It's the height of rudeness so I'm not about to doo-doo unto others. We live in a neighborhood where there is no convenient place to walk your dog except on the sidewalk and so consideration is important. I do my level best not even to let Blaze cock his leg on someone's lawn lest we be guilty of creating a dead spot in the grass. To sum up, I endeavor to be a good neighbor.

If you have a dog and you walk him, my routine is probably not too far different from yours. I've had Blaze for two years and have never given anyone in my community cause to complain (except perhaps the Jerk Who Let His Mean Dog Run Free, but he is actually in a different neighborhood and he is the inconsiderate one, so never mind). In fact, I would go so far as to say my dog is something of a beloved fixture as he is, in general, a good and friendly dog (so long as no one makes any sudden moves towards the kids). I am good and friendly, too, of course, but I would not go so far as to consider myself beloved. "Eccentric" would be a better word.

"Despised" would not.

And here we end the back story, and reveal that apparently I am despised, at least in the mind of the woman who this morning drove who car into my driveway and raced to the door of my house in order to yell in the face of Her Lovely Self.

"I know your dog and I know your husband and he doesn't pick up after his dog. I just saw them leave a pile in MY YARD. That's private property and I could turn you in!"

Her Lovely Self, who truly is a lovely person, and would never get up in someone's grille like this, was, as you can imagine, completely flummoxed. In the first place, she had no idea who this woman was, and we know most everyone (at least to wave to). So she tried to start things off on a slightly better track by introducing herself and asking the woman for her name.

The woman refused. "I live around the corner and I see your husband walking his dog by my house all the time and he never picks up after him. I just saw them do it!"

"Ma'am," HLS said. "My husband has been at work and the dog hasn't even been out for hours--"

"Well, it wasn't just this minute, but it was today and it's not the first time." Then she added, somewhat cryptically. "I can guarantee it!"

My poor wife tried to assure her that we were not only diligent about picking up after our dog, but that I am positively theatrical about it. Standing around while your dog has a squat and reads a magazine doesn't give you, the leash-holder, much to do. So in that interval, I take out my plastic bag and check it for holes and give it a good, loud shake, then spend some time positioning it for ample protection of my hand before finally doing my practiced swoop-and-gather procedure.

The woman wasn't listening. And by now Blaze, who like many dogs, has a built-in sensor for detecting crazy people, had finally popped the dog-proof latch on his kennel and had arrived at the front door, where he proceeded to bark at the woman even as he more or less wedged himself protectively between HLS and the door. By that point, any attempt at civil communication was gone, if ever it could have been achieved.

The woman turned on her heel, shouting, "I know your husband! And I'm turning you in!" And with that, she jumped in her car and roared off down the block and around the corner.

When Her Lovely Self called me at work, she was practically in tears as she told me what I just told you. Even the dog was still upset. I could hear him over the phone, barking his Bark of General Outrage in the background

Three hours later, I'm still fuming. I bet the dog is too.

I can't decide what has me most agitated.

In the first place, there's the rank injustice of it all. Every day I see petrified dog crap on curbs and in people's yards (including my own), left by dogs allowed to run free and by owners who fail to do their, er, duty, and I am not one of them (in case I didn't get that point across earlier). But even if we were as inconsiderate as some people are and did not gather our dog's leavings, the woman was clearly out of line because--and I'm sorry to go here, but I must--Blaze didn't even HAVE a doggy dump this morning.

In the second place, there's the complete blind-siding of my sweet bride. I won't tolerate blood relations--including her parents and my own children--to speak to her in any way that is remotely rude or uncivil. So you can imagine my outrage that some crazy woman--one who lacked the courtesy or courage even to give her name--would storm up to my door and revile my wife about something she had nothing to do with. All while I was not at home and able to answer for myself.

(Incidentally, the woman didn't have to give her name. We know every household who lives on every corner of our neighborhood, save one, and that's the house occupied by The Crazy People. Every neighborhood has at least one such household: They always keep their doors closed and their shades drawn. They never answer the door at Halloween. You say hello to them in passing or wave as they roar by in their car and they stare back at you with unfeeling eyes. This is the couple who called the school board AND the police because they didn't like "children loitering in their yard" (in fact, the kids were waiting on the corner because that's where the bus stop was). These are the people who, by way of introduction and welcome to our new neighbors (a very nice young couple with two dogs) informed them that they would have to build a fence to keep their dogs secure and that if they found the dogs loose, they would immediately turn them over to animal control. We'd heard the stories; we had just never expected to be the target of their legendary bat-shit wing-nuttery.)

In the third place, now that this uncalled-for incident has occurred, I am completely conflicted as to how to respond, and in which persona.

Do I respond as The Good Neighbor? This would mean going to their house and knocking on their door and trying to reason and make peace. But, man, there is just no reasoning with unreasonable and possibly unstable people (and I should know. I'm from New Hampshire). I tried to imagine myself knocking on the door tonight after work. The woman, knowing what she did, would never open the door to me. Her husband might, but then what? I tried to imagine having a protracted "Your wife came to my wife to yell about me and my dog, so my wife wanted me to tell you to tell her..." monologue and I cringe at the thought.

Worse still, I know myself and I know my mouth. I would go there as the Good Neighbor but I would morph into The Man of the House and not be able to stop myself from telling the woman how rude she was to my wife and that under no circumstance should she attempt to set foot on MY property nor even so much as speak to Her Lovely Self again unless she is prepared to properly introduce herself, and conduct herself in a respectful manner.

(And of course, there's the slim chance that we're incorrect in our assumption about this woman's identity, and then I'd be compounding the problem by bugging the wrong crazy people.)

Part of me--a large part of me--wants to respond as My Father's Son, whose tactics in these matters can best be described as crude but poetic justice. One summer, a few years back, while working at a job site, my Dad was hounded by an OSHA safety guy to shave his beard off because it was fire hazard--a stray welding spark could turn his head into a flaming marshmallow. My Dad had had a beard for nearly all his adult life--indeed I couldn't recall ever seeing him without one. And technically, because he no longer works with the tools but is a supervisor, it's an arguable point whether or not he is required to be clean-shaven. But the safety guy was one of those sticklers, the kind of guy who puts the hyphen in "anal-retentive." Under union regs, he was not authorized to dismiss my Dad, but he could shut the job site down for safety violations and threatened to do so if Dad didn't comply with his interpretation of the rules. My Dad wasn't about to see his crew laid off on his account, so that night he came home with a brand-new razor and a can of Barbasol and shaved the whole thing off, swearing and cursing as he did.

The next morning, he reported to the safety official's trailer. It was a hot morning and the man had a giant floor fan situated right by the door. My dad was amazed at how cold his chin felt in the breeze.

"So," the safety guy said triumphantly, looking at my poor Dad's naked and nicked face. "I see you came to your senses and got rid of your beard."

"Oh, I didn't get rid of it," my Dad answered, and with that he pulled out a plastic baggie stuffed full of white and red whiskers, still slightly foamy. "Here you go, you son of a bitch," he said, and dumped the contents of the bag into the back of the fan. In an instant the office--and the man--were covered in bits of hair. My Dad still talks about it as one of the most satisfying moments of his life.

It's that part of me that wants to walk Blaze every day--maybe even four or five times a day--right by their house, encouraging the dog to take a most stupendous dump in their yard (of course, I would pick it up. Maybe.) I'd take the kids along too and have them chalk a game of hopscotch on the sidewalk there on the corner and play it. Loudly.

Then there's the part of me that is already responding as My Mother's Son, who expects the worst and wants to prepare for it from a posture of complete defense and safety. My mom lives among quite a few eccentrics in her neck of the woods and is more or less comfortable doing so. But she also believes there's a fine line between eccentricity and insanity, and an even finer line between insanity and dangerous, gun-toting, knife-wielding insanity. Since a good defense relies on accurate intelligence, I already suggested that Her Lovely Self call some of the other Yummy Mummies on the block. There's a reason these people have a reputation in their neighborhood. I want to hear stories from others who have felt their wrath, so I can determine if this was the once-and-done venting of a crazy lady's spleen or if in fact this is the prelude to a siege and that next I'll find steaming manure piles in my yard, severed horse-heads in my bed, or the crazy woman's husband showing up to yell at my wife.

(I just realized what a sexist pig I am. I just found myself thinking Thank God for everyone the husband didn't come to the door and yell at my wife. I would be home already, red with fury, pounding on their door with my dog's leash in one hand and my cricket bat in the other And yet because it was a crazy woman yelling at my wife, it didn't even occur to me to go home. Which is completely chauvinistic and untrue besides: in my experience, crazy women are MUCH more dangerous than crazy men. If there are any crazy women reading this now, please accept my sincerest apologies for stereotyping you as being less of a dangerous fruitcake than your male counterparts.)

In the end, I think you all can guess that--for the moment--I've elected to respond as My Wife's Husband. I told her I would do whatever she wanted me to do, and lest you think I was copping out by saying that, I offered several suggestions, including going over and speaking to the Crazy People, but we both realized that this might escalate things.

In the end, Her Lovely Self, who loathes confrontations, suggested that I alter my walking route with the dog, so as not to pass the house of the Crazy People anymore. Her hope is that absenting myself from their sight will solve the problem and then in their minds they will feel they have scored a moral victory and leave us alone. Though it galls me--and of course it will not stop dog poop from appearing in the yard of the Crazy People--I agreed.

At least, I agreed so long as it works.

If I find I've been marked forever by these people as the scapegoat of all dog excrement and anyone in my family is subjected to another unpleasant encounter, then I'll re-evaluate my options.

Which may or may not include bringing the cricket bat along.

Whew! Thanks for letting me get that out of my system. I almost feel completely--




--ah, there. Now I'm over it.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Sir, this is unacceptable. The woman came onto your property, uninvited, and verbally threatened HLS, as well as possibly committed physical assault, depending on how close she came to your wife, and if there was any finger-wagging. I would, without hesitation, call the police and pursue a number of charges. Now I'm from NJ and my suggestion might seem harsh, but where I come from, we don't take any undeserved shit, regardless of the sex or age of the shit-giver. Oh, and as I am from NJ, if you want a few less socially-acceptable suggestions on what to do next, feel free to ask.
Resolving the situation with the Really Big Home Improvement Store proves that you, indeed, have the powers of the universe behind you in dealing with a psycho neighbor. I say take the stance of "My dog's owner," walk Blaze over there, knock on the door and clarify matters. Maybe it's just mistaken identity.

I think a blog log from Blaze's perspective would be groovy.
Doo-doo unto others as they doo-doo unto you? Sorry. Couldn't resist.
Boy can I empathize with you, having the pleasure of living next door to a house full of Crazy Nut Job, the law-doesn't-apply-to-us, we-are-the-only-people-on-the-planet-that-matter, freaks.

I've found that the Police are pretty much useless in these situations, only because their hands are tied by the law. You can't arrest someone for being an asshole, you can only arrest them if they break a law.

Retaliation is out of the question. Crazy parents usually produce crazy kids, and you don't want your own children becoming targets.

I'm very interested in how this progresses. Hopefully, if you change your route, this will be the end of it. Keep us posted.

Stu - I'm very interested in your ideas of dealing with neighbors from hell.
My father shot a neighbours dog in the ass for pissing on the cedar hedge EVERYday. The Dog's owner was a man of the cloth! The police were called; Daddy was subjected to a very stern warning. Thankfully the dog was basically unharmed (read: he was bruised) but most of the hedge died. The owner found another walking route. Daddy is somewhat better at dealing with conflict now but he'll still probably end up in Hell for shoting the Dog.
Sorry, I can't think about which stance is the correct one for you to take...I'm sure whatever you decide will do nicely. All I could think about while reading this post was how I'd love to read it from Blaze's point of view. The post with him and the oppossum was priceless. Now I'm imagining one about how his royal majesty Blazey encounters the Crazy Human who didn't appreciate his aromatic feces. Or something like that.
My parents once had neighbors who, back in the 60's, tried to tell them that adding fluoride to the public drinking supply was a communist plot to brainwash the children, and urged them to vote against the city doing it. At least it sounds like your Crazies don't have least, I hope they don't for the kids' sake.
Sharfa, Chuck's comment about the shot dog is something that prompts me to take these kinds of things seriously. The police may not be able to deal with an asshole who doesn't break the law, but most of the time they do real well with people who do break the law. Maybe Psycho Neighbor didn't break the law, but maybe she did. Trespassing is a crime, especially with a motor vehicle. Assault is a crime. Harassment is a crime. And, not to endorse this in any way, but there are other ways. The idea of playing a nice, crowded, loud game of hopscotch on the public area outside of Psycho House, hey, that's got class. But there are other ways. Back in New Jersey, if someone wasn't reasonable, we'd just make stuff up. Swear up and down that we witnessed a crime. Not exactly playing by the rules, but I don't screw around when it comes to my family. If I had been in the house and Crazy Lady accosted my wife like that, she'd have to drive home left-handed.

Much respect to the commenters in Masthead Village. You folks are awesome!
Am I the only one who doesn't give a crap (haha) how you feel, but who really loved the story about dad shaving his beard off? I totally forgot about it and you know he hasn't brought it up in a while. So I just went out to the living rom and mentioned it and he's telling it like it was yesterday. Pretty much word for word like it is here. Gee, sometimes you don't exagerate.

Be your father's son for christsakes. You know if it were him, HE'D go take a dump on their lawn.

Stu, man, like your style.

The Big Bro
Mr. Man's Big Brother,

Thanks. I try my best to be cool, to let stuff roll off my back, but sometimes you just have to punch someone in the neck, consequences be damned. Maybe you and your dad should drive to the Magazine Mansion and pick up your younger brother, go to a nice steak dinner, then drive over to Crazy Cottage and take a communal dump on their azaleas. If someone accosted my sister-in-law, you'd have to tie me down to prevent me from retaliation.

Oh, and one last thing, to Magazine Man, remember, revenge is a dish best served cold.
After I finish reading your posts, I love reading all the comments about it.. and you know what? I can so imagine that in real life, every one of your readers would march up right behind you and tear that woman's house apart. That support you get from you readers is f'en awesome.

That said, injustice like this just pisses the hell out of me.
I totally identify with HLS everytime she wants to avoid conflict. And I understand your reasons for not going over there and for choosing to be Your Wife's Husband rather than any of the other rash (albeit instinctual) options. But I definitely believe that you have every right to march right over there and give the crazy woman a piece of your mind - as stu said, the woman was on your property and threatening a member of your household. Definitely not allowed.

I believe you and HLS made the choice that was right for yourselves and your family, though, and that's what counts. More power to the both of you for being stronger than I know I would be.
my best friend's "hypothetical" solutions to such exchanges is to burn words like CRAZY into the neighbor's lawn with bleach.


it's just something to "think about and smile" not something to actually do.
It's galling, but you have to just let it go. There's no winning with crazy people; neither logic nor revenge will carry the day since their brains just don't process. Any retaliation or contact with them will just serve to continue the engagement. And, if they're truly crazy, you have no idea where that might lead.

Just be glad you're not them.
I have lurked in thoroughly entertained silence (except for when I laugh so hard I become the Nasal Fountain of Beverage, of course) but this latest transgression against the house of MM has finally drawn me out of the shadows. Organize the village! Alert the neighbors! Light the torches! Karma would take too long to properly punish this woman. Feed the noble Blazey a side of beef, a case of doggie exlax, and set him loose. Crazy Bitch Neighbor knows not what crap is.
In a throwback to an earlier entry-- funnier than a monkey fucking a football is my new favorite phrase. Linguistic genius.
Delurking long enough to say I've been on the other side once, with a neighbor who let their dog run loose, not only soiling our lawn (and we had small children who played out there) but he would pick up the kids' toys (plastic buckets, balls, etc.) and chew them up, or carry them away. Once he came in our garage and stole one of my boots by the back door, and carried it off to his home. I got so tired of this, that, er, well, I left a gift for them. I have horses, who regularly produce truly epic piles of by-product, and I saved up a considerable amount, all very fresh, and left them on their front door step, along with the dog tied to the front door knob. I think he ate some of it... No problems with the dog since.....
Revenge can be so sweet....
I would have loved to get all up in the crazy lady's face. But I guess in this day and age you have to be careful. Crazy people today may be armed.
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