You’re gonna live in misery When you’re livin’ next to me.
— Ugly Kid Joe
I was listening to a group of folks play the one-up game while discussing terrible neighbors the other day ... the old “my neighbors are the worst ever because ...” argument.
I sat there smiling as they talked about how people in their neighborhood argued using outside voices while they were trying to sleep ... how folks next door were constantly coming over to borrow items ... how the couple two houses down held parties in the middle of the week that sometimes went on until the wee wee hours of the morning ... how a rough-looking crew that lived close by had had law enforcement visits — complete with sirens and blue flashing lights — on multiple occasions.
I just kept my smile and waited for them to run out of bad-neighbor stories.
Then I told them about a guy I know who just thought he had it bad when he lived in town next door to a small-time teenage thief who stole everything that wasn’t chained down and some things that were — a bicycle, a push lawnmower, other smaller items — while his simpleton mother lied to protect him.
A move to the country, though, and the dude’s bad-neighbor issues were solved ... or so he thought. He soon realized, though, the next-door thief was nothing more than an amateur compared to folks who owned the land adjoining his new home.
That got these wimps’ attention. The group that had been whining about their neighbor issues soon realized they were out of their league. As I told them about issues with the ultimate bad neighbor, they simply bowed their head in respect.
It started when the guy’s new neighbor, unwilling to allow one clod of farmland purchased on adjoining property to go unplanted, brought in heavy machinery and uprooted every tree on his side of the property line. Oh, there are herds of deer and other wildlife bringing their own brand of natural beauty to that little stand of trees between the two properties? Tough luck, buck, we’re ripping those suckers out of the ground.
Once the trees — some of them magnificent in stature — had been properly dug up, they had to be gotten rid of, of course. So there followed days and days of smoky haze choking those in the surrounding area who ventured outside as massive burn piles slowly diminished.
Once the farmer/neighbor’s government-subsidized crops were in the ground, every possible square-inch of land now properly planted, well, you have to take care of those crops ... can’t squeeze every penny out of them if you don’t nurture them. So huge wells were dug, massive pipes going deep into the ground to feed irrigation systems. Oh, there’s an intense drought going on and the water I pump is lowering the water table and leaving other wells in the vicinity dry? Tougher luck, buck. If you can’t afford to dig a deeper well, bathe in bottled water, beer or move.
Several, incidentally, did ... move that is. They couldn’t keep fighting the unwinnable fight — because farmers are, we all know, the good neighbors who feed America — so they pulled up stakes and planted For Sale by Owner signs in their yards.
For the neighbors who didn’t have the option of walking out on their homeplace but did manage to increase the depth of their wells enough to get water flowing again, well, once those precious crops came out of the ground they had to be sprayed for pests and weeds. So the neighbors got free heavy doses of cropduster-dropped, windblown insecticides and herbicides, which probably helped them control their own bug and weed problems but also left them and their beloved pets to breathe who knows what poisons that were in the air on a regular basis.
And, of course, you don’t want to have to go out into the fields and personally check on the multimillion-dollar government-funded irrigation systems in those magical fields, so you install GPS systems that include towers with shockingly-bright flashing megawatt lights that start lighting up the neighborhood at sundown and continue unabated until sunup. If those flashing lights happen to interfere with folks’ ability to sleep, well, tough ... you know.
When I finished telling my story, the folks who had been complaining took on a demeanor like the devil after he came down to Georgia and fiddled against Johnny. They knew their tales of woe were trifles.
You want to know about a lousy neighbor? Come ask me. I’ve got a tale for you.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.