Saturday, June 12, 2010

Good Fences and Questionable Neighbors

Robert Frost wrote a poem titled Mending Wall which ends with the line "Good fences make good neighbors."

I never really believed his assertion--but as I stay in the same house as many years as we have recently, I am beginning to become a fan.

But even with a good fence--sometimes the neighbors can be a problem when the fence is on the wrong side.

Take for instance the scene pictured here. Garbage strewn on the ground--where it has been since before garbage day on Tuesday (and I took the image Thursday evening)--and hasn't moved. The garbage cans were taken to the street, where as I write this, they remained until Friday morning. A raccoon feasted on the trash--but here the remnants waiting for next big rainstorm to wash it into my yard. The fence behind the mess would be fine for containment, if only the trash was on the inside instead of the outside.

I have the honor of collecting a lot of their refuse from my yard after storms. Discarded water bottles that fall from the neighbors vehicles as they get out and which just lie there waiting for a storm to cleanse their drive and deposit them in my yard where I will then clean them up.

I would just pick up their trash, like I collect their paper from the street every day, or like Chris picks up the remnants of their annuals planting--the discarded pots which remained next to the newly planted flowers; but we are not making any progress with them. The mess in the yards and the lack of pride in the exterior of their home is getting worse and worse.

I remember that I hated it when they installed the fence separating their yard from ours, it made it seem as if we were surrounded by fortresses of solitude. Now I wish that they could contain themselves within the walls. It is bad enough that I can look inside the fenced yard from my bedroom window--but to have to walk and drive past the mess daily is even more difficult.

The wildlife loves the mess. We have many critters which come to visit and I worry about rabies. Our pets are all vaccinated--but what if there is rabid saliva on the garbage I'm picking up? or is that an irrational fear?

Should I just clean up the mess since it is I who cannot tolerate the sight of it? Would I be insulting them by helping them?

We live in an area without a homeowners association--I am not a fan of associations, but in this instance I'm beginning to see the benefits of having someone around to at least attempt to enforce basic standards of cleanliness.

I'm conflicted.

I want to say something to them--but what do I say?

I've considered asking if there was any way I could help them keep up with the mess. I don't think that would go over very well.

I'll probably continue to suffer in silence--paralyzed by the fear of turning peaceful neighbors who are messy into antagonistic ones. And they did give me four tickets to see the Orioles defeat the Red Sox last Sunday.

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