Thursday, March 25, 2010

The House Next Door - Part Two, or How I Got to Be the Neighborhood Bitch

I am a good person. At least I think I am. My friends and family tell me I am. I take care of my family, my husband and I work hard, the whole family is involved in our community, schools, youth sports… we’re your average middle-class working family with a few kids and some personal crises we’ve gotten through. Hubby and I have been married for 19 years this year, and together for 23. I believe in personal responsibility, living up to your word, behaving in a civil manner, and being neighborly.

There's a great line in one of the Harry Potter movies, The Goblet of Fire, where Dumbledore tells Harry, "Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."  So how does doing what is right make me the Bad Guy?  How the Hell did I end up being the bitch?  Do I attract the wackos and dingbats? Are they drawn to me like a moth to a flame, because I have had my share of drama lately, and I don't want anymore!

Remember the house that was on fire four months ago, right next door? It’s still there, burned out, with piles of fiberglass insulation and siding and shingles and stuff that was on the back porch where the fire started all lying there. Only now the piles have been exposed to the elements for FOUR months and are being blown all over the place, particularly during the last month’s THREE serious nor’easters.

And the mice. My car just needed hundreds of dollars worth of work done because I had mice in my engine – the car is not garaged and is driven every day. There’s cats haunting the burned out shell and barn in back daily, and some folks have seen a few mice coming and going at night.

The owner? He disappeared. He’s not living with the only child, the daughter and her husband and kids… TWO STREETS OVER!!! Rumors in the neighborhood were that he was living three towns over because his daughter wouldn’t let him keep his dog. The daughter and husband who couldn’t be bothered to come help him after his heart attacks or strokes, who left it to the neighborhood to shovel his walkway and driveway and to call the ambulance when he’d fallen on the sidewalk or in the house and split his head open, the ones that we were told not to call when the ambulance arrived on scene.

So what’s a girl to do? Listen to your friends who are firemen and others who drive past your house every day, who tell you it shouldn’t have been left like that? Listen to your doctors and pediatricians about the health issues the fiberglass could pose for your kids (did I mention two of mine have asthma)? Do what everyone tells you to do and call the Fire Chief, who tells you to call the Building Inspector, who schedules a drive-by sometime in the next few weeks (meaning he did nothing). Hubby even stopped by the daughter’s house last Saturday to talk to the husband, to offer to help him cover up the crap with a few tarps and cinder blocks. The husband, the son-in-law, the SIL, who blows smoke up Hubby’s ass, declining his offer, telling him the insurance company signed off on the outside and ServPro’s coming first thing to begin cleanup.

Five days, no sign of a cleanup crew or anyone on site, nothing but crap still sitting there. And the cats. I hit my limit. I got pissed. I called the Health Inspector to check on the status and was promises a drive-by. The Health Inspector who then apparently got the SIL on a conference call with the Building Inspector and told him we’d filed a complaint. All we wanted was the crap cleaned up or covered up, because this is what it looks like from our driveway:

Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang. It was the SIL, screaming at me who the Hell do I think I am and a bunch of vulgarities I won’t type because it makes my stomach acid turn and my blood pressure go sky high. Screaming that he’d talked to Hubby and I should learn to communicate better. I hung up on him.

I called the Building and Health Inspectors and told them I’m done, that the SIL had just called screaming and I’m sure he’ll be at my door next. And he was, with, SURPRISE, the owner! The owner then screamed at me, telling me I had no right to call anyone, to keep my nose out of it. I tried to calmly tell him all we wanted was the crap cleaned up or covered over, that it’s potentially harmful to my kids. His response? “I don’t give a shit about your kids! I’ve had three heart attacks, and you’re trying to kill me.” When I told him Hubby’s had them too, he responded “I don’t give a shit about your family.” The SIL continued on the same rant, screaming at me… as he’s PILING THE CRAP UP AND COVERING IT WITH A TARP!!!

There it is in a nutshell. They don’t give a shit about my family. He doesn’t care. And for good measure, the SIL screamed that no one in the neighborhood was surprised that I’m being such a bitch and causing trouble, that no one likes me.

Wow. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. And I’m still reeling. My saving grace is that I called Hubby after I shut the door in the owner’s face, and he left work, driving 20 miles to get home. My parents also came over, arriving as they were still in their yard – I didn’t want to be alone with my kids, who heard the whole thing.

The owner and SIL left the scene, so Hubby and my dad went down to the daughter’s house; the SIL and she weren’t there, but the owner was. He told Hubby we shouldn’t have involved the town; Hubby responded we had no choice. He said we should have called him; Hubby told him no one knew where he was. Hubby told him we did care, that he was sure it must tear him and his daughter up to go near the house (did I mention his wife died in her sleep three years ago in the house?). Hubby then said he’d talked to the SIL himself, and the SIL told him a totally different story than he’d told the Building Inspector, which was different than he’d told the Health Inspector… the SIL lied. Hubby even told the owner all this could have been avoided if the SIL had just accepted his offer of help… and done exactly what they’d just done ON SATURDAY!

The way it stands now? Hubby promised I will not call anyone else. They have been directed not to speak to me or our children. Hubby will speak only with the owner, the owner will only speak with Hubby. Then the owner started with, “Well, the SIL is going to be the one getting the estimates…“ Hubby responded that he understood, but no one in that family is to say anything to me or our kids, or do anything to us, or they will deal with Hubby directly.

Did I do the right thing? Do I have a right to be concerned about my kids? Isn’t that my job? So why can’t everyone else do the right thing?


Shelli said...

I would have done the exact same thing you did. The reality of the situation? The only person feeling bad and losing sleep over this is you, and that is a sad state of affairs. Your neighbors should have done the right thing, and clean up their mess like an adult should do without being asked. All of this could have been avoided.

This stuff drives me crazy, because like you, I care very deeply for my family. It doesn't make you the neighborhood bitch, just a good person that's getting tagged as the baddie because others are freaking lazy.

Stacey said...

My mind boggles with how selfish people are. It has been 4 months, they have the insurance signed off on it and it's still like that? My blood boils for you!!! I wouldn't have even left it as long as you did. I would have been on the phone with the city every day until the owner and his extended family got their act together. If they do contact you again, I would threaten them with a restraining order. You are far from a bitch and I would guess that the rest of the neighborhood is behind you.

evenshine said...

I do think you did the right thing, and the sad thing is: the right thing is almost NEVER the popular thing. You will not win friends and influence people by doing the RIGHT thing. You have to choose what's more important for you- and I think you did. It may make you unpopular, but I hardly think you need to worry about these kinds of people who shout in others' faces and use expletives and cover things with tarps instead of fixing the underlying problem. Hugs!