[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have written any blog posts on political issues this week, be sure to get links to me by Friday for the Sunday Election Issues post. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see this post.]
During her years of blogging here, Crabby Old Lady has made many friends among elderbloggers and younger bloggers too. You're all smart and thoughtful and funny and creative and now, Crabby would like to take advantage of those qualities. She would like to consult you about a problem that has plagued her for more than two years. She would be pleased if you would indulge her.
Crabby lives in a tiny condominium – three owners who each have one floor of what, in New England, is called a “triple decker.”
A single man in his 30s owns the floor above Crabby (let’s call him Tom for today’s purposes). A single man in his 20s lives in the apartment below (let’s call him Dick), owned by his parents (they shall be called Harry and Louise today), who live a 90-minute drive north.
Crabby has lived in her Maine home for a bit more than two years - 28 months fraught with the most awful neighbor (Dick) she has ever encountered - even during four decades in New York City. His parents are no better.
The initial problem, when Crabby first bought her home in 2006, was being waked at about 2AM or so several nights a week by live, amplified music coming from below her bedroom, as loud as if she were standing next to the band stand in a nightclub.
When Crabby mentioned this at her first condo meeting a couple of months after she moved in, Harry said his son, Dick, is a “musical genius” and he must be able to play whenever the mood strikes him, so Crabby should buy ear plugs.
Crabby demurred and Harry insisted on his son’s “genius” and freedom to disturb the night. There was no resolution at the meeting. Later, Crabby convinced Dick to moving his music equipment to a room under her deck and she has since been able to sleep uninterrupted except – well, that comes later.
During the ensuing two years, the following has occurred:
Liquor bottles, beer cans and cigarette butts were and occasionally continue to be left on the front porch and sidewalk following Dick’s frequent, all-night parties. If she didn't sweep and pick up the mess, it wouldn't get done.
Ditto the small back yard.
Dick, Harry and Louise refused for more than a year to agree to a date for owners to get together to clean out more than a hundred cans of paint and other flammables left in the cellar by the renovators in 2005 – even after a fire department inspection demanded the immediate removal as a fire hazard. It was 15 months before Crabby could get the the all the owners to agree to a date and even then, she and Tom did most of the work and Crabby hauled the paint to the recycling center.
There is no garage and only a single-car-width driveway adjoining the building. To give owners a respite from street parking, each takes a week parking in the driveway, round-robin style. In the time Crabby has lived here, Dick has repeatedly parked behind her, locking in her car.
He almost never answers his door and Crabby has the bruised knuckles to prove it, most recently two weeks ago, pounding on Dick's door for 15 minutes at 9:30 at night, needing her car to pick up a friend at the airport.
Dick does not have a landline phone and his AT&T iPhone does not get service in his apartment. Crabby can never be certain, when she wants to use her car, that she will be able to.
In the spring of 2007, Dick bought a dog. When the handy man mowed the back lawn the first time that summer, dog poop flew up to his face. It took Crabby the entire summer with many emails and calls to Dick, Harry and Louise to get Dick to stop allowing the dog to poop in the yard and pick up the messes that were there.
Over last winter, instead of walking the dog, Dick allowed her to pee and poop in the cellar. Crabby discovered this in the late winter when, upon entering the cellar, the odor nearly knocked her over. Tom wasn’t too happy either when he discovered the dog had pooped and peed on the sailing equipment he stores in the cellar over the winter.
About once a month, Crabby is shocked awake at night by crashingly loud, recorded music from parties in Dick’s apartment. Each time, she must go downstairs (since Dick has no working phone) in her ratty, old pink robe (which she loves) and her flyaway, long, gray hair to make a spectacle of herself (publicly confirming her status as a crabby old lady) as she asks for the the music to be shut down. She hates doing that.
One day this past summer, Crabby found that the three trash bins in the back of the driveway were overflowing and more bags of trash, torn open by various nocturnal critters, were strewn in the driveway. The smell indicated that it was many weeks of accumulation. Since neither Crabby nor Tom uses the trash bins (preferring to place their bags and recyclables at the curb on the weekly trash night), it could only be Dick. It took a week after a cleanup request for Dick to do so.
Then, when Crabby went to the cellar last week, she was met with an overwhelming odor of something burning or having been recently burned. She immediately went on red alert, preparing to flee upstairs to grab Ollie the cat and leave. She was relieved there was no smoke, but she did see some burned bits of paper and small pieces of charred wood, obviously the origin of the odor. This wood-framed triple decker is more than 100 years old; a spark in the wrong place could destroy it in minutes.
In an email response to Crabby, Harry said he didn’t know who could have done this (really!?) and showed no evidence of concern.
As each of these incidents has occurred, Crabby has, in various moods and levels of anger, asked politely, demanded forcefully and she has lost it completely a couple of times, making a jerk of herself by shouting when these people have refused to take responsibility for the problems and, in the case of Harry, when he insists his son hasn't done these things.
In the time following the recent cellar burning, Crabby has become nervous about what will occur next since, apparently, there is no end to the nuisances, violations and disgusting behavior Dick can think up.
Here is Crabby’s dilemma: Although there is language in the condominium by-laws forbidding owners to do or allow anything to be done that is unlawful, disturbs or endangers other owners, lowers the value of the property, etc., the only penalty is a $25 fine after various notifications, re-notifications, waiting periods, etc. Nothing that is effective.
Does anyone have any ideas about what a Crabby Old Lady can do to get out from under this continuing nightmare?
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sylvia Kirkwood has contributed a timely story titled A Personal Look at Color.]