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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Am I being mean?

So I have a good/bad neighbors question for anyone who'd care to comment.

I have a fence surrounding my back and side yards, a standard, run-of-the-mill six foot privacy fence.

For the past four-and-a-half months - basically since we bought and moved into this house - my wife and I have been working almost non-stop to fix the place up. From painting to landscaping to more heavy duty work that we had to hire professionals for, we've busted our humps to make our home not just presentable, but nice. We wanted to get it into a shape where we'd feel comfortable and proud inviting people over.

Since the bulk of the work has been completed in the past month or so, we've had a couple of friends over at a time, as we ease into this settling in thing. So I go out my front door the other morning to look for my newspaper -and instinctively look to my left as I exit the porch. One of my neighbors from the duplex next to my house had tossed a couple of pairs of jeans over my fence. I guess they needed to air dry or something.

Now, I admit my immediate reaction was to get annoyed. I'm having people come over. I'm proud of what I've done to my house and yard. I don't want random clothes draped over my fence anymore than I want my nextdoor neighbors tossing their garbage over my fence and into my yard or parking a car on cinderblocks in their own front yard, even.

Hang your clothes out to dry if you want. More power to you. I like the smell of fresh air in my clothes too. But I don't want to see yours hanging over my fence, especially when I'm expecting company. I don't think I'm being snotty. But I worked hard for my space to look a certain way and pant legs dangling in that space wasn't part of my plan. Besides, it's my fence. Borders the neighbor's property, sure. But it's not on their property.

I didn't say anything. I figured eventually the pants would come down. After a couple of days they did. But I admit I was thinking all the while about what, if anything I should say (and how) to the neighbor if it happened again shortly before I was expecting company over.

Am I being too harsh, too picky? Dive in, please. I want your opinions.


  • No, I don't think you're being picky. The fence is your property and your neighbors are, in effect, using your property without asking.

    Your mistake might be in saying nothing because now your neighbors think it's okay to hang clothes there.

    Believe it or not, hanging clothes to dry outside is not even permitted by my homeowners association. It apparently isn't as acceptable to do as it was when I was growing up. So I think an argument could be made that hanging clothes out to dry anywhere, let alone your own fence, is somewhat questionable.

    By Anonymous Rick, at 7:45 AM  

  • Absolutely not acceptable. I agree with Rick. Hopefully this was a random incident and they won't do it again, because maybe now they take it for granted that it's ok to hang clothes on your side of the fence.

    Plus, they could've brought an inexpensive drying rack or a clothes drying line which can be discreetly placed in an area of the yard out of the public eye.

    In general I believe (although I am not a homeowner yet), in SoFla any condo or homeowner association forbids such display of personal items in view of other neighbors.

    (In Coral Gables you can't even park your boat outside.)

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 12:01 PM  

  • You are being perfectly sane. You spent good money on the fence, you deserve to have it left unmolested.

    A mean person might paint a thin strip of creosote on the top edge of the fence. A really mean person might even dab the top of the fence with a little capsicum. A civilized man might discuss the situation.Ask nicely. be civil and not confrontational.

    me, I'm a neanderthal. Not civilized at all. You choose. I know you'll choose wisely.

    By Anonymous og, at 12:01 PM  

  • Pants, but no cookies?

    As your neighbor I'd be truly annoyed with a 'run of the mill' 6 foot fence. If your neighbor is tall enough to throw a pair of pants over, imagine how big or tall they must be to have gotten them down.

    Do you see a possibly greater message?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:27 PM  

  • Anonymous, I don't profess to have the deepest sense of humor. But I do alright. Still, I totally missed your meaning.

    Pants, but no cookies? Huh?

    And a three-foot tall kid could toss the pants over the fence. Six foot really isn't that tall.

    And sorry, I missed the possible greater message. But I'm always curious, so if you're checking, please elaborate.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:13 PM  

  • Whatever happened to the good ol' days of having a "tendedera" in the backyard was perfectly acceptable?

    There's something to be said for air drying, but leave people's fences out of it.

    By Anonymous MM, at 9:18 PM  

  • If they were there for a few minutes up to an hour, that's one thing. But DAYS?


    Next time it happens, you have to go have a talk about how the appearance of your property is important to you.

    You can ensure full and cheerful compliance if you pull your pants down to gangsta-halfmast, apply a fake gold tooth to your visage, carry a half bottle of malt liquor with you, and talk in your 'outside voice.'

    By Blogger laura, at 12:42 PM  

  • You know, that pants could have come down a bit sooner. Someone - and Im not saying you, personally, James - could have, you know, accidentally tipped them over while raking the yard. Oops!

    By Blogger Val Prieto, at 2:11 PM  

  • Sorry, Laura. While I appreciate the support, I have to break it to you that my "outside" voice is the same as my inside voice. And I'm pretty sure I couldn't scare anyone with that voice.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:45 PM  

  • If it's that important to you, you could always either offer to do their laundry for them (since obviously you have a dryer and your neighbor doesn't) or offer to help them put up a clothesline. But from the tone of your post, it seems like the problem is 1) you don't seem to know your neighbor or their family (if there is one) and 2) it is possible that neither you nor your neighbor share your sense of suburban exterior decor. Maybe a chat with your neighbor would help you understand what your differences are and how you can overcome them. I could be that your neighbor also likes the 6 foot privacy fence you've erected to keep their property out of your sight. Maybe they are unaccustomed to the benefits of spearated suburban living and this is the perfect opportunity for you to forge a bond by schooling them on it. Or maybe they just think you're a snotty jackass who is high-hatting them with your fancy fence and falutin' manners. Jeans over the fence seem to point to the latter.

    By Anonymous big daddy, at 12:01 PM  

  • Big Daddy, it's a cowardly thing to call someone names and then not leave a way for them to respond to you.

    You're a funny guy. Read the post again. I didn't say I put up the fence, especially not to block out a view of my neighbor's home. It was there when I bought the house.

    And you want to talk about high-hatting? Trying to spin this into an issue about "differences" between me and my neighbor is about as high-falutin' as you can get.

    BTW, my neighbor does have a dryer. I was home when it got delivered long BEFORE he tossed his clothes over my fence.

    And I don't live in the suburbs, so I don't have a sense of "suburban exterior decor" either.

    Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill, and don't try to turn a fence into a socioeconomic debate.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 6:00 PM  

  • I like your style, man. I WAS turning a fence into a socioeconomic debate (of which they are in part, but that wasn't the thrust of your argument so it was inappropriate to discuss it in this forum) While my post was highly sarcastic and judgmental of you (and your neighbor, I might add), it was uncalled for since I don't know you, your neighbor, or your neighborhood and I got my facts wrong. I am therefore going to make a very atypical South Florida gesture and apologize for any slight you may have felt as a result of my unwarranted and misplaced tirade.

    It sounds like your introduction to your adjacent neighbor was less than pleasant and for that I have sympathy. There are a lot of jackasses is South Florida (in whose number I should probably count myself often) and I will try to remember that we could put on a better face for our old friends and new migrants. That being said, I know you realize that you are doing an updated variation on the Miss Manners column. As it should be with that column, I think people should maintain a healthy contempt for and attack any viewpoint that promotes a form of social elitism or snobbery encased a gentility mask. Cultural hegemony is a hot topic down here, even if most people have no clue as to what those two words mean when placed together. The view should be across the nose and not down it, regardless of the your background or origin.

    But keep up the good work so I can keep telling my kids that it does pay to know how to chew with your mouth closed and use the right fork. Prissin' ain't easy...well you know the rest.


    p.s. me up.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 6:01 PM  

  • Hey James,
    Sounds like your situation turned out to be nothing at all. You're lucky. How 'bout giving me some advice on what's going on over in my neck of the woods...
    You see, we had these neighbours move in next door. They never do any maintenance and I mean never. We share the same front lawn and I used to cut right down the middle. After a few weeks I'd give in and mow his side too because it made both sides look like crap.
    Anyways, they've done two things that annoy the heck out of me lately: (1) they hang their garden hose around one of the fence posts on our fence so that we get a nice good look at that each morning, and (2) they installed a satellite dish(!) on their side of another fence post -- it's installed near the top so the big dish looms over the fence (on their side) but the piece that shoots the signal into the dish hangs over our side of the fence. It's just by a few inches but it bugs the heck out of me! Any suggestions?

    By Anonymous mikeymoe, at 2:37 PM  

  • mikeymoe... did you received any feedback? I'm facing the same issue with my neighbors satellite dish. I saw it yesterday and went over and kindly asked them to call their provider or whomever installed it and asked them to move it back further into their yard so that not even 1/8" sat on my property. Sounds petty I know, but I paid good money for my fence and my property and don't need any obstables in the way. I'm interested in how you're handling that issue?

    By Anonymous Bashful, at 2:13 PM  

  • Good question!! I have a similar problem with a neighbor. They bought some trees a year back and planted them right up against the fence between our yards. The fence is mine and rests entirely inside my property line. She lived in the house next door when it was constructed so knows this well. I guess she did not need my permission and I assumed she got housing association permission. But trees that grow 15 feet tall and maybe 5 feet in circumference were planted only 6 inches away from the fence?!! I said nothing. Now a year later a couple of her trees were falling over and the rest were leaning. I would say she did not properly work the ground and plant them right so they now lean that they are getting larger and heavier. Her solution, she tied them up to my fence! She did not ask my permission. She just took some string and tied them up to my fence. She tied either to pickets or to the cross members and not the posts with the structural integrity to hold the weight. I said nothing and just kept cutting the ties. She kept putting them back. She finally bought some nice bungy cords and tied the trees to my fence with these. One was tied to a picket. Two others to cross members holding the pickets. We had really bad winds day before yesterday and I noticed that one of her trees had pulled one of my pickets right off the fence! So I went out and removed the bungy, did a quick repair of the picket (have to completely replace it this weekend) and removed all bungees throwing them over in her yard. I came home yesterday and she had retied the bungees to my fence. I blew a gasquet and took the bungees off, made up a nasty note telling her that it was my fence and she did not ask for permission to tie her trees to it. I told her that at this point as she had damaged my fence she would not ever get permission to tie up to it. I told her not to replace the bungees. I left them with the note on her front porch in front of her door. She is a stewardess and was gone for who knows how many days.

    What is your advice for the inevitable confrontation?


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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:38 PM  

  • I feel for you. I have lived in my house for 34 years and had the misfortune of having my neighborhood rezoned for multiple living units. I get to see all my neighbors dirty laundry hanging on both sides as well as the back fence. These people don't care, they are renters and could care less. I have contacted the owners of the units and they basically could care less to. I'm afraid to say something to these people for fear of retribution. I also get to listen to rap music night and day and have the pleasure of looking at the car in the house next door up on cinderblocks. The value of my home has diminished significantly since this rezoning. It's a shame because I go to great lengths to keep my home looking nice.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 AM  

  • Likewise, this has gone unrepaired for many days, through several subsequent rains.

    By Blogger Flip Jork, at 1:33 PM  

  • green Lysimachia nummularia, but it is still a vigorous groundcover. The stems will root into the ground wherever they happen to touch down. rod iron fence

    By Blogger alex amarxon, at 5:09 AM  

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