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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another example of the fine line between faith and foolishness

So I had an epiphany earlier this evening. And it was that my former (as of a few hours ago) next door neighbor is a tool.

I had suspected this, but I never thought much about it. And today I got burned by his toolishness.

See, my neighbor got booted by his landlord a few weeks ago, for not paying rent over a six month period. And I'm sorry for him to a degree. Having struggled with dollars and sense (that is not a typo) before, I feel for anyone who finds himself in a bind that isn't the result of willful ignorance. This guy's bind was not hard luck though. It was largely due to the fact that he didn't work and had no regular source of income, and as best I can tell - largely based on conversations with him - this apparently healthy, strapping young man made no effort to find regular work.

Anyway, my neighbor and his family have been moving out all weekend. I came home from running errands, buying waaaay too many books at a local library sale, and kickin' it with my wife Saturday afternoon and I noticed the neighbor had piled a bunch of his castoffs - an old stroller, several large, heavy, soiled dining table chairs, and some patio furniture - behind my back fence.

No big deal you say? In my city, if you have junk behind your house waiting to be picked up by the city you have to notify them by phone, so they can schedule pickup and so you don't get ticketed by city inspectors for having an undocumented safety hazard on/behind your property. You also can't put out more than a few cubic feet of junk for pick up per month. No phone notification and more than the allotted amount of junk and you will get a ticket and fine.

So you can understand my annoyance, when I saw that the neighbor had stacked his junk on top of stuff I'd already put behind my house for pick up. His junk put me over the size limit. He didn't tell me. I know he didn't call the city and give them a heads up. And to add insult to injury he didn't place one piece of his junk behind his own home.

Now, the common sense James would have called him over and said "When you get a minute can you move this stuff over to your side, so I don't get a ticket and a fine over it?"

But the overly compassionate James felt bad, reasoned that the guy was busy enough moving out of his home and probably didn't know the city rule. So compassionate James moved the neighbor's junk over to his side without bothering the guy, and had faith that the neighbor would get the hint and not do it again.

Nice gesture right? You would get the hint if you came outside to discard more stuff and saw that your junk had been moved over to your own yard, right? You'd put two and two together and realize the neighbor was telling you to keep it off his property...for whatever reason, right?

He didn't get it.

When dummy James and dummy James' wife got home this evening - about 30 minutes ago - what do we see? A fresh pile of junk behind our house courtesy of our now former neighbor. The fresh pile included his stankin' butt-smellin' refrigerator.

So what have we learned from this experience, people? When someone demonstrates repeatedly that they are irresponsible, and they show no signs of changing or even wanting to change, do not give that person the benefit of the doubt.

Because I had faith that this clown didn't mean any harm I cleaned up after him. All I did by breaking a sweat and moving this guy's junk for him was give him another out from responsibility, give him more room - on my property, no less - to litter and get me in trouble, and create more work for myself.

My former neighbor exercised Very Bad Burnettiquette. But then so did I by being a sucker.


  • You really should learn the motto of South Florida which is "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" (Don't even think about it-I got the bumper sticker ordered already). Again, I see your Southern upbringing coming to bear in a negative way when it comes do dealing with jackasses properly. You, as a southerner and a Black man, feel pangs when you see a fellow neighbor being cast unceremoniously into the street with wailing family in tow. You harken back to this anectdotal time when we would have taken each other in and cared for one another had something so dire occurred on our very street. You long for the days where a community could pull together and save one of its members (cue violins and idyllic pastoral scenes rife with cherubim). But wake up, son, this ain't OZ and you ain't never been Dorothy.

    First off, he's getting evicted for non-payment of rent, so you should feel glad. That means he won't be back, even if he comes up with the money. You did right by not adding insult to injury and offering to help him move his sh*t out of the home and away from your life. But your obligation to be neighborly stopped right there.

    From the sounds of it, this evicted former neighbor (which, by the way, dissolves the obligation to be neighborly) got what he deserved. He didn't work, pay the bills and was a pain in the ass to live next door to. Good riddance. The fact that he never took hints on how to live in Miami seem to be a recurring theme in the guy's life. He never took the hint that he should pay rent, he never took the hint that he should get a job -- you see where I'm going here.

    The last thing you should feel here is guilt. Maybe you say, If I'd only paid more attention/Helped the fella out...
    The eviction was the only voice this dude would listen to, so don't interfere with the lesson this young man is getting. He obviously needs it desperately. Let's just hop he doesn't come back to get his stuff, find it hauled away, and decide your house may contain some of the very things he's seeking.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:35 PM  

  • Sheesh, BD! I didn't feel that kind of guilt. I felt one small pang, and that was because I didn't think it would be nice to stop this deadbeat in the midst of his moving his things out and ask him to take a moment to clear his junk off of my rear swale. That was it. No other guilt. I said from the beginning good riddance. My only regret in retrospect (as I stated in my post) was that I felt even a single pang of guilt. I should have told him immediately "Hey, when you're done moving your stuff you need to move this stuff off my space and back onto yours."

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 7:54 PM  

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