Hi-Di-Ho, Good Neighbor! Do You Smell Smoke?

Nathan and I have had our fair share of bad neighbors.  Back in the day, there were the neighbors fondly known as the “White Trash Neighbors” who held a garbage garage sale in their yard, and when the weekend was over pulled a tarp over everything and left it that way for the next three months (other offenses included a million yappy Pomeranians and common-sense challenged children who played in the street or OUR yard).  Then there were the “Melanoma Twins”, who had a penchant for sunbathing on their unfenced back patio (which faced our front door) in sixty degree weather in all their beer belly glory.  There was the kid down the street who played cards in our driveway one day and left one there – Nathan put them at the edge of the yard for him to pick up, and the next day the kid left him a threatening (for a five year old) note that said “Give Me Back My Card”.

These days we have the “Car Washers” across the street, who wash their car every other week, rain or shine, and stare at us the whole time without saying anything.  We have the large ethnic family next to them, who seem to have family reunions every other weekend that require them to take up every parking space on our street, and whose teenagers are fond of blasting ear-drum splitting music out of their garage.  Then there are the neighbors on the other side who insist on putting their trash cans in front of our house instead of their own, thereby blocking the mailbox and starting a war between my husband and the lazy (cranky) mailman.

But this weekend, our neighbors in the adjoining townhouse took the prize for “Worst Neighbor of the Year”.  Until now, their biggest offense was that the female half is Mrs. Unfriendly, and they let their children play in our yard.  That was before Friday night.

Nathan & I had gone out for dinner and to an Oregon State gymnastics meet (more on that later).  We had been gone since early afternoon and didn’t get home until after 10 pm.  As we drove up, Nathan commented that the neighbors must be going out of town, because they already had their trash cans out for Monday.  Mr. Unfriendly was in his driveway loading things into his car and (predictably) ignored us as we walked inside. 

So we walk inside, and immediately cringe because our living room STINKS.  It was this awful chemically smell that neither of us could identify.  We searched high and low, established that nothing was burning or leaking.  We aired out the house until we froze, but as soon as we shut the windows the smell settled back in.  We thought it might be coming from the garage but couldn’t really tell.  Since the smell seemed mostly isolated to the living room, and there was nothing we could do about it, we decided to go to bed (and hope that we weren’t poisoned by fumes in our sleep).

The next morning I was woken at the crack of dawn by doors slamming and banging outside.  It was so loud that I thought someone had come into our house.  No one was here, of course, and I assumed it was one of our rowdy neighbors.  They were noisy all morning, eventually waking Nathan up as well.  We had no idea what was going on and wrote it off as all the crazy people in our neighborhood.  Until we walked outside to the car and saw Mr. & Mrs. Unfriendly’s garage.


(Keep in mind that this picture was taken a day later, under the cover of night, so that it does not appear that we are stalking our neighbors.)

The first thing we noticed was the plywood.  It was weird, but certainly explained the noise.  Then we noticed that the trash bins at the edge of the driveway were black, and turning back towards the garage noticed that the fire extinguisher cabinet was broken open.  The plywood was propped out, leaving an opening into the garage, and no one was around so Nathan peeked in.  The garage was empty but the walls were completely covered in soot, and it smelled like the chemically smell in our house times ten.  They had a fire in their garage Friday evening!

We knew they were okay, since the house was still standing and we had seen them last night.  The bigger concern was that their house caught fire on the ONE adjoining wall that we share with them – our garage – yet Mr. Unfriendly did not think this little tidbit was worth sharing with us when we walked past him Friday night?  How hard is it to say, “Oh by the way, we had a fire today.  Almost burned your house down, but no worries.  Do you have renter’s insurance?”  Hellooo!!!!

The chemically smell has since faded from our house.  The Unfriendly’s had contractors over all day today, who blocked our driveway and gave us yet another reason not to like them.  They still haven’t said a word to Nathan or I, although they did manage to clean their trash cans.  The chemically smell is slowly fading from our garage, but the dislike of our neighbors is not.  We both feel that a fire in a garage that shares a wall with our house is something worth mentioning to your neighbor.  Just a thought.

Someday, we hope to live in a neighborhood with NORMAL neighbors.  We don’t even have very high standards for normal at this point, so it shouldn’t be that hard to find.  But for now, we’ll settle for a house with no shared walls.  Someday, we’ll find our Wilson.

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