Disclaimer: This post lacks much tact and borderlines, if not crosses the boundary into pure gossip. In fact, this post is very immature. I believe that every man has an adolescent living in him; perhaps that's why I'm posting this.
Background: My neighborhood is somewhat uppity. Maybe a better word is wannabe uppity. Or even better description would be, others think that we're uppity. Yeah, that's really how it is. We're just regular folk - like the name of this blog. By US standards, my house and the other houses here are kind of regular, somewhat humble. (What we do have better than US houses is that our houses are made of 100% concrete - which rocks!) Our houses are just much smaller than US middle class houses.
The neighborhood behind ours sits somewhere between ours and zero on the "neighborhood class" spectrum; so the folks from there have hinted to me. I've heard people specifically make distinctions between my neighborhood and the one behind ours (and most of those folks happen to be from the neighborhood behind ours). The funny thing is, if you get on my roof, you see that it really looks like one neighborhood - us with them as one. In fact, the back wall of my house touches the back wall of the house in the neighborhood behind mine.
The Story: A new family moved into the neighborhood. Great! New neighbors! So I try to be friendly, maybe too friendly. I'm careful to always say hi and talk with them, engage in small talk - you know the general kind of stuff to make people feel welcomed. Then one day, to everyone's dismay the Mrs of this family started doing this to the vacant lot in front of her house:
WHAT THE HECK !!!!????
This, actually is a more pleasant photo. At times we can see clothes that you really shouldn't just do stuff like this with. So, my wife and I talked about this for 2 or 3 weeks. I told her, that I would politely speak with this lady to get her to stop this practice. But every time, I tried to bring the subject up, I just chickened out. Finally after having enough, my wife politely brought the subject up with her. I was not present, but she assured me that she chose her words carefully and tried to be as polite as possible. The translation of a cut of what transpired is that my wife mentioned to her that it was somewhat ugly and we should do all that we could do to keep the neighborhood looking nice. This lady responded that her daughter also said that it was ugly and that she shouldn't do it. So great, my wife is on the same page with this lady's daughter. (It's also worth mentioning that the word "ugly" in this case might be better translated as "not so nice".)
That evening, I was playing soccer with my kids in the street. This lady left her house probably to get something from the grocery store around the corner. I waved, but she was obviously very bothered and ignored me. When she got back, she called me over. Her story and the story that my wife had of their conversation were very very different. Amazing. In her story, my wife used very strong words and was very belittling of her.
So what to do? I assured her of our genuine aspirations to maintain peace with her and her family and at the same time I firmly sided with my wife's stance of keeping the neighborhood looking nice as well as questioning whether she used "feo" or "HOR-I-BLE!!!" ("ugly" or "HORRIBLE!!!").
Lesson Learned: For me, this was a very eye opening culture experience. This lady would've rather that we gossiped about her behind back, even going as far as posting this on the internet than have us confront her face-to-face to complain about an issue that we had with her. I'm over 35 years old and I never quit learning. This one experience helped shed light on a lot of things for me of which I will not get into here.
So, what happened? Well, she keeps putting her clothes out there on the fence of that vacant lot. Not that much now, but in defiance she still does it.
As for me, the adolescent in me thinks its kind of funny and does not run out of ideas of what to do about this. Unfortunately, I haven't acted out on any of those childish prank ideas that he keeps coming up with, yet. I think its the mature adult in me that's keeping that adolescent in check. But, wait! I didn't tell you, that there's an old man in me who's in his late 60s who agrees with that adolescent; so its hard to say how this is going to play out.
I know everybody hates those neighborhood associations micromanaging people and lording power over folks; but we sure could use one here!