Thursday, August 04, 2011

Would you be my ... could you be my ...

Our old neighbourhood, on Hillside Street, was a great place. We had a little house that was too small for our family, but we owed relatively little on it, and it was ours. During our house hunting in ... oh, 2004 or '05 I think ... we found a few places in our price range (which was peanuts, we were broke), and this one kind of stood out from the start. We went inside, and loved it. It needed work, but we wanted to make sure that the survey was done before putting an offer. Jenn's grandfather came to look it over, and realized his father had built this house, in 1927, and that he'd lived there for the from the age of six until 16. It had a small front yard, and a huge back one that the kids and dog could play in. We bought it.

After moving in, we found that the neighbours were mostly good, and some wonderful. At the one side was the older lady we never saw, who had lived there since she was born, and knew everything about the history of the area. On the other was the young couple who had a little boy named Jake, who was a little younger than Daisy. Very nice, never complained, and said hello every so often. We were sad when they moved, just before we did, to Yellowknife.

In behind there was a house that shared a right of way, and the old guy with the eye patch who lived there with his quiet wife. They had taken the place over when the drug dealers who had it before were arrested. He used to use his snowblower for the long lane, and come over to do the bottom of our drive when we were snowed in by the plow and I was working in the city. Behind us directly there was Anne, a foster mom to several great kids who were always poking over the fence to play with Cole, and who came to birthday parties, and such. It felt like we were part of something, even if we didn't spend time with them, we could go over and say hello and it wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

Contrast that to the new house. Our neighbours here were a little skeptical of us as soon as we moved in. We were one of only a couple of families on our street with kids. We have a huge front yard that we rarely use, and a small back one.

On two fences, the neighbours are great. Peter the old English gent, and his wife we never see, help us with materials from the gardens back and forth, and like Wilson from Home Improvement, we are always chatting about the gardens or he is identifying plants for us. Next door, Craig, with his two teenage daughters, and twenty-something son, who are more like us than anyone on the street. Easygoing, quiet. Nice people.

But on two sides we've had problems. The first incident is legendary in our house now. Jenn and I had so many problems with Bell (poor reception, and an installer who put the dish on so it was tearing down our siding - then telling us it was our problem to fix - all that story for another time maybe...) that we decided to go with Cogeco and get phones and everything done through cable. So we put in the order, and had the Bell cut off for the same day as the Cogeco was to be installed.

The day they came to set it up, the other neighbour at the back wouldn't allow them access to their property to hook it up, so Cogeco said they would come back later. The neighbour then said that Cogeco could never have access because they had not purchased a right-of-way. The box is right beside the fence, so we looked up property law, and called a police buddy, and figured out that as long as we own the fence (which we do) and Cogeco didn't step on their side of the property line, which they didn't plan on doing, we could rip boards out of the fence and have them lean over to connect us.

At the time, Owen had just gone through a bunch of testing, and of course they came back with the usual Owie-odd results, and we were waiting for a call from Sick Kids.   As I was taking boards off the fence, and with Cogeco on the way the next day, the neighbour confronted me about the fence. Jennifer, in one of her finer moments, began to yell over from our back porch, and called her a "b*&;ch" for denying us access to 911 and to phone service. I, for my part, left the boards off the fence for the next three days, and the women (a full year later) worked it out amongst themselves with apologies on all sides.

Our second major problem in the neighbourhood just came up last week. Unfortunately, it's not one of these easily (or even with difficulty) resolvable issues. Really, we don't know what to do. Next door we have a retired nurse, who goes to the US to buy pesticides that are banned in Canada. She uses them on her lawn to make it greener, and yet doesn't understand the links between them and illnesses that she thinks are "just terrible".

The other day she was talking to her son in the backyard, not knowing that Jenn was sitting quietly on our porch, and said "Next door their son is retarded, and they're sending him to school this year. Retards don't belong in general population."

Did she just say that? Retarded? From a nurse? She's thoughtful of people's rights when it benefits her, but has nothing to say when her guests blow off fireworks near midnight, while my kids try to sleep. Really. We're planning on moving in a couple of years, and we're very much looking forward to being around more tolerant, worldly, and intelligent people, but how much can we endure for those years? I don't mind someone insulting me, but my kids!?! Unacceptable.

She went on to say that there should be specific sections for children in restaurants so they don't bother others, and that they shouldn't be allowed on airplanes. This from a mother, and a nurse. It was a long, quietly spoken tirade that left Jennifer seething in the yard. Now what? What does one do about ignorance? I'm at a loss. What would you do?

On Tolerance.

 My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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