Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

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Our Little Rant by Eightball & Thundercloud
From InfoAve Premium Issue #117 - January 13, 2006
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Good Neighbors

I know lots of people have problems with their neighbors so I guess I'm lucky that I don't.  My neighbor is an affable fellow. He's somewhat younger than I am. That would be enough to make some people dislike their neighbor. But not me. I was younger once and I'll be older someday too, hopefully. I would prefer to be younger but we all had our shot at it, we can't go back, and getting older beats the alternative.

Anyway, I've resigned myself to the fact that it's not his fault he's younger. And, admittedly more energetic. Before you jump to conclusions that I'm some lazy, unenergetic, lethargic, indolent sloth, let me set you straight. That's just an unfounded rumor. I work about 12 to 14 hours a day. Well, not really. I play around on the computer for 12 to 14 hours a day - that's what people think. But, hey, it's work sometimes. Really!

I think my neighbor builds furniture. But, I'm not really sure about his exact job description. I don't believe the subject ever came up. He has only a vague idea of what I do for a living and I like it that way. I wouldn't want him walking around spreading wild rumors about me.

Anyway, a few days ago, I was out walking and I see this strange person walking down his driveway. It was my neighbor. Now, I say "strange" person because it's January and it's winter and my neighbor never goes outside in winter. So, it was a shocking site to see him outside this time of year. He was on his way out to his mailbox when I happened by.

We stopped and talked for a few minutes. Then, I went on my way and he went on his. I started thinking then, though, about good neighbors. It didn't take much thought before I rated him a "good" neighbor, although, as you'll see, there are times when he gets on my nerves. And, I'm not so insensitive to believe it is his fault. It's mine. I accept the blame. Sometimes, I'm not a good neighbor although he'll never know it (I hope).

You see, my neighbor hibernates in winter. Unless some unusual event (like work, getting the mail, etc.) compels him to venture forth in the cold winter months he stays indoors. And, I guess, that's a good thing. I'm outside for a little while every day. Unless we're having a blizzard, torrential rains, or other weather-related turmoil. I walk a lot, and most days I pass by his house unnoticed, unless he is surreptitiously scoping me out from a window, which I doubt. Winter is a serene time. Summer is a different story.

In the summer, my neighbor seldom goes indoors. He's a heat-tolerant sort. He loves sweltering days and hot, muggy nights and dancing mosquitoes and other creepy little flying things that swarm about on summer evenings.

He has an obsession with lawns, landscaping, and that sort of thing. This is really unfortunate for me because I don't. But because he does, I have to suffer all sorts of self-imposed mental cruelty. For instance, I can be in my nice cool air conditioned house and suddenly hear the annoying sound of the world's loudest lawn mower - his. It's not the noise that bothers me. It's the reminder that he's out there cutting his grass and I'm in the house doing whatever. I know he'll be out there for hours mowing. No, his yard is not that big, he just mows it twice - in different directions. It makes nice patterns in his lawn. Maybe next year he'll start making crop circles in his yard. I can't wait.

Anyway, all this lawn manicuring makes my yard look bad. Very bad. And it isn't that bad. Really. It's a normal person's lawn. Not a compulsive-obsessive's yard. I don't cut patterns into my yard. I don't cut my yard three times a week. I don't get down on my hands and knees and heartlessly end the lives of innocent little dandelions - one by one. I don't edge my sidewalks, I don't bag up my grass clippings, I don't ponder much over what to do next. You're thinking "Slob!" right? No, no! My yard is a typical yard. It's not the yard of a person with neurotic tendencies.

I cut my yard only when it really, really needs it (never more than once a week though - that's my rule) and I do it as quickly as possible (and then have a nice cool drink and thank goodness I'm done). I listen to the radio while I mow the lawn because listening to the drone of a Briggs & Stratton for two hours just isn't my cup of tea. My neighbor, on the other hand, cuts his grass bare-eared. He's really into this grass cutting and lawn thing. And when he's done, he doesn't run into the house for cool drink, he goes into his garage and comes out armed with all sorts of weird looking implements to add the finishing touches to his yard-art. Only darkness can stop him. If the sun didn't set, I believe he'd be out there all night with an assortment of yard tools that even Bob Vila would envy. He loves it.

I think the worst thing of all about my neighbor's obsession with having the perfect lawn is that it makes me feel like a lethargic, lazy, feckless, bum. I can be in the house working and suddenly the roar of his lawnmower comes crashing into my ears. And I sit there irritated, harassed almost, by my neighbor-on-a-mission and the world's nosiest lawnmower. It makes me feel bad. I look out my window and look at my grass and see it does need cutting (it usually always does). I am forced by the sound of my neighbor mowing his yard to contemplate my own shortcomings. He makes me feel lazy. He makes me feel like I should care more about my lawn. He makes my yard look worse than it is. He makes me feel inferior. It makes me wonder what people driving by our houses think. I know someone is pointing and saying, "Look Henry, too bad that guy with the nice yard has to live next to a field of weeds."

My favorite time of the summer is July. By July we usually have a mini-drought. And, if I'm lucky, the grass turns brown and stays brown through mid-August. Brown grass means it doesn't grow and if it doesn't grow, I don't mow. But, my neighbor knows no drought. He is armed with many sprinklers and hoses to supply his lawn with whatever moisture it needs to stay a brilliant green. By the end of July our yards, one green and one brown, are side-by-side for all to see. I still won't give in. I like to think then, that I'm being a conservationist. And, that's my excuse. And if anyone asks that's what I will tell them. They can think what they want.  My yard stays brown as long Mother Nature co-operates. And she usually does by mid-July.

If it weren't for the neighbors on the other side, he might actually embarrass me into giving up and joining his perfect-lawn crusade. Fortunately, the neighbor's on the other side are normal and more humane. They are not obsessed with yard patterns and eight-hour yard manicures. When I hear their lawnmower running, I know it is time to mow my grass. The like July too, I'm sure.

During our little mini-conversation by the mailbox the other day, my neighbor told me that he can't wait for spring and summer. I nodded and smiled and said yes some sunshine and warmer weather would be nice, but I'm enjoying the winter too. He looked incredulous as if I had suddenly sprouted broccoli from my ears. I suppose to him anyone who enjoys winter is a candidate for a mental exam. I continued on my walk and he hurried back into his house, mail in gloved-hands.

Though it's mid-January now, I can hear the roar of his lawnmower taunting me as I write this. How much more time have I got before it really happens. I realize that in about two months he'll fire up that red machine with a smile on his face and I'll have to run to the window to see if it's really true that winter has ended and another spring and summer season has begun.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the rest of my respite and try not to think of the distressing sound of his lawnmower. And, I know, that we will remain good neighbors, even in the summer when he tortures me unwittingly. I know he doesn't mean it. He just can't help it.

Although though it's only mid-January, I can already hear the dreaded sound of his lawnmower in my imagination -sputtering, clattering, roaring, whirring - I smile:

We have different interests and different lawns and that is certainly what makes us such good neighbors.

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