In our neck of the woods; in our quiet little burb, it has come to my attention that I, as enumerated by a passage in the town’s dos and don’ts as concerns the mundane world of permits and the like, am, as a duly proscribed member of said town, necessarily obligated to narc on the neighbor doing God knows what to his property if I think something is rotten in the state of Denver!
I have concerns about this.
I am, generally, fairly passive when it comes to whatever nefarious activities my neighbors might be up to. In this day and age, and in this part of the country where solace is a given no matter how many of us are stacked upon one another, it’s normal not to have any idea who or what your neighbors might actually be. For those disinclined to any social interaction whatsoever, it works out quite well. For those inclined to socializing, and there are a few, it adds an interesting wrinkle to neighborly get togethers (more on that in a minute). For those certain something is up, angry about how the country, the state, the county, and the neighborhood are going to hell in a handbasket, it provides a means to get those bastards that bought old man Reilly’s place and really screwed it up.
The idea or understanding that we are each others caretakers and snitches doesn’t exactly sound endearing. Maybe that’s because, within reason, I think a person should be able to do with his or her property what they want. Naturally, given human nature, that doesn’t always lead to bucolic or suburban splendor; sometimes it leads to yards unkept and a vast array of unused and unloved vehicles populating all the available space in and around the property, and the attendant grumbling by neighbors about property values, quality of life, and the inexorably decline into probable criminal mischief. This, again naturally, leads to covenants and home owners associations for the express purpose of preventing a visual blight such as purple and yellow painted houses and RV’s parked out front that haven’t actually moved in many decades.
But, should moral outrage then be used by the town as a means of policing the neighborhood? Should I, and my neighbors, be eagled eyed towards any activity on any of our properties? Is it really my business whether my neighbor, Phil, not his real name, has a permit for the addition he is nailing to the side of his house?
The town thinks it is.
This puts me in the enviable position of ad hoc building inspector, fire chief, concerned citizen. It also makes me leary of all my supposedly friendly neighbors when I start a home improvement project without necessarily making sure it falls within the strictures of the town’s building codes. To paraphrase Monty Burns, “I should be able to build whatever I want, however unsafe!”
If we do, in fact, exercise our civic duties and rat out Phil and his addition, how should we then proceed when we get together for this week’s Seahawk tailgating party? Feign ignorance even though he knows we’re the only ones who can see it? Throw out a little movie wisdom as cover?
“It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s business.”
Or confess that we’re deeply concerned it might not be safe versus a shallow confession that we think it looks terrible. Sharing concern sounds better than being the neighborhood designing scold.
Of course, the alternative would be to make the town utilize its own resources to police all of our fine neighbors, but that costs money, which means more taxes, and quite frankly, I’d rather rat out Phil.
It’s human nature.
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©2018 David William Pearce