I think I’ve read Dante’s Inferno one too many times. Or, perhaps it was the Bugs Bunny cartoons that crystalized my understanding behind the saying, “Let the punishment fit the crime”. That rabbit really understood the subtleties of irony. When we studied Dante during high school, some of my fellow students came up with some really appropriate “punishments” for evildoers everywhere. One punishment that really sticks in my mind was designed for those fun-loving TP folks who frolic around neighborhoods in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping and throw toilet paper over trees, bushes, lawn gnomes, gutters and whatever else strikes their deranged fancy. Wouldn’t it be fitting that those same toilet-paper fiends find themselves in some underworld cavern draped in TP during a rainstorm? For eternity?
I had some elementary teachers who really understood Dante. They could have added a few chapters. Spitball criminals, for example, were doomed to fill entire wastebaskets with spitballs before going home. Since the offenders had to use their own notebook paper, not only did they have to waste precious after-school free time creating unused spitballs, they also had to explain to their parents what happened to all the notebook paper – a precious commodity – they had at the beginning of the week. Paper airplane pilots and origami experts suffered similar fates.
In high school, (I attended an all-girls institution run by some really kick-ass nuns) we were not allowed to “rat” our hair. Rats or backcombing is essential to achieve hair-do height. Cheap hairspray, highly-ratted hair, and voila -indestructible helmet-tower hair. The sisters, bless their hearts, traveled through the hallways carrying metal-fine-tooth combs in their pockets. Girls whose hair resembled Marie Antoinette’s were pulled over for a public restyle. Restyles were humiliatingly excruciating. In really bad cases, Marie was sent to the showers. OK… public humiliation, partial nun-scalping, a really bad all-day wet-look bad hair day, and week-end time in high-school jail. Those sisters knew what torture looked like.
I hate to admit it, but I have to say that my childhood Dante-experience has had a profound influence on my approach to working with people. I tolerate a lot of stupidity in silence. Forbearance is the better part of valor. I prefer keeping my mouth shut to arguing pointlessly with the seriously deranged. At the same time, if suffering injustice…I can wait a long time before striking back…Vengeance is best served cold. Recently, my evil twin surfaced. Forbearance flew right out the window, and vengeance was best served cold. (hee – hee – hee!)
Common property in townhouse communities are a blessing and a curse. The wide-open backyard provides ample space for parties, gardening, a place to get to know your neighbors….well. It also denies a sense of privacy. There are no fences between overly-close patios. Fences, at times make good neighbors.
One of my neighbors would put Martha Stewart to shame. Her taste is impeccable. Her back-yard-strip-of-dirt landscaping is impeccable. Her home décor resembles something out of Good Housekeeping. (One year she actually organized all of us do decorate our doorways the same way for Christmas…Wreaths, lights, door hangings…the works.) My taste runs toward the more mundane. My home is cluttered, my strip of dirt is weed-laden, my furniture is largely from resale stores, and a lot of my Christmas ornaments are straight out of a dollar store. My outside light display consists of a rope light around a door frame. It works – for me.
For the most part, we get along just fine. We collect each other’s mail, and water each other’s gardens while on vacation. We wheel each other’s garbage cans in on Wednesday after work. We share tools, gossip, and all the other trappings of good neighbors. We do not share the same taste in gardening choices. Karen’s taste is floral, feminine, and high maintenance. My taste runs along the idea that we live in an area that supports prairie flowers – so go with the prairie flowers. They don’t require much watering, and thrive on benign neglect like the dickens. They also look “weedy”. Since our mutual strips of dirt butt up against each other, it is impossible to escape the taste-chasm that exists between us. I’ve got a lot of perennials, marigolds, and prairie flowers out there. Low maintenance – works for me. Karen has gardenias, hibiscus, petunias, and other things that require a lot of watering, weeding and pampering. It’s pretty, it’s delicate, and it’s Karen. The problem started with my choice in floral choices for the shared front-dirt area.
Karen wanted camellias. Camellias don’t like northern Illinois. I wanted…you guessed it…Prairie Flowers! I managed to talk her out of camellias, and we started talking about roses. Karen didn’t want roses because we don’t get a lot of sun which means the roses wouldn’t bloom. Personally I think she didn’t want a couple of rose bushes because at the time they were a little pricey because as soon as the price came down roses were suddenly ok. Karen didn’t want hardy prairie flowers. Karen didn’t want a lot of things. We finally agreed to lilies, and I had a bunch in the back. Frankly, I think lilies are kind of weedy, and they don’t flower for the entire summer…like roses and prairie flowers. And lilies don’t solve a height problem. Whatever was decided on needed to be taller than the bushes that create a barrier in the front of our mutual dirt. Anyway, the lilies were planted, and the dirt remained…or so Karen thinks.
Prairie flowers abound in our HOA…I wonder why…Prairie flowers produce and abundance of seeds every year. I walk Peanut at least one mile every day. I wonder what will grow in our mutual front bunch of dirt this spring….hee-hee-hee.