When I thought about it, their acrimonious behavior was a gift and while we may have been victims of neighbor’s intent on making life difficult, I came away feeling I had a much better understanding of my ancestor’s struggles. E.A.B.
We recently moved from our home of thirty-two years to a condo community. A friend, who visited us shortly after we relocated, quipped that we had moved to 'Wisteria Lane,' a reference to the fictional street depicted on the hit show Desperate Housewives. He was not entirely wrong. He may have honed in on aspects of our little community that I failed to detect.
We were not living here very long, when it became clear that there were old issues which should have been tackled years ago. My husband and I have decades of real estate and small business experience. Geo knew how to fix the problems. The consensus of the residents was that he was best person for the job. He was elected president by a unanimous vote.
Several months have passed since he has taken on the challenge of making the necessary improvements. He has spent long hours with contractors, attorneys and repair people. He has managed to put the community back on track.
The numbers in the check book and capital fund are slowly increasing. Everyone is pleased that he has managed to resolve so much in such a short period of time. Not so fast, I feel a chilly breeze gusting down the street in the direction of our unit.
This community was once a small, intimate little street, a place where everyone knew their neighbor. However, things are quickly changing. The past two years have seen the construction of two new buildings. Four units have changed hands and two new units have been sold. The community is growing and changing. It is not the same place that many residents bought into, eight years ago and apparently there has been growing unrest among those who have resided here the longest.
It is sort of discord that is concealed beneath a quick smile and friendly wave and is revealed in small stinging provocations, ludicrous demands and baseless complaints Even though, I have a fairly extensive vocabulary, I do not think there is any one word to encompass this sort of behavior. However, for want of a better description, I will refer to “it” in this post, as “acrimony.”
What is acrimony?
Acrimony is the elderly neighbor, who told the handyman hired to clean the vinyl siding not to touch the building.
Acrimony is the woman, who appeared at the last association meeting with a bitter attitude and laughed loudly at Geo, when he requested that anyone who had an issue with him to please speak to him about it. When I pointed out that he was not trying to be funny, her response was ireful and sarcastic. “Ooooooooooh, is someone picking on you?” She whined.
Acrimony is the neighbor, who campaigned for a position on the board and seldom attends a meeting. When she does attend, she is late or she must be rousted to attend. She often forgets there is a meeting or so she says. A month’s notice does not guarantee her attendance.
Her appearance at our door last week and her announcement that she would not attend the meeting the following evening was expected. The curt message written on a sticky note attached to the envelope containing her reports was the bomb. It stated: In the future if you want me to attend meetings, you will have to call me with a proposed date.”
Acrimony is the lovely lady, dressed to perfection, who entertains endlessly, vacations on a whim and often pays her fees with a rubber check. She is in arrears for months on end. Despite the patient pleadings of Geo, she continues on the same path, promising to pay next week or next month, while he delays the impending process that will eventually lead to the placement of a lien on her property. Letters of notice from the attorney sit at the post office unclaimed. Predictably, the check for the arrears arrives at the eleventh hour, when the inevitable lien is in process. “A day late and a dollar short,” Geo always quips. “Why does she do this to me?”
Acrimony is the woman at the end of the street who gushes over Geo when he is alone and turns her head to avoid speaking to me when we meet on the street.
These behaviors are not in your face aggression, however we are beginning to realize that we need to keep up our guard and tread carefully among those who appear to be bent on making life more difficult and more unpleasant, than it needs to be.
Last week we engaged in a long conversation about our cranky neighbors. I had been thinking about the motivation behind their seemingly irrational antics and I took note of the fact that those who acted out the most, lived in the community the longest. “When they moved here, it was uncomplicated,” I told Geo. “It was small group. They were their own bosses. Now you’ve come along and are telling them, this complex has to be run like a business and the rules must be obeyed. I think they feel that they’re being walked all over by a Johnny-come-lately."
“Naaaaah,” he said.
I retreated to my desk and tried to get back to work. I am currently working on a narrative history of my Clark line and a novel based on the life of my great-grandfather Jimmy Clark. I could not concentrate. My conversation with Geo kept creeping into my thoughts and as I struggled to put down a few words, I started to think about my Irish ancestors, who were met by acrimony at every turn. Their experience was not entirely unlike our experience in our little community, I thought. The fuel that drove the animosity and prejudice manifested by the earlier established settlers toward Irish immigrants was based on a perceived threat of losing their way of life and their identity as a people. From my perspective, the cranky neighbors have been feeling much like the earlier settlers when they saw changes looming in the future.
Geo may not agree with me, but I think I am closing in on the truth.
I may never get to the bottom of my neighbors acrimony, but their annoying behavior has given me a stronger sense of empathy for my Irish ancestors and the struggles they faced in their daily walk. I have learned that even in a small dose, acrimony stings.
It is a valuable lesson, I never would have learned had I not moved to this little community that Geo and have come to call Hysteria Lane.