Every house in my neighborhood has a fence. Most are of the lovely chain-link variety that say to me either: beware of dangerous dog, or I want to keep my children off of the street, and this is the only way. My house has a chain-link fence that I believe the purpose of is to slow the momentum of cars that drunkenly, or maybe just recklessly misjudge where the turn is and keep them from plowing into the house. It’s just a theory, but that must be the purpose because it certainly doesn’t keep anyone out.
The house that I share a driveway with has been abandoned for a few months, and was recently repossessed by the bank. This isn’t really a story about the horrible housing market and families losing their homes, but more one of an absentee landlord who moved somewhere tropical and stopped being a landlord who did anything for his tenants, but rather one who just collected rent checks. The family that lived there moved into a new place, and a very nice realtor stopped by a while later to give me her card and say that workers would be coming by periodically.
Wednesday morning, I woke up around 7:30, stumbled into the kitchen to make my coffee and saw that there were two men in a beat-up old car filled with fast-food wrappers parked on the lawn right next to my kitchen window. Then I was that there was a gigantic blue dumpster partially blocking the driveway that my car was still parked in. I started my coffee and got in the shower.
By the time I got out, these guys were flinging items out of second story windows into the dumpster (or not sometimes), and yelling back and forth. It was an unpleasant way for me to start the day, but they looked like they were having a lot of fun. Finally, I was almost ready to leave for work when I realized that the driveway was littered with large, broken objects that I did not want to drive my car over, and a giant child’s rocking-horse. I popped my head out the door and yelled at the workman nearest me, “hey guy!”
“I’m leaving in about three minutes, can you clear a path for me?”
He did, and I carefully negotiated the very narrow space between the dumpster catching the contents of the abandoned house and the abandoned car that has been parked in the yard since these people left. Seriously.
When I came home that night, the dumpster was still there, but when I woke up, it was gone. Instead of giant dumpster in my driveway, I now had: dirty mattress propped up against house, child’s pink, and adult’s blue bicycles laying forlornly on the ground, and four rusty barrels that must have previously been inside the house– though I can’t imagine why.
This was not an improvement in my mind, though all this new garbage outside kind of created a “white trash” theme along with the abandoned car. I decided my best recourse was to just go inside, close the curtains, and try to forget about the blue mattress interrupting the view from my kitchen window.
Today, I went to the gym and came home to find a truck and corpulent man with a red beard in my parking space. The mattress may not be something I can do anything about (short of moving it somewhere else myself– not going to happen), but corpulent man in my parking spot is. I parked on the street and strode up to him with the angry but polite demeanor of a girl who has just spent an hour on the treadmill and really, really wants a shower.
“Are you about done here?”
“Just got to tighten this up here, gotta keep it tight… lose things on the road.”
Then I realized that this man was taking the offensive mattress and rusted barrels out of my immediate world, and I became a bit more forgiving of his parking-space taking. Then he started blathering on to my about how sad it is that there are all these abandoned houses, but how good it is for him because he’s making a killing picking up this stuff and reselling it. “Two, three houses a day.” he kept insisting as I nodded politely wondering how many more times he could say that. Then I looked at the filthy blue mattress that had been sitting outside for 36 or so hours, through a heavy snowfall, and was now nestled snugly between three rusty barrels waiting to be sold to someone, and I got a little depressed.
Finally he got into his car, started it, then pulled it up further into my parking spot and cut the engine again.
By this point, I decided to just move my car into a different spot that was now accessible since he’d pulled up. So I did, and when I got out of the car, he asked “oh you live here?”
I said yes, and walked toward my house.
“By the way,” he said “you’re cute.”
Normally, I get by without looking like I’ve been beaten with the ugly stick one too many times, but at this moment, with greasy, sweaty hair scraped into a lackluster ponytail, red-flushed face, and the slightly crazy eyes that come with strenuous exercise– I was the opposite of cute. But when a red-bearded, corpulent man calls you cute, what can you really do about it, but shake your head and go inside.