published in Change, Confrontation, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | January 6, 2012

Sometimes Situations Have to Go SPRINGER
Before They Settle

 

As in Jerry Springer…the TV show we loved to hate because it was trashy – but oh-so-watchable. And why was that?

Perhaps because from the safety and comfort of our living rooms, we could watch the  raunchy guests, sporting plaid lumberjack coats and rubber boots, battle it out on stage – screaming, swearing, finger-pointing and saying the nastiest things imaginable to each other – knowing that we would never stoop to that sort of boorish behaviour. Oh no, we would never partake in such low-brow attempts at solving problems.

Hah.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I was a Jerry Springer guest, right down to the plaid coat and rubber boots. I wasn’t on TV, no. I was on my own doorstep, having it out with my neighbour…as other neighbours undoubtedly watched from the comfort and safety of their living rooms.

Nice.

The worst of it, though, was that it was my actions that led to the confrontation in the first place. But let me explain 🙂

Ever since I moved into my home eighteen months ago, I’ve had concerns about said neighbour…loud music, old fridge in back yard (a three year-old child lives in the house, so probably not a good idea), rusted old pick-up truck in driveway, spilled kitchen garbage left in front yard for weeks, mysterious comings and goings from their large shed in the back yard…you get the picture.

But instead of dealing directly with my neighbour, I fussed and fumed and complained to whoever would listen about the mess, the noise and the possible drug-related activities next door. I wasted vast amounts of mental and emotional energy despising her AND making plans to sell my home i.e. moving away from the problem instead of solving it.

Well, one thing led to another and Child Services was called in early December.

The next day, the kitchen garbage was cleaned up.

The day after that, there was a very loud pounding on my front door. Uh oh.

I took a deep breath and opened it. And there she stood: my now steaming-mad 22 year-old neighbour.

Her eyes narrowed. “I know it was you that called Child Services.”

“Actually,” I said, “it wasn’t.”

This was technically true because I didn’t call them. But I had a hand in having them called – and my neighbour saw right through this.

“I know it was you,” she continued, “because everyone else around here knows what I have in my shed.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “Oh yeah? And what’s that?”

“REPTILES!” she yelled.

“Oh,” I said, rather quietly.

“I am NOT dealing drugs back there! You can come over right now and take a look.”

“Fine.”

I went back  inside and put on my blue plaid jacket and dirty rubber boots…I knew a good fight was brewing and wanted to look the part (just kidding).

Back on my front step again, my neighbour made some comment to the effect that I should be more careful before I go calling Child Services on someone.

To which I looked her in the eye and said, “Oh, my dear, the call wasn’t made just because I thought you were dealing drugs out of your shed. The call was made because you are raising a child in a pig-sty and I’m sick of living next to a garbage dump.”

Her mouth dropped open. I’m surprised she didn’t hit me – that would’ve been really Springer.

“I was wrong about the shed,” I said, “and I’m sorry about that. But the way you’re keeping your property is unacceptable.”

We stomped over to her place. After climbing over the low gate (the latch was broken), down the crumbling steps, past a couch (also plaid but having been exposed to the rain for a year or two, not looking so good) and around multiple toys, we stopped in front of the fridge.

She looked at me. “I didn’t know a fridge was dangerous for a kid.”

Obviously, the phone call to Child Services had mentioned the fridge.

“Well, now you do,” I said.

Then I (albeit rather dramatically) swept my arm across the collective mess and asked, “Is this how you want to live?”

“No!”

“Well then why don’t you ask for help? I’m your neighbour and although I’ve done a lousy job of it so far, I am here to help you.”

Then we went inside the shed to see the critters. Yup, it was full of reptiles all right…bearded dragons and the like – oh, and rats and boa constrictors.

Sigh.

But everyone was safely caged and seemingly well cared for. And they all had names.

After the shed-tour, we’d both calmed down considerably so she showed me the inside of her house. It was really cute – and tidy.

“I’m a single mom,” she said. “I’m a cook at a local restaurant and I’m doing my best to make ends meet. I don’t have a car, so it’s tough to get rid of all that stuff. But I’ve arranged to have it taken away.”

I nodded.

“I get why you called Child Services,” she continued. “I figured you were concerned about the well-being of my son.”

“I am,” I said. “But to be honest, your loud music is also driving me crazy.”

A few days later, we exchanged Christmas cards. I gave her a Safeway gift certificate to buy leafy greens and bananas for her shed-creatures; she gave me a picture drawn by her son…and her phone number in case her music got too loud for my liking.

Over the next week, the rusty truck and other front-yard garbage disappeared. As for the fridge, it was moved so that at least the door faced the fence, for safety…and so that I didn’t have to look at it.

And what did I learn through all this?

1)      Speak up sooner…don’t let a situation fester

2)      Be wary of making assumptions

3)      Sometimes things do have to go Springer before they settle

4)      Resolving an issue can bring a sense of peace

5)    Anger, resentment, fear and judgement require far more energy than empathy, understanding, humour and lending a helping hand

At the end of the day, however, perhaps it was my neighbour who learned the most valuable lesson about being a young mom: people are watching, people do care and people will speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

Even if it takes awhile.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening. She is the CEO & Founder of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. Please click here to sign up to receive her complimentary e-zine, The Watering Hole.

22 Comments

  1. Terri Garbutt on January 6th, 2012 at 10:35 pm:

    Alls well that ends well. Too bad it had to take so long but good for you. Still, I don’t anticipate she will be over for cocktails in the hot tub any time soon. Jerry Springer would be proud. (I’m not sure this is a good thing…)

  2. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 10:38 am:

    Yah…don’t think my neighbour will be over for cocktails in the tub anytime soon – but it is a start towards peace 🙂

  3. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 10:39 am:

    Just got this comment (via e-mail) from Glenn:

    I loved the blog Pope, thanks for sending it! I remember even when you first moved in and Jody and I came to visit you had concerns about your neighbour… I’m glad it worked out and she didn’t end up being a dirtbag drug-dealing piece of crap! And I totally agree… sometimes things need to blow up to get resolved… nothing wrong with that!!

  4. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 10:42 am:

    Here’s a comment from Iris (via FB):

    “wow maryanne….what an incredible experience…and so much learned on both sides!!! i’m so proud of you – really – i bet your neighbor is even more thankful to have you there…. xoxo”

  5. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 10:44 am:

    And this comment, via e-mail, is from Ian:

    Hah … I love this article!

    Great example of how assumptions on both sides and not confronting issues can really lead to toxic situations. Pretty sure everyone has experienced a similar situation at some point. I’m glad to hear this seems to have had a happy ending – although, all that said, there are times where a similar situation and confrontation can make things worse (especially if people don’t maintain their calm). However, I suspect man vs. man neighbour disputes are more likely to flair up than woman vs. woman ones.

    Anyway, great read.

  6. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 10:46 am:

    This comment came in from Sarah:

    Oh wow–loved this!! I appreciated your honesty in this blog because the truth is– we’ve all been there!! But to admit it and learn something from such a Springer-like blow-out is a difficult thing to do.

    The message is a very good one too, and makes me stop and just think about what judgments I’VE made about my neighbors! (Plenty!)

    I shared the link on my FB too.

    I loved the image of you in your rubber boots and flannel plaid coat — taking me back to university years when I actually watched Jerry Springer regularly!! (Remember all the chairs flying? The NUMEROUS F-bombs beeped out every fucking 2 seconds!! The DNA testing for the baby daddy’s…eeek).

  7. Maryanne on January 7th, 2012 at 1:28 pm:

    This comment is from Colin:

    Hey Maryanne,

    Just wanted to let you know your blog made me laugh out loud…I remember you telling me about her and I’m glad it’s resolved. How crazy!

  8. Colleen on January 7th, 2012 at 3:00 pm:

    Isn’t that so typical of us? Let something fester until it explodes! I’m happy to hear that the situation did get resolved and that you’ve come to a place of comfortable coexistence. I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m in one of these situations!

  9. Alan on January 8th, 2012 at 12:54 pm:

    Oh Poppie! I am howling here in Cowtown! This makes me think of all of our ranty conversations about non-eco people! Would you like them to visit your doorsteps???… I would move if they get your address, there are lots of them! lol

    only one last comment… And I chuckle louder… Is there anything you want to tell me??? lol

    hugs and kisses
    Blondie

  10. Alan on January 8th, 2012 at 12:58 pm:

    Oh wait… I have more…

    Oh my god… I am still laughing and I just posted a comment on your site!

    All of the sudden I got a picture in my mind, Soda giving you the stink eye because you now have a bearded iguana named Pixy living at your house, and you have created a pet voice for her too… lol

  11. Shan on January 8th, 2012 at 1:34 pm:

    Too funny . . . and kind of sad as well. I loved your point about your neighbour learning the most valuable lesson re: people are watching and willing to speak up because they care. It makes me feel relieved to know she’ll now be more cognizant of her choices and actions as her son’s well-being needs to be her first concern because if it’s not, others will make it their first concern. It all comes down to the importance of building safer communities and — literally — cleaning up your own backyard first. Well done MA!!

  12. Maryanne on January 8th, 2012 at 2:09 pm:

    This comment came in from Lynne via FB:

    “I really like this cause there is a lesson for all of us and I so appreciate how Maryanne Pope is just so honest. Keep up the good work Maryanne!”

  13. Esther Kane on January 8th, 2012 at 3:36 pm:

    Wow Maryanne! I applaud your guts. I have the hardest time being direct when I have a beef with someone and usually deal with it indirectly which often makes it even worse. We had a nightmare neighbour situation with someone leaving a car loudly idling for 20 minutes every day at FIVE a.m! and had to deal with it directly. It got nasty too but they dealt with it and now it’s not happening anymore which is a huge relief…

  14. Maryanne on January 10th, 2012 at 11:33 am:

    This just in from Cristy:

    Shannon posted your neighbor story on Facebook so read about it there. What good lessons for all of us, thank you for sharing.

    My living experience is almost the opposite. I live an apartment style condo and on the third floor where I reside, the minister, staff minister, and past president of the spiritual centre I attend each Sunday resides. And I
    purchased my condo prior to ever attending the centre.

    Love it when the universe reminds us that life is conspiring on our behalf!

  15. Maryanne on January 10th, 2012 at 1:34 pm:

    This one is from Sherry…

    Well I have to say that was truly LOL! I’ve had my Springer moments in the past and I’m not proud. It usually involves family or being behind the wheel of my car. I trust it will all work out with your neighbour. 🙂

  16. Graham on January 10th, 2012 at 3:58 pm:

    This was an excellent scene to picture MA and it might be a great opportunity for you as a sideline because I have a guy that needs to realize that cutting the grass is a good thing to do, some illegal suites and endless parking problems on our street. Any chance of you freelancing your ability for reconciliation??

  17. Maryanne on January 13th, 2012 at 2:57 pm:

    Hah hah! No I will NOT be freelancing my springer problem solving skills for resolving neighbour-issues…it is way too stressful!
    Maryanne

  18. Lorraine Herle on February 11th, 2012 at 4:25 pm:

    hey Maryanne…good job girlfriend. Now could you come and help me with my neighbor. He is in the military and uses gun’s…semi automatic to solve problems….it’s gone springer and some peace would be nice….anything you can do????
    lol

  19. Maryanne on February 14th, 2012 at 1:39 pm:

    Oh Lorraine…your neighbour sounds awful! Yikes…you take care 🙁
    maryanne

  20. Sonia on February 20th, 2012 at 3:25 pm:

    So love your article, Maryanne. You sure made me laugh AND reminded me not to make assumptions about people. It is so easy to do. Thanks for looking out for the little boy. You are a great neighbour!

  21. Lydia on April 10th, 2017 at 12:50 pm:

    Oh, I love this post. I’m so glad it had a happy ending for everyone involved.

  22. Maryanne on April 10th, 2017 at 2:06 pm:

    Thanks for reading, Lydia!
    Maryanne

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