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.
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.
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.”
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?”
“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.
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 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.