There’s a common misconception that a tall fence makes up for a bad neighbour, but you can’t make the same statement if you’re living in a condominium!
Here’s a story from the files of, “That can only happen to Dave” that clearly demonstrates how you can deal with a problem neighbour, if you so choose…
Some of you might find the following story to be hypocritical, since I’m telling a story about a total jerk, and my reaction might lead you to think I’m a total jerk myself.
Different people would have handled this situation in different ways, but I don’t regret my actions.
Last week, I was out on my condo terrace around 3:30pm, watering my trees with a garden hose, and playing fetch with my dog.
The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day, and I was in a total state of calm as my beautiful junipers and blue spruces soaked up the water.
Standing still, with a hose in my hand, and a coffee in the other, I heard a very quiet “SPLAT” behind me, that felt like it was only inches away.
I turned around, looked down, and saw what was undeniably a rather large loogie.
A pearl. A phlegm-wad. A rubber bullet. A shucked oyster.
Whatever you want to call it – there was a giant wad of spit on my terrace – the kind that takes a clogged sinus, a wicked deep breath, a still jaw, and a lot of concentration to produce and guide through the air!
I knew right away that somebody above me had spit down on my terrace, which is probably not the worst thing in the world. But I also knew that the proximity to me was no coincidence, and was likely the result of target practice.
I knew that curiosity would run rampant in the mind of whoever did it, and that person would undoubtedly look over to see the result of his or her efforts, so I stepped back, looked up, and kept a watchful eye for 45-seconds, until finally a head popped over the railing to catch a peek.
I waved, thinking that the person would think, “Oh crap! He sees me!”
But it didn’t end there. The person – who looked to be a teenager, leaned over again about two minutes later – even though I was starring right up at him, and let fly another wicked gob.
It was clear by this point that the kid was purposely taking dead aim at me, and I wasn’t going to simply brush this off.
I yelled up, “I see you – why don’t you come down and do that to my face? 9th floor – right below you. Knock on the door.”
This is the part where I’m sure I’ll lose some sympathy from my readers. Many of you will say, “Have a thicker skin, he’s an idiot, just brush it off.” But I couldn’t.
You might say, “You antagonized him! You led him on!”
Well, say what you like.
He looked over again, looked me dead in the eye, and then slowly let a long, stringy gob of spit fall gently from his mouth.
He could not have possibly cared less about the repercussions of this event, and perhaps that was exactly the problem; he didn’t think there were any repercussions.
The last time he leaned over the balcony, I got a good look at where he was, and I counted the floors.
He was on the 20th floor.
So I went up and paid him a visit.
Again, this is where my readers might say, “You’re just asking for trouble now. What’s to gain?”
Even my own cousin said, “Dave you’re nuts! This kid could have had a gun or something!”
Well, this isn’t rural Alabama, and if it were, then I clearly wouldn’t have knocked on his door. But this was downtown Toronto, in a better-than-average condo, with a good demographic, where I don’t think people keep guns. Wait – why am I even trying having this conversation!?!?!
I got off the elevator on the 20th floor, turned right, and knowing the building as well as I do (occupational hazard…), I knew exactly which unit he was in.
I knocked on the door, and it took a few seconds, but somebody inside looked through the peep-hole. I couldn’t see the person, but you know when somebody looks through the peep-hole, as light disappears, and a shadow is cast.
The person walked away, and I remained in place.
Once again, curiosity took over, and the kid just had to know, “Is he still there?” So after a minute or so, the light behind the peep-hold disappeared once more as the kid took a second look at me, and this time I smiled, waved, and said, “Hello there, I’m your neighbour, down below.”
My objective wasn’t to be threatening, but rather to let this kid know that I knew who he was and where he lived, and that there are repercussions to your actions.
I knocked again just for fun, and then again for about ten seconds straight.
He never answered the door. What a little sh!t.
I stayed for about three or four minutes, and then finally left. I walked back down the hall, and pushed the button for the elevator. Only I didn’t get on the elevator; I let it leave.
I leaned against the wall next to the elevator, somewhat certain of what was going to happen next.
I figured there was a chance that curiosity would again cause this kid to see what was going on, and sure enough, he came out of the condo, and down the hall to check and see if I was gone…..which I was not.
“Hi,” I gently said when he popped around the corner. I wasn’t trying to be threatening – just letting him know I was there.
“Oh, uh,ummm….I’m sorry” he quickly blurted out, not at all pretending like he and I didn’t both know what was going on.
“Sorry for what?” I asked. “Sorry for getting caught?”
It was a rhetorical question.
I don’t want to sound like an old man here, complaining about “kids today,” but this disrespecful, entitled kid could not have possibly cared less about spitting on people below. I’m sure he’s the same kind of kid who throws bottles of his balcony at night just to hear them smash, not realizing that somebody (ie. me) has to clean up broken glass.
“What would possess you to try on spit on people below?” I asked.
“Um….I dunno,” he said. “I guess I’m just bored.”
“Then read a goddam book!” I shot back. “Do something productive with your time. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies?”
I thought that choice was ironic, given that the story surrounds a bunch of shipwrecked boys on an island, bored out of their minds, and they get into far worse trouble than spitting on people from balconies.
“Don’t let me catch you again,” I said, channeling my inner old-man. All that was missing was the slow shake of the raised fist!
I went back downstairs to my condo, and this event ate away at me for the next six hours. It’s one of those things you don’t want to bother you, but it does, not matter how hard you try to forget it.
I was angry. Not just at this stupid kid, but at people in general.
We all hear home-owners say, “That’s why I don’t live in a condo! You can’t control who lives above you, beside you, or how the money in the building is spent. It’s so much better to own a house and be your own person!”
It’s true, for the most part.
But the issue isn’t a house versus a condo. The issue is, and always has been, people.
People suck. People can be jerks. People can be selfish and utterly unaware of what goes on around them.
A kid spitting off a balcony and throwing glass bottles is surely a condo problem, but with houses, you get into a whole other set of issues.
Home-owners can be even more unreasonable when it comes to tree branches hanging over fences, 1/2-inch encroachments over property lines, or other trivial matters that can lead to lawsuits, or worse.
With semi-detached houses and rownhouses, you’re joined at the hip, like you would be in a condo anyways. There are bound to be problems with neighbours.
And even if you live in a detached property on a larger lot, you’ll still have issues with the people on your street. A client of mine who rented a house in Rosedale had the POLICE called on him because a group of neighbours felt the lawn was growing out of control (which it was, but this doesn’t necessitate the police).
Alas, the problem is people, not condos or houses and the style of ownership.
That’s why when the first colony is founded on the moon, I’ll be leaving all you suckers behind… 🙂