Judy Kucharuk: Talk to your neighbour before calling bylaw


We all want to believe we know our neighbours and that we are one big happy family on a fictional Wisteria Lane. Heck! You loaned Ted from across the way your fertilizer spreader that one summer and came to the aid of Doris when her hairless cat got stuck in the tree. When Old Man Sanders had a heart attack, everyone got together and created a spreadsheet dividing up snow shoveling duties and when you found out that he wasn’t going to be able to return home, you switched the spreadsheet to include lawn mowing until the house was sold.

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You boast about the fact that, “My neighbours would do anything for me!” and you would be correct. That is until the city bylaw officer shows up one day with a notice to remove the fifth wheel trailer parked on the street or cut down the tall grass in the back alley, or maybe it was a complaint about the smoke from your backyard fire pit.

The bylaw officer is apologetic and explains that they, “cannot tell you who lodged the complaint, but that once a complaint is lodged, they are bound to investigate.” The bylaw officer and the complainant enjoy some type of attorney-client privilege and therefore you will never know who made the call.

You look around and wonder: Was it Ted? Was it Doris? Was it that new family that moved into Old Man Sander’s house?

DUN DUN DUN! All of a sudden you are immersed into an episode of Law & Order Community Watch Unit, and nothing will stop you until you find out who the mastermind was behind this incredibly passive-aggressive betrayal.

Your mind is racing: Who called bylaw? Why didn’t they come to me directly and tell me that my RV was blocking the sunlight into their picture window, or that the grass in the back alley was an eyesore?

Paranoia kicks into high gear. Who was it?!

You go through the seven stages of grief: Disbelief and shock (I feel so betrayed); denial (I am not a bad person); guilt and pain, bargaining, anger, depression; and, finally, acceptance iIt’s fine, I won't trust any of them ever again). You are grieving for the lost relationship with not just a neighbour, but a neighbourhood. The trust circle has been broken.

So many questions swirl in your mind.

Surely everyone knew you had to park the fifth wheel on the street because you were getting ready for a big trip and needed to be able to load it from the house. What about the next street over? There are two trailers currently parked on that street – did they get a removal notice?

Surely everyone knew that your weedeater was broken and that was why you had let the grass grow so high in the back alley. You can drive down any back alley in the city and see so much tall grass. What about those houses?

Why can’t I have a fire pit? What’s wrong with a fire pit?

Darn it! Which one is the mole?

Ted and Mary were gone to Susie’s graduation last week – it couldn’t have been them. Doris was in hospital getting her bunion removed, it couldn’t have been her. I’ll bet it was those new people in Old Man Sander’s house! They moved from Vancouver – big city folks! Obviously they don’t know the rules of being neighbourly in these parts.”

Eyes narrow in anger, music from the movie Deliverance plays in background and the toothpick in your mouth snaps.

The process of elimination begins and your kitchen table resembles something from a crime drama as you begin to piece together the timeline and whereabouts of your neighbours at the time the complaint was lodged.

Yes. The above imaginary re-enactment is what might happen when you decide to make the call to the bylaw officer instead of putting on your slippers and walking over to your neighbour to explain that the trailer is blocking the sunlight and that you would love it if they would move the darn thing.

Yes, the drama could have been avoided.

Unless of course your neighbour is a creepy weirdo, then probably make the call.

Judy Kucharuk is a lover of sarcasm, witty people and footnotes. You can follow her on twitter @judylaine

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