As I was listening to my upstairs neighbor vacuum at midnight last night… as they are wont to do, with a random chorus or two of what I hope was the husband yelling at a video game, and not his kid or dog, I got to thinking of other, similarly considerate neighbors.
In my old condo, I had a neighbor on the lower level, let’s call her Barbara. Barbara enjoys Frasier, The Nanny, and Fox News. I know this because she kept her television volume high enough that I could easily follow along with the episodes (I, too, am a fan of Frasier and The Nanny, though Fox News not so much).
Besides listening to her t.v. at decibels worthy of a Motörhead concert, Barbara liked to putter around the common area outside her sliding glass door, making it her own. She planted flowers and watered the trees and bushes and put out bird feeders. She was also known to feed the squirrels, and would walk around, tossing bread and bird seed on the ground. It was quite reminiscent of my grandmother feeding chickens. I want this image to be clear in your head, folks… an elderly woman delighting in her flowery surroundings, creating an oasis of sorts for birds and squirrels and wildlife in our humble cul-de-sac. It was an admirable pursuit, I will say.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, but a few birds decided to call our little apartment complex home. No doubt feeling welcomed by the aforementioned oasis. In fact, two opted to build a nest on my balcony. I didn’t mind. I like birds.
Barbara, to put it mildly, lost her shit. She accosted me one afternoon as I came home late from work to order the removal of said nest. She claimed they were making a mess on her patio. She. Wanted. Them. Gone. She has eczema, I’ll have you know – and whether she actually does or not, I don’t know, but I do know that she was verrry vocal about it, shouting her diagnosis at me at least four times.
I calmly (I know, right!? Me!) explained that I would check it out and if there were no occupants of the egg or newly hatched variety, I’d be happy to remove it from her life immediately. But if there were eggs or chicks, then I would wait until the chicks had flown the coop, as it were. And while I hadn’t observed the mess she claimed existed, I assured her that I would keep the area clean of any debris.
This wasn’t good enough and I was advised, once again, and quite vehemently, that she has eczema and a few twigs had fallen onto her patio and she was going to call the health department on me because two wild birds hadn’t stayed in the trees where they damn well belonged.
She kept me standing there for over a half hour, ranting about this nest and the imminent summoning of the health department brigade.
Once I climbed up into the rafters of the balcony to take a peek, I realized that the birds had already abandoned it for better, and likely more solitary, living elsewhere, making Barbara’s hearty warnings against my hearth and home a hollow threat.
But say they had set up shop… would my concern for these birds be misplaced? Would my refusal to murder this house wren family make me the bad neighbor?
I’ll admit, being jumped as soon as I exited my car after a long day didn’t exactly elicit any sympathy for Barbara’s plight. Another, less autocratic, tactic on her part may have garnered more of the response she was seeking. Though really, if I’m being honest, I doubt it. I still wouldn’t have removed the nest until I was sure that there were no chicks in it, no matter who asked. The fact that she wasn’t asking, but ordering, is a moot point.
To this day, I don’t understand her mindset though… why work so hard every day to bring the birds down with food, water, and pleasantries, and then be shocked when they want to make a home?