Hey, Your Trees are Blocking My View (of Trees)

Hey, Your Trees are Blocking My View (of Trees)

I am on the Covenants Committee of my local homeowner association. My job is to review complaints about trees blocking views and sheds that are infested with rats. Trust me, nothing brings neighbors together like having someone file an angry complaint about your over-height trees.

I am on the Covenants Committee of my local homeowner association. My job is to review complaints about trees blocking views and sheds that are infested with rats. Trust me, nothing brings neighbors together like having someone file an angry complaint about your over-height trees.

Is your job no longer motivating? Would you like a change of pace? Maybe have the chance to get out of your generic office cubicle, drink in the fresh air and meet interesting people?

Are you the kind of person who thrives on the futile challenge of coaxing feuding neighbors to set aside their petty differences and resolve their longstanding dispute over an incessantly barking dog? Sure, the pay is $0/hour, but you get a clipboard and measuring tape.

If this sounds too good to be true, I suggest you re-examine your life. Or you could consider joining my community homeowner association’s Covenants Committee, where you too could incur the wrath of seemingly docile retirees. I’d gladly swap my prestigious role for your cubicle. Whatya’ say, buddy?

Let me back up. My wife and I moved to this semi-rural island community five years ago, attracted by the slower lifestyle and stunning views of mountains, saltwater and nature – just like the other 15,000 residents who moved here before us. And like the other island-dwellers in our community, we were required to sign a document called The Covenants, outlining in convoluted legalese our rights and responsibilities as homeowners. We were hesitant to affix our John Hancock’s, but decided it was for the greater good.

Not long after, a former friend of mine caught me in a moment of weakness and convinced me to get more involved by joining the Covenants Committee of our community’s homeowner association. Since I had spent my career managing people and mediating conflicts between employees, it seemed this post would be a piece of cake. Um, I still haven’t forgiven him.

My duties include reviewing complaints and settling disputes as amicably as possible. In other words, I am an enforcer – not unlike Dirty Harry, only without his enormous persuasive talents, by which I mean his .44 Magnum revolver. Typical grievances range from “I’m sick and tired of looking at their rusted-out junkyard of cars on blocks” to “For God’s sake, it’s 2019! Make them remove the “Re-Elect Nixon” placards from their front lawn!”  (We’re still working on that one.)

Far and away the most common complaint, however, is about too tall trees that are blocking one’s view of mountains, the sound, and, ironically, other trees. You’d think this issue would be easily remedied. I mean, how tall does a tree need to be?

Ours is a congenial community – most of the time. Once in a blue moon, there’s that one curmudgeon with the decrepit motorboat and the lawn he last mowed when GW was president. And he’s quite happy knowing it’s all driving the rest of us crazy.

Ours is a congenial community – most of the time. Once in a blue moon, there’s that one curmudgeon with the decrepit motorboat and the lawn he last mowed when GW was president. And he’s quite happy knowing it’s all driving the rest of us crazy.

And, there’s the “legally binding” Covenants,  which specifically detail the maximum heights of trees and hedges, so people would readily comply, right? 

Wrong. When someone buys a home in our community, upon receiving their signed copy of the Covenants, they are instructed to file this important document somewhere secure, which apparently means, “somewhere you’ll never, ever be able to locate it again.”

Sometimes my attempt at a friendly conversation in which I diplomatically request that they work with their neighbor to find an amicable resolution doesn’t always succeed. Take Ned Withers and Carl Johnson, for example. Carl requested that Ned trim his 45-foot cedars so that Carl and his family could catch a peekaboo view of the mountains in the distance. Ned said there was no way he was going to lift a finger for Carl because of Carl’s extensive collection of three-feet-tall garden gnomes (75, to be exact) that aggravate Ned to no end.

In situations like this, I may have to escalate the matter. By escalate, I mean, drafting a formal complaint on Covenant Committee letterhead, instructing the affronting party to take specific steps to address this problem within, say 30 days, or else we will have no choice but to take legal action. I usually throw in a few random Latin phrases just to sound like I mean business. My personal favorite is “Ego vere diligit lardum.” (That means “I really love bacon.”)

Most residents check their mailboxes only on Wednesdays – as that’s when the IGA grocery coupons arrive. So, getting a prompt acknowledgement of one of my official letters is a bit like waiting for the cable company to return my call about the billing error on their last statement. In 95% of the cases, the offending homeowner simply ignores my official certified correspondence. In the other 5%, I am treated to a creative reply like, “No problem. I’ll get right on this – just as soon as Hell freezes over.”

Ah, the joys of having quirky neighbors, who carry a grudge.

Ah, the joys of having quirky neighbors, who carry a grudge.

Sometimes, the complainant (that’s legalese for whiner) may push too hard, trying to browbeat the perceived offender into compliance. That rarely ends well. Imagine a simmering Hatfield – McCoy feud that began with Ned Withers’ flood light shining directly into Carl Johnson’s neon-lit bedroom – only instead of resorting to rifles and pistols, the weapons of choice are a Black & Decker AS6NG alkaline cordless screwdriver and a ladder.

Don’t get me wrong. The vast majority of folks here are considerate and accommodating, willing to work with their neighbors. But sprinkled among the reasonable denizens, we have our fair share of Ned’s and Carl’s.

It comes down to a fundamental problem: people here love to gaze out over the treetops at the shimmering  water and snow-capped mountains. What a view! It’s why they moved here. But some are not quite as concerned with their neighbor’s view. To be fair, most of the folks here are perfectly willing to consider a fair compromise – so long as they don’t have to lift a finger – or a chainsaw – and they can leave everything exactly the way it is.

It can get exhausting. But I feel like we are slowly starting to make some headway. Just this week, I was able to get Carl to agree (albeit, reluctantly) to stop blow-torching the branches from Ned’s cedar trees that are hanging over his side of the fence. And in return, I convinced Ned, finally, to stop sneaking into Carl’s yard after dark to knock over his garden gnomes. So, that’s sort of a victory, right?

Baby steps. Baby steps.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Ten Years of Silliness – A Look Back on a Decade of View from the Bleachers (Part 2 of 2)

Ten Years of Silliness – A Look Back on a Decade of View from the Bleachers (Part 2 of 2)

So, you’ve come back for Part 2 of the most popular View from the Bleachers columns from the past ten years. You seriously have nothing better to do with your day? If you don’t know what I’m talking about because you missed Part 1, you can check out Part 1 here. At the bottom of this post, you’ll see a TOP TEN LIST of my own personal favorites.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Health and Fitness 

Getting a Colonoscopy is Better Than Having Sex… with elephants, that is. And not by much. Read my true embarrassing story of my recent colonoscopy procedure. Warning: This post may not be suitable for people with weak colons. And kids, don’t try this at home.

Important Health Safety Warning: These Foods Will Kill You! – Turns out that a lot of foods are really, really bad for you. Even a 32-ounce bottle of water can kill you, if it falls on your head from a height of 5,000 feet. Read this week’s important health scare, er, alert, about some foods that can kill. Spoiler alert: Brussels sprouts are actually not harmful, unless stuffed up one’s nose. 

My Private Workout with Obama – People routinely accuse me of telling over-the-top fabricated stories, like having had a private workout with former President Obama. No, wait, that actually happened. This is the 100% partially true story of the time I pumped iron with Obama. Why would I make this up?

The Amazing Happiness Diet – Recently, I lost a lot of weight. No, I did not do one of those crazy fad diets. I created my own. I call it the Happiness Diet. There are only two steps involved. Easy-Peasy. Read how simple it is to lose weight – and friends – with my proven diet formula.

Computers and Technology 

Alexander Graham Bell’s First Phone Call – Using Skype – Imagine if Bell’s first phone call – the famous one he placed with Thomas Watson – was done via Skype. Read this dramatic reenactment of how it might have sounded and looked. 

The latest innovation from Google – Google Translate – Family Edition – The brilliant technologists at Google have improved their Translate service to help families understand each other better than ever. Now husbands can decipher what their wives are nattering on about into plain English. Our lives may never be the same.

My Love Letter to My Internet Help Desk – Read my THANK YOU letter to my Internet Service Provider, detailing my gratitude for my 19-hour ordeal in which their tech support call center was unable to fix a problem that corrupted my computer that resulted from installing their internet security software to prevent internet security threats from corrupting my computer. 

Business and the Workplace 

Business Lesson #39: Awlays Proffread Yoru Wrok – If there is one thing that separates the winners from the losers in business it’s the ability to compose persuasive, articulate, error-free emails, memos and presentations.  That and being the offspring of the CEO. 

My Short-lived Career as a BINGO Announcer – After all these years, I thought I had finally found the job of my dreams – BINGO announcer at the county fair. I rocketed to stardom, and then just as quickly, crashed and burned like a meteorite. Read my heartbreaking story of the dream job that got away. 

How to Blow a Job Interview – There is no shortage of self-help books with practical strategies on how to make a good impression in a job interview. So boring. But there are no experts doling out advice on how to totally blow up your job interview – until now, that is. 

Click on the image to read another one of my favorites the story of what life for others would have been like had I never been born, in It’s a Wonderful Life (but it could have been better).

Click on the image to read another one of my favorites the story of what life for others would have been like had I never been born, in It’s a Wonderful Life (but it could have been better).

TIM’S TOP TEN LIST OF PERSONAL ALL-TIME FAVORITES

In no particular order, here are my own personal favorite VFTB articles from the past ten years.

I Just Found Out I’m Related to Jesus – On My Mother’s Side – A recently deciphered ancient Coptic Christian papyrus text reveals that Jesus was probably married. It’s not too big a leap of logic from that revelation to the conclusion that I must be the savior’s direct descendant. I mean, just look at any 15th century painting of Christ. I totally have his chin.

According to Google I am a terrible person – I used to think I was a pretty good person – a decent husband and a parent who tried to set a good model for my kids. All that changed when I did a Google search on my name. Wow, from what I found out about myself, I appear to have done some horrible things.

My Fleeting Friendship with an Internet Scammer – This is part one of my actual email exchange with the nicest man from Latvia wanting to purchase bleachers.  I thought I had made a new friend across cyberspace, only to learn that the scammer did not really want to be my friend after all. What a shock! (This is a two-part piece.)

Have You Heard About Dyzastra? – If you haven’t, where have you been? It’s the latest miracle pill that cures everything. But there may be just a few teensy weensy unpleasant side effects.

Humor Writer Admits to Using Banned Substances and Lying to Everybody – In a stunning revelation, Tim Jones admits publicly that he used banned performance-enhancing substances to gain a competitive edge against other humor writers. Based on writing samples we have tested, it apparently hasn’t helped.

Kids, Ask Me About God – By Reverend Tornquist – This week’s special guest tackles the tough questions about God and Heaven that kids need to know, like In heaven, do I still have to eat my peas? And Will my daddy get all his hair back when he meets God and Jesus?

It’s a Wonderful Life (but it could have been better) – I had a dream, much like that Jimmy Stewart film, It’s a Wonderful Life. In my dream, my guardian angel showed me what life would have been like had I never been born, in order to show me the impact I’ve had on so many people’s lives. Turns out, um, not much impact after all, really. (This is a two-part piece.)

An Important Message From Your Cat – There are a couple items of business that your cat needs to discuss with you, starting with some apparent confusion over whose house this is. Your cat sets the record straight in this guest commentary.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent – My Recent Run-in with the Law – The true retelling of the time I got caught by the police in a major criminal act – er, well, I violated the speed limit, sort of. It’s hard to explain.

My Open Letter to the Guy Crossing the Street Against Traffic Without Looking Up – We have all seen this person – the one who is completely oblivious to everyone around them, as they walk into traffic glued to their phone. This is my open letter to that person on behalf of all of the rest of us they’ve kept waiting all these years.

Thank you to all who have accompanied me on this slightly misguided journey over the years. I appreciate you giving me a chance to mess with your minds and perhaps brighten your day. I apologize if I inspired a bemused smile that caused your partner to wonder what you’ve been up to. Thank you for clicking the LIKE button and adding your own comments, humor, and wisdom. A particular shout out to Garth Nesmith of Duluth, Minnesota, who claims to have read every single one of my 360+ posts since September 2009. All I can say is, Garth, seriously dude, you really need to get your priorities in order.

If you have a personal favorite that is not included here, I’d love it if you shared which one it is in the COMMENTS section.

If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here. Or check out VFTB’s TOPIC DIRECTORY, which lists all of these posts – and hundreds more- by topic category.

This blog would not be possible without you, my readers. Thank you for putting up with my sophomoric jokes and crazy stories. Finally, a special word of appreciation to my enormously talented sister, Betsy Jones, who, for the past ten years has been my incredible editor. Unlike most of you, she has had to read every single post I have ever written. Talk about a glutton for punishment.

Tim Jones

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Annoying People

Annoying People

There are some people who just annoy the hell out of me. Like the guy sitting next to me who felt a need to yammer on about the best way to rid your backyard of moles for the entire six-hour flight to Chicago.

There are some people who just annoy the hell out of me. Like the guy sitting next to me who felt a need to yammer on about the best way to rid your backyard of moles for the entire six-hour flight to Chicago.

I consider myself relatively easy-going. It takes a lot to tick me off. And “hate?” Well, that’s just not a word in my vocabulary – unless used in the context of “I hate broccoli”, in which case, “hate” doesn’t begin to cover it. I honestly can’t think of anybody I hate (with the exception of my first-year college roommate, Lenny).

Life is just too short to go around hating others. But it’s not too short to point out those who annoy the hell out of me. I’ve plenty of time for that. Here’s a small sampling of people who really get under my skin…

Folks who walk through the door I’m holding for them without saying thank you. Seriously, dude, is it too difficult to utter two words?

People who send their annual Christmas card with no handwritten message – just a photo of three kids I’ve never met (how do I know they are even theirs?!), dressed in matching red sweaters, with a generic “Seasons Greetings from the Millers” embossed in Helvetica font. Could you possibly have put in any less effort to personalize your card?

My wife – but only when she asks, “What inning is it?” while I’m watching football. I swear, she will never figure out sports.

Neighbors obsessed with attaining the perfect lawn. I call them Lawn Nazis. Their grass is as smooth as a putting green, not a single weed or yellow patch in sight. Meanwhile, my yard features mole holes, a large convention of toadstools, and drooping flowers that gave up blooming back when Tiptoe Through the Tulips was popular. Now that I think of it, that song was really annoying, too.

Continue reading “Annoying People” »

Things Didn’t Go as Planned

Things Didn’t Go as Planned

This is my yearbook photo. Look at those eyes filled with such a clear vision of the future that awaited me… that is, until I left school. This is a short story of my life and dreams that did not go quite as planned.

This is my yearbook photo. Look at those eyes filled with such a clear vision of the future that awaited me… that is, until I left school. This is a short story of my life and dreams that did not go quite as planned.

When I was young, I was always planning out my life, sometimes down to the minute. I was highly organized and self-directed. I knew that to fulfill these plans, hard work was essential. Even as far back as fourth grade, I always studied excessively and earned top grades. In high school I was on several sports teams. I was confident that my efforts would open the door to an Ivy League college.

Things didn’t go as planned. I was wait-listed for Princeton but never accepted. So, I attended my fallback school, University of Virginia. My plan evolved to include a strategic major leading to a lucrative career, falling in love, and slaving through law school with my college sweetheart-then-wife supporting me. I had further planned to love the law and maybe move back home to Albany, NY, taking over my father’s law practice – and living a very comfortable life in upstate New York, raising 2.5 well-behaved brown-haired kids with big blue eyes (like me).

Things didn’t go quite as planned. Turns out Communications isn’t a door-opening major. And though I did attend law school at Ohio State, and my college sweetheart did support me (emotionally, that is), she was wedded to Virginia, not me. Not long after we broke up, my father passed away quite unexpectedly. As I had just begun my second year of law school, I was in no position to take over his practice. So much for the upstate NY picket fence and 2.5 adoring kids who looked like me.

Things were not going as planned. Next thing I knew, I had graduated with my law and MBA degrees and had absolutely no idea what to do next – except that I no longer wanted to be a lawyer. I waited tables for several months as I tried to identify a respectable career opportunity – preferably somewhere in DC or Boston. I did not plan on moving to Miami. But after nine months with no serious job offers, that’s where I finally found a job.

I held on to my plans for marriage to my dream wife. Don’t all men have a plan as to what type of woman they’re going to marry? My plan was to marry some nice American woman of tall stature and brunette hair who shared my love of sports and peanut butter. I certainly wasn’t planning on falling in love with a 5-foot tall, red-headed, freckle-faced Canadian, who had about as much passion for sports as I had for broccoli. But love makes you do crazy things.

And then there was my plan to become a feared but respected marshall of a small western town and marry the brothel owner named Fannie. Turns out those plans went south too, but that’s a story for another post.

And then there was my plan to become a feared but respected marshal of a small western town and marry the brothel owner named Fannie. Turns out those plans went south too, but that’s a story for another post.

I began planning a life with this extraordinary woman, even contemplating settling in Miami. Then I received a call from my manager telling me that if I wanted to remain with the company, I’d have to relocate to Chicago… in the middle of winter… to manage their Midwest region sales office – alone, all by myself. I was SO not planning on that.

Remembering my days waiting tables, I agreed to the move. I planned on redeeming the situation with this company, only the company went out of business. Surprisingly, its parent company offered me a position at their newspaper in Philadelphia. Nothing about Philly or newspapers excited me, but it was within driving distance of Connecticut, where my then fiancée Michele was now living.

Eventually, we got married and Michele joined me in Philadelphia, where we decided to settle down. Life was good and it seemed I was back in the driver’s seat of planning my life. Silly me. Perhaps if I had planned on getting laid off, it wouldn’t have happened. But I hadn’t planned on getting laid off. And Michele hadn’t planned on her employer, IBM, selling off her division. Suddenly, my plans had fallen apart again.

Quite unexpectedly, Michele was offered a job in Seattle – our dream destination. I became a trailing spouse. I had no idea what I was going to do in my next chapter, except for one thing: I would NOT take a job in newspaper advertising sales. Eventually I accepted a job as a newspaper advertising sales manager.

Before long, we decided to start a family. Given our genetics, our kids would almost certainly be pale-skinned and freckle-faced, with blue eyes and reddish brown hair – not what I had planned, but still adorable. Luckily, we never were able to conceive – because a few years later, we were standing in an orphanage in southwestern China, cradling the most beautiful dark-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed baby girl. A year later we went back to China to adopt our second beautiful daughter.

For years I had worked in newspapers, followed by a series of jobs in fast-paced technology startups that required me to put in 60+ hours a week. I was exhausted. More importantly, I was missing my kids and their childhood. So, I abandoned my career plans and took a less demanding job in a small business, in order to have more time with my family.

I figured I would work there a few years, enjoy family life, and plan my next major career move. But things didn’t quite go as planned. I stayed at this last job for the next two decades until I retired. I planned lots of adventures for this sunset chapter of my life. And then, I unretired. Oh well, my knees can no longer handle racquetball 3 times a week anyway.

Many many things in my life did not go as planned. Like marrying a foreigner and raising two adopted daughters. I’ve learned that sometimes, the best plans are the ones that you don’t see coming.

Many many things in my life did not go as planned. Like marrying a foreigner and raising two adopted daughters. I’ve learned that sometimes, the best plans are the ones that you don’t see coming.

A few years ago, Michele became tired of living in “cookie cutter suburbia” as she called it. I was leery of leaving our neighborhood, our friends and the house our kids called home. But my wife is a smart person (no comments on her choice of husband) and we found ourselves moving to a charming island far from Seattle into a lovely home overlooking an idyllic view. That was never part of my plan.

As I look back on the past five decades, I realize that time and again, the direction of my life did not go as planned. There have been many twists and turns, some disappointments, even a few deeply scary times – and countless happy surprises.

If someone told me when I was still in high school that I would marry a Canadian artist, become the father of two delightful daughters from China, move to an island in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Northwest, and start writing a humor blog, my first response would have been, “What is a blog?” But my second response would have been, “No way. I have a very different plan.”

In looking back, I’m grateful that in my life, things didn’t always go as planned.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Classmate Updates I’d Like to See

Classmate Updates I’d Like to See

This happy fellow dancing badly is my high school classmate Doug Stone. He partied all the time, was a total slacker and arrived late & drunk to graduation. He now manages a global hedge fund & earns $15 million/yr.

This happy fellow dancing badly is my high school classmate Doug Stone. He partied all the time, was a total slacker and arrived late & drunk to graduation. He now manages a global hedge fund & earns $15 million/yr.

Every three months, like clockwork, I suddenly experience an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. It happens when my high school alumni newsletter arrives. I went to a private all-boys’ military high school, the Albany Academy, founded in 1813. The school sends out a quarterly newsletter for three reasons:

  • to update alumni on programs they’ve initiated, like the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
  • to not so subtly solicit generous donations to fund the incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex
  • and most importantly, to invite alumni to send in updates about their booming careers (and invite them to share their riches to offset the cost of that incredible new state-of-the-art athletic complex)

I don’t normally suffer from poor self-esteem. I feel fairly good about most of my vocational moves – even my current ten-year gig as a humorist, despite the fact that it is a source of constant embarrassment to my wife and kids.

I generally avoid contact with most of my high school classmates because it invariably degrades into a rencounter among alpha males for top honors in career achievements. I’ll bump into someone from my graduating class who had been a stoner and slacker and barely eked by with a C- average. In the first minute of our encounter, he informs me that he’s now Chief of Neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic. Or perhaps he invented GPS technology or won the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. Then comes that awkward moment when he asks what I’ve been up to and I am thrust into the awkward moral dilemma of whether to tell him I’m the CEO of a multinational technology firm or Ambassador to France. I usually just dodge the entire issue by vaguely alluding that he does not have the proper security clearance for me to divulge the details of my amazing story.  Continue reading “Classmate Updates I’d Like to See” »

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

Read my cautionary tale about my visit to a particular retailer (whose name I won’t reveal) in an attempt to redeem a gift card. It was a snap, if by “a snap” you mean as simple as deciphering the Da Vinci Code.

[The following is a 100% 98.7% true story.]

Recently, I had a rather unpleasant shopping experience involving a well-known retail establishment. I’d rather not mention the store by name, as I would hate for others to TARGET this chain with well-deserved, snarky tweets.

It started with a gift card from a friend for Christmas. A delightful surprise. But the process I endured to redeem it was, well, let’s just say I’ve had root canal surgeries that were more pleasurable – and took a lot less time.

Here’s what happened. My friend – whom I’d like to assume had positive intentions – gave me an online gift card to use at the afore-not-mentioned giant red & white-colored discount retailer. I printed it out and proceeded to the nearest store. I wandered through the aisles, stocking my cart with exotic splurge items like paper towels, light bulbs, and a plastic waste basket. Okay, so I lead a dull life.

I reached the checkout counter and presented my printout, showing the amount, bar code, and a couple long numbers, identified as the “gift Identification number” and “PIN code.” The cashier greeted me cheerfully. I figured I’d be in and out of this store in under 30 minutes. But the universe had other plans for me that day. Continue reading “My Shopping Experience That Went Off TARGET” »