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.

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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

A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands

A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands

Do you know the distance from my house to the South Pole? Of course, you don’t. But I do. That’s because I recently erected a giant sign pole complete with weather vane in my front yard that displays the direction and distance to several far-flung places, including the South Pole. How far is it from our house here on Camano Island, Washington to say, Cape Town, South Africa? Glad you asked: 10,199 miles southeast. Distance to Pitcairn Island? 5,022 miles almost due south. Moscow, Russia? I have no idea. But I can see Russia from my back door, so no matter.

For years, I’ve been fascinated by those rustic towering poles with signs pointing to remote locales like Timbuktu (yes, that’s an actual place). Maybe it’s the wanderlust in me or my long-held interest in maps. Or perhaps I’ve read too many National Geographic articles about the lost tribes of Borneo. Whatever the reason, I decided to plant one of these (poles, not Borneans) in our yard as a fun conversation piece. Prior to this project, the only thing quirky about our house was my wife’s husband.

I asked my wife if she’d be okay if I built one of these and gave it a prominent location on our front yard. To my amazement, she did not protest in the slightest. Even when she woke from her nap, and I asked her again, she was still moderately amenable. She had just two conditions: first, I had to promise to not do a sloppy job. Second, I could not try to conscript her assistance with this fool’s errand. Deal, I said, knowing all too well there was no way I would live up to the second condition. Continue reading “A Sign I Have Too Much Time on My Hands” »