The First Volley

With boxes arriving almost daily from Amazon or one RV doo-dad manufacturer or another, our garage has quickly become cluttered with empty or nearly-empty shipping boxes. Since parking the RV in the driveway a month or so ago we haven’t had sufficient clearance to park our vehicles in the garage. Except for having to get into vehicles baked in Georgia’s 90° spring days, that has worked out okay. We’ve parked behind the RV or in the street, and the garage has been a staging area for the numerous RV fixes and upgrades in progress.

We’ve both been in kind of a funk, to be honest. This transitional stage is a tough one. To move through it more quickly we need the two things everybody wants: time and money. Brian’s doing everything he can. I’m holding down the fort making almost zero dollars per month, and not seeing a path that feels right for both me and the speed with which I’d like to roll on out of this house.

When it feels like I can’t do a thing about anything, it makes sense to me to do what I can, even if it’s a small thing. So today, just before it begins to rain, I decide to break down all the empty boxes and take the cardboard to the dump for recycling. That way Brian can more easily find the thingamajig he needs among all the crap he’s bought.

I walked out to get my SUV from the street and pull it into the driveway. Ken, the neighbor from across the street and up a house, stood blowing grass clippings up and over the curb at the end of the cul-de-sac near my house.

“Trying to beat the rain?” I asked.

He looked at me and grunted an unintelligible monosyllable. Whelp…it was a response, I guess.

I’ve almost never felt welcome here, or like I fit into this neighborhood. I can assure you it’s not for lack of trying, although in recent years I’ve given up and moved closer to adopting Brian’s attitude.

“Fuck ’em,” he says.

I back the SUV into the driveway, take my stash of recyclable grocery bags out of the back, and lower the seats to make room for all the cardboard. Although I’m sure it’s too early for the mail to have run, I walk to the mailbox before I start loading the cardboard.

Inside I find a stapled sheaf of papers. Copies of a section of our HOA covenants: “Vehicles: Parking” is highlighted in red, if you can call the color red a highlight. On the front is a note that says to call James, the HOA president, if I have questions.

I’m sure before I turn the pages that somewhere inside it says I’m not supposed to park an RV anywhere in the subdivision, nor am I to park on the street.

Our HOA has historically been more of a laissez-faire organization than one that enforced an obnoxiously large set of covenants. I hoped that no one would be bothered by the RV before we could move into it and out of here. I knew that almost no one in the neighborhood could even see it without being on our property. That’s because we are at the very end of the cul-de-sac with woods immediately beside our driveway.

Only one neighbor – Roy – has a clear view of our RV. Up until a year or so ago, Roy and his wife had a large fifth wheel they parked on the street several times a year as they got it ready for camping. Sometimes for just a few days, sometimes longer. Last year Roy got a pontoon boat, and had it parked on the street for a day. Neither was a big enough deal to complain about.

Roy once mentioned the fifth wheel to us in almost an apologetic way. We told him we didn’t care. Yes, it was large, and parked on the street, and against HOA rules. But we knew it would eventually go away. I wonder now if he acted that way because he thought we had complained about it.

I walk back to the garage, HOA papers in hand. It’s dawning on me that our “out” – our hope that the one person who could complain shouldn’t complain – is of no use. Suddenly I want to be an asshole retroactively and complain about Roy’s fucking fifth wheel. But no, that’s not right. It wasn’t a big deal.

What I’m really angry over is that, if it was Roy who complained, he didn’t even try talking to us first. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised or hurt; he’s always been standoffish.

When I moved in across from Roy and his wife 12 years ago – on the absolutely most blazing hot day of the summer – they sat on their front porch sipping drinks while my then-boyfriend and I struggled to unload the moving truck in the heat. Other neighbors came over to greet us. One even helped a little. But Roy and his wife stayed put.

Cowardly bullying

I think HOA rules, like most laws, are codified excuses for passive aggressive behavior. People fear a little conflict – which is almost never as bad as we imagine – so they go running to someone else to do their dirty work.

I set the papers aside, slip on gloves, and begin carrying cardboard to the SUV just as the rain begins. Don’t care. Angry. Stewing, a little. I’ll call James when I finish loading up the cardboard, and see what he has to say.

It dawns on me that this unneighborly act significantly diminishies doubt about our decision to sell the house. If we needed further confirmation that we’re not meant for suburban life, I just found it in the mailbox.

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