Friday, October 22, 2010

1984: The Home & Garden Edition

There are certain things one can expect when living in military base housing. Having to show one's ID every time one comes to the gate. The occasional camouflage humvee rolling through the neighborhood. The ever-changing methods for cheating spouses to let potential bed buddies know they're available or their husbands are on deployment (current signal: a box of laundry detergent on a windowsill. Previous signals have included a rag hanging out of the mailbox, a mop or broom propped against the door, or a red light - yes, a red light - in the kitchen window). Such things are part of life when living on post.

It's not all sunshine, camouflage roses, and unfaithful spouses, though.

The other day we received a notice on our door. That's how they communicate here in ye olde base housing: taping a notice to one's door. Very effective when using scotch tape on a metal door in extremely humid conditions. If the notice doesn't fall off, half the time it's soggy and virtually unreadable anyway.

This particular notice did make it into our hands intact, though. It might have given me a laugh, too, if it hadn't been REAL.

It seems people in our communal buildings haven't been pulling their weight when it comes to maintaining the pristine appearance of the parking lots, yards, and the like. I mean, really. If you've got someone coming over to fuck your brains out while your husband is deployed, it's just good manners for your neighbors to make sure their part of the lawn is mowed and all the trash is picked up.

They've tried all manner of things to get everyone to keep things trim and tidy. Notices taped to doors. Calls to chains of command. Dead fish in mailboxes and horse heads in bed. But wouldn't you know? People still put trash out on the wrong days, let their grass grow to appalling proportions, and don't get every last lawn clipping off the sidewalk.

What to do, what to do?

Clearly, this situation has become desperate, so now they've resorted to the last available solution that doesn't include napalm: peer pressure.

Because now, my loyal blog minions, if one family in a particular building doesn't keep up on their lawn care or proper trash disposal, everyone in that building will be punished. Punishments range from soggy, scotch-taped notices on our front doors to -- I am so not making this up -- everyone in the building being required to attend training about how to maintain yards and such.

Yes, that's right. If my neighbor is too busy with her revolving door of bed buddies to get out and mow the lawn, or the people downstairs are too hungover on their days off to trim their weeds, my husband and I might find ourselves sitting in a room full of grumbling, glaring, "I can't believe YOU did this to us" neighbors, listening to a military-style briefing on lawn care.

Naturally, this notice continued, the solution is for everyone to encourage their neighbors to get on the ball and keep things spiffy. And if they don't? Why, you just call this here number and report their yard-neglecting, trash-spreading, bad neighbor asses to the authoritahs!
Now, here we are, in an apartment building with eight units. Our next door neighbors hate our guts. Both downstairs neighbors were pretty neutral toward us until they made friends with the next door neighbors. The wife in the unit two doors over conspicuously leers at my husband whenever he ventures outside, and if I'm with him, she looks at me with daggers in her eyes. We haven't really crossed paths with the other families.

An entire building full of hostility and dirty looks, and now we have government sanctioned peer pressure to make sure the place is immaculate. Of course, we're plus good neighbors in the sense that we DO keep our yard trimmed, free of the candy wrappers one neighbor's kid occasionally throws on our grass, and devoid of dead bodies or severed limbs. We keep to ourselves, never speak ill of Big Brother, and always report our neighbors if they show any disloyalty.

Okay, okay, it's not that bad. But you get the idea. Nothing fosters harmony among neighbors -- particularly neighbors who already dislike each other -- like military-enforced tattling and pressure to avoid communal punishment. Of course we should all keep our yards and such neat, but really? I mean, REALLY? Grown ass adults, and we're suddenly reduced to the equivalent of being told to let the teacher know if another student is eating paste. Particularly when you already have some serious hostility floating between the residents of a building, this is not going to help keep base housing a shiny happy place to live. Oh, yeah, the yards will be clean and the grass will be cut, and everyone will be shooting hostile, suspicious glances at each other every time we pass on the sidewalks or stairs. Quite honestly, I'd be happier with a few slightly overgrown weeds than this kind of inter-apartment cold war.

Think I'm kidding? Oh, no, it's already begun. I've seen people peering at other yards, inspecting the trash left out for collection, glaring at each other like prowling velociraptors. It's a busybody's paradise, let me tell you.
Stupid? Yep, I agree.

So, loyal blog minions, if you could cross your fingers and whisper a prayer to your deity of choice that our paperwork gets approved for us to move off base, that would be double plus good and most appreciated.


  1. I've never commented before, but I've been lurking because I enjoy your books and your blog. It's difficult to type with fingers crossed, but I'll send lots of good thoughts your way! :)

    I never lived in on-base housing, but spent 3 years in off-base Navy housing, and if such cheating signals existed, I was entirely unaware of them. Which is not to say that I was unaware of the prevalence of cheating, just, apparently, the signals to facilitate it. Not sure if that means I'm more naive or oblivious, but I think I'm quite content to be that way. Ignorance really is bliss?

    You make me think I was even luckier than I realized in having perfectly decent neighbors. I hope you're able to move off base, but if not, I hope you at least get more congenial neighbors soon. Surely they'll be sent somewhere else soon; maybe wish them to Fallon?


  2. Thanks for the comment! :) And yes, ignorance really is bliss with this's sad how often it happens, and the fact that there's a cheater's semaphore to make it easier...ugh.


  3. Ugh! Fingers crossed for you!