Bad Neighbors, Nasty Notes and the Death of Idyllic Suburban Life
One of our neighbors put a nasty note on the car of someone who was visiting our house.
I could not believe it.
So I did what any other wronged neighbor lady would do: I repeated the news, over and over, to everyone I ran into—my husband on the couch, my friend picking up her son at karate, my mother on FaceTime, my Bosu ball instructor, the altos in my church choir, and my husband, again, when his alarm went off in the morning, waking me up and causing me to shout the first thing that popped into my head: “One of our neighbors put a nasty note on the car of someone who was visiting our HOUSE!”
This was not your typical under-the-wiper-note, the kind you scrawl in a fit of parking-lot rage on that damp Starbucks napkin you find under the floor mat and then feel bad about later. No, this note took effort. And thought. And evilness.
Actually, it wasn’t even a note at all, but a ticket. A parking ticket. A fake parking ticket, printed from a website called youparklikeanasshole.com (because there is a website called youparklikeanass ole.com). There were various violations that the ticket-giver could check off, like “Too close to my driveway” and “That’s a compact?” The one X-ed on this ticket—a ticket that one of our neighbors put on the car of someone who was visiting our house—was this: “Two spots, one car.”
Let’s be clear here: We live in the suburbs. There are no “spots” on our street. There are no lines. There are no meters. There is just curb. And asphalt. And, apparently, there are people who park perfectly reasonably and legally and non-crookedly on said asphalt, next to said curb, but are, nonetheless, assholes. (In this case, said assholes also live in said neighborhood and were invited by us to come to a holiday cookie party during the time of year when there is supposed to be said goodwill to all.)
But that wasn’t the worst part. In addition to the various checkable offenses on the ticket, there was a blank line for write-in infractions. The ticket-giver, perhaps worried that he or she hadn’t been entirely clear, decided to add this: “You must think you’re royalty.”
“They basically called Andrea a royal asshole,” I summarized for my husband, Thad, who was already talking about installing surveillance equipment.
Fortunately, Andrea, a fellow kindergarten mom, was less concerned about the name-calling than the critique. Post-soiree, upon arriving home with her 14 dozen cookies and her “asshole” ticket, she downed a glass of pinot while desperately defending herself to her husband: “I’m a really good parker! I used to live in Fishtown.”
But Thad and I were shocked. Already, this note broke all kinds of rules. Like the Golden one. And one of the Commandments … from God. But it also broke that unspoken rule of suburban neighborliness. Wasn’t this precisely why we’d moved from 13th and Pine to a South Jersey ’hood? So we could walk our kids to school in a town where we know everyone’s name, where we wave to each other as we pull out of our driveways, where we bring each other dinner when we’re sick and have cookie parties and book clubs and township parades and never, ever put nasty notes on each other’s cars?
Thad and I stood at our front door and surveyed the nine other houses on our street. All of the inhabitants had been in our home at one time or another. They’d hung out on our back porch. They’d drunk beer with us. They’d eaten my linguini salad. Which one of you did this? Which ONE?
But there was an even more important issue we had to figure out—what were we going to do about it?