Hurricane Sandy Isn’t the Only One Rearranging Lawn Furniture

A tale from the West of a helpful neighbor gone rogue.

Like most of the rest of the East Coast, I spent the weekend trying to fit my lawn furniture into my garage. Oh, sure, I also stocked up on bottled water and batteries for the flashlights—and then for flashlights, once I’d inserted said batteries and discovered that wasn’t the problem—and picked 12 pounds of green tomatoes that I’d really been hoping would ripen, and moved approximately 12,000 potted plants off my porch and patio and into the house. But the lawn furniture was the big thing, especially if you count the grill, which I do because when my son went to move it the wheels caught in the grass and it cartwheeled over in a truly spectacular Grand Guignol of flying spatulas and brushes and knives and BBQ forks and cold hard grease. Jake, as always, kept a level head in a crisis, by which I mean he said some words he didn’t learn from me and yanked the entire apparatus into three separate parts (which sent various nuts and bolts flying) and carted those into the garage. I have serious doubts we’ll ever manage to get the grill back together again, but at least my namesake storm won’t turn it into a “flying projectile,” as they keep warning on KYW.

After all that, I felt justified in sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading my local paper, where I was surprised to find a small article about lawn furniture. Specifically, the lawn furniture belonging to Carl and Angela Dentandt of Albuquerque, New Mexico. They have a problem with it. Some lady keeps coming by and rearranging it. You can watch her at work here. She walks by the Dentandts’ front patio, glances around to be sure no one’s looking, hauls their chaises and faux wicker into different places, assesses her handiwork with a satisfied nod, and walks on.

The Dentandts profess to be utterly nonplussed as to what their mystery lawn-furniture mover might be up to. Clearly, the Dentandts are thick as bricks. The mystery lady is rearranging your lawn furniture, Carl and Angela, because she thinks it looks better the way she puts it than the way you have it. So long as you keep moving it back the way you like it, she’s going to come by and amend what you’ve done. It’s a war of tastes, hers vs. yours.

Really, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. How often do you visit your brother-in-law’s place and think to yourself, “Christ, what an idiot you are, brother-in-law! Anybody can see you’ve hung that picture two inches too high.” Or you drop by for drinks at your boss’s house and itch to transpose the couch and the piano, since having the piano where it is makes the whole room look ridiculously small. But do you say anything? No you do not, because matters of taste tend to make people oddly confrontational. Suggest, as a visitor, that your host really should put the green armchair over there by the fireplace to pick up the color of the dried hydrangeas on the mantel, and chances are you’ll never be invited back again. People tend to like their houses the way they are.

Which is why the mystery lawn-furniture arranger’s method is so sweet, so simple: Here. I’ll put it the way it should be. No ugly arguments; no back-and-forth over who has the taste of a decorator of dentists’ offices. I also love the arranger’s touching faith in the self-evidence of her improvements: See? It looks better this way, doesn’t it? Okay, maybe Carl and Angela weren’t convinced right away. So she came back. She understands that it’s human nature to resist new ideas. In time, she’s sure they’ll come around.

Some people would shrug this off—would laugh about it. That’s what Carl and Angela did at first, they say. But their goddamn lawn furniture keeps moving! From the way they like it to a way they don’t! So next time, they’re going to press charges (assuming they can identify the mystery visitor). This isn’t funny anymore!

Well, I think we should all be a little more open to innovation and novelty. Don’t be such sticks in the mud, Carl and Angela! She’s right—you don’t want the long line of the back of that sofa aligned with the low brick wall. In the clip, Angela says she’s worried what might happen if their mystery visitor decides to rearrange the furniture inside their home. Judging from your patio. Angela, she can only improve it. I’d leave the door open, with a big sign: COME ON IN!

Reading the Dentandts’ tale of woe, in fact, has inspired me to do a little marauding redesigning in my own neighborhood. My next-door neighbor’s garden has a plethora of statues of animals: frogs, ducks, bunnies. I think they’d look much, much better hidden in the shrubbery. I can’t rehang my brother-in-law’s paintings, but I can move his knickknacks around, so long as I’m stealthy and quick.

Ordinarily I dread the holidays, with their rounds of parties. But with this new hobby to look forward to, I can’t wait to start. All I need are some dress-up clothes with big, deep pockets. Special-ops redecorators of the world, unite!