Thursday, November 23, 2006

the R word

I am extremely thankful each and every time a blogworthy topic literally falls into my lap(top). Today was no exception.

It actually all started about a couple of months back when an odd entry was posted in my neighborhood association’s message board. You are welcome to read that entry yourself, or take my word for it when I report that, in a nutshell, the message called for the cessation of disparaging remarks about renters in the monthly newsletter.

Although I didn’t pay much attention to the post at first, I admit that it did settle into that part of my brain where things go that I’m unsure how to process. A couple of weeks later, someone posted a reply to the posting that left me literally scratching my head as the questions again began tickling the interior of my skull.

Are renters bad for property values? Are renters really less responsible than property owners? Does not a homeowner who neglects their property actually represent more of a drain on the local environment? Is all stereotyping “wrong?

I’m pretty sure that I never mentioned the disgusting habits of our old neighbors due to my policy of trying to abstain from writing with negativity. I have no idea where these folks came from, but I was dumfounded when it soon became apparent that they considered empty beer cans and pizza boxes as appropriate landscaping materials. To make a long and irritating story short, they seldom bothered to wheel their trash out to the street, opting instead to toss it on the ground in the vicinity of the overflowing trash container hidden behind a pile of garbage on the side of their (rental) house.

The situation got so bad that I actually began taking their trash out to the curb each week. Of course I bitched and muttered to myself every step of the way, but at least I was being proactive and dealing with the problem rather than just watching it. I even hoped that someone in that household would take notice, and would learn from my example. Fat chance!

When they eventually moved out, they left behind a front yard full of debris that random passersby undoubtedly mistook as a tribute to the post-Katrina city of New Orleans. That mess festered for the better part of a week before a city cop investigating reported suspicious activities at the vacant house called the property managing company and threatened to cite and fine them if they didn’t get it cleaned up.

Before purchasing this house just over two years ago, I had been a renter for just over two solid decades. Honestly, I do not recall ever leaving a place in poor shape. I’m not suggesting that I didn’t live in some real hellholes. I did. But I can assure you that in those situations, the property was definitely more habitable (and I would imagine therefore more valuable) after I moved out than when I moved in. On the flipside, I have had friends who survived terrible living conditions- either inherited or self-inflicted. (You know who you are!)

But those are just a few examples that I can’t offer any evidence to support. Which brings me to this:

For the past year, a handful of college-age kids have been renting the house two doors down the street and just a half a mile from the railroad track. Never mind the loud, all night parties they staged on a regular basis, and the fact that their guests did more than a fair job of screwing up the already limited parking throughout the surrounding square block area. They were nice enough people. The issue for them was that they didn’t take responsibility for the trash that they created in a timely manner. When they moved out this past week, they left behind a pile of garbage that spilled out of the two dumpsters and across the front lawn onto a public sidewalk. The mound is impressive enough that it would likely cause Fred Sanford to have a stroke if he drove down the block.

Obviously, the “responsible” thing to do when you accumulate a mountain of trash like this is to make a trip or seven to one of several city dumps. But one can hardly expect someone(s) to know something like that when they are so na├»ve as to expect that city trash collectors are going to clean up after them.

It should go without saying that I was afraid that Officer Obie would happen along while I was snapping this pair of eight-by-ten color glossy photographs, and assuming that I had dumped all the crap on the sidewalk, write me a ticket AND make me pick up the garbage. For those of you who have been living under Plymouth Rock for the past 40 years, Alice’s Restaurant is to Thanksgiving what a movie that is played all day long each and every Christmas is to, well… Christmas. Of course the song (which definitely came first) is better than the movie.

Common sense dictates that the issue is actually tied to the difference between people and their individual comfort levels, and not whether they are renters or owners. However, I am of the opinion that these photos document the nightmare that some homeowners have when worrying about the new tenants who may move into the house next door. Personally, I have hope that the next crop will be better.

1 comment:

Miss Tenacity said...

I'm curious how college students afford the rent in your neighborhood, anyway.... Unless there were just enough of them to make the split managable.