The Fence

Our fence blew over in a windstorm in August while the family was in Montana.

Not ideal.

I’ve never given the finances and logistics of the fencing industry a thought in my life. Apparently, I’ve been told, it’s pretty universal…fences are a shared property between you and your neighbor, and when they need repairs or to be replaced you split the costs.

When I first found that out I’m thinking…great. No problem. We rent. No money out of my pocket.

It actually started way before the fence blew down, sometime in February. My annoying neighbor brings up to me that the fence needs to be replaced and it needs to come out of my end. I tell the guy I’ll get in touch with my property management company and let him know when I get a response. I walk inside the house, shut my door, and immediately ask myself out loud, what the hell is wrong with me? Who just lets a neighbor talk to him like that? He gets to dictate the tempo on this whole thing? I then think about it a little more and justify not digging in and saying something back to him because it’s not my house. There’s no reason to put up any fight over finances. The owner and everyone else can figure all that stuff out.

SIDE NOTE: This neighbor doesn’t like me much. When we first moved in I was running a test on the sprinkler system, (something mechanical that I surprisingly know quite a bit about) and when I got to zone 7 one of the spray heads on the side of the house between our yards was completely busted on top and shot water straight into his big kitchen windows at the perfect angle. The windows were open at the time with just the screens still closed. The water whacking his windows and house made such a loud noise. When I saw what the deal was I went running back into the garage to get it shut off, but it was probably on for 45-60 seconds. There’s no way of telling how much water got in their house. The neighbor guy and his wife were outside waiting for me when I came back out of the garage. They seemed surprisingly cool about it at first, but there was a little bit of a language barrier there, so I wasn’t 100% sure. I walked around and explained to him what I was doing, how I had to replace it, etc…Won’t happen again sir.

Whoops. Shouldn’t have made that guarantee.

I had a bunch of other little simple repairs that needed to be made on that sprinkler system as well, so I headed to Lowe’s and got everything I wanted. Only they didn’t have the particular size Rain-Bird I needed to replace that head. So I made a mental note that I’ll need to get it from somewhere else. I didn’t have time that day to go running around looking for one.

Later, I set the timer for the sprinkler system to run at night. I bi-passed zone 7, so it wouldn’t run until I found the head I needed. Only I screwed up and actually bi-passed zone 8 instead. Around 11:30pm the next night the doorbell rings, followed by quick, loud, progressive knocking. I knew right away who it was and what was going on. I didn’t even go answer the door first. I ran straight into the garage to shut the thing off.

When I answered the door I did my best to act confused and surprised about what he was telling me. I Told him I made sure I turned my system off until I replaced that head, but maybe the kids were messing around with it. Then I guaranteed I’d get it fixed in the morning so no matter what it wouldn’t happen again. After that there was a long awkward moment of silence, when we were both still standing out there looking at the house, where I felt myself wondering is it okay to go back in my house and go to bed now? I finally ended the silence by saying “hey, at least your window wasn’t open this time,” in sort of a break the ice, half chummy sort of way. He didn’t like that. He started talking really fast and seemed to be cursing in two or three different languages, while pointing all over the place. I just stood there. A few minutes later he had had enough and headed inside.

I come back in the house and now I gotta worry about the wife and kids being awake, answering all the damn questions as to what that was about, all the while thinking I should’ve just bought a different sized head and installed it. Instead I got a neighbor who’s pissed off, (the water hitting his house is so loud, probably freaked out the whole family at that hour) a house full of 2 teenagers, 2 little kids, a wife, and a mother-in-law waking up and wondering what was going on, and a section of grass in the yard that’s not getting any water. All because I needed to be a hero and buy the exact right part for a house that isn’t even mine, and am too stupid to set the sprinkler clock-timer correctly. Needless to say, when I got back in bed I couldn’t go right back to sleep that night. It felt a little bit like after the Vikings-Seahawks game Sunday night…too amped up to go back to sleep right away.

Anyway…Back to this fence. The property management company barely ever responded to my several emails and phone messages. When they did it was always a run-around of vague, cliche responses. Not much urgency on their end. My guess is they contacted the owners, who intentionally dragged their feet on the matter because they weren’t thrilled about the expense of putting up a new fence, and chose not to get back to me with that information.

That doesn’t work too well for the renters who have to see this neighbor almost everyday.

Every time I saw this guy out the past few months, walking his little pathetic dog that never quits barking, with his little dainty collar and leash, he’d always ask about the fence. I’d always tell him I’m still waiting on property management to get back to me, and he’d just shake his head without verbally responding. It was always fun anticipating that conversation when I saw him in the distance. Knowing exactly how it’s gonna go.

During this period some weird stuff happened. I still don’t know if they were coincidence, or on purpose. Or whether it was something, or nothing at all…

Every time we barbecued the neighbor guy would come out of his house, look around, see the BBQ and start coughing like crazy. Like the smoke was really hitting him hard. I never gave him the satisfaction of letting him see I noticed. But it was literally every time. To me it was the nonverbal communication of see asshole, now I gotta breath your smoke because you won’t take care of this fence. Spare me. It’s a fence not a dome. I always had the suspicion he didn’t think I had even mentioned anything to the property management company because they were taking so long. He came out into his backyard once, while I was barbecuing, and after coughing again looked up and said “I called your property management company today.” Then just fell silent. I said “okay.” And that was it, he went back inside. What exactly was he trying to do there?

He also let his little dumbass dog out multiple times at 6am on the nose to bark like crazy. It was like having a rooster next door. (After the fence went up that routine magically went away) As far as I know it’s not a soundproof fence.

There was a bunch of food left out in our front yard by our tree one day. One of the other neighbors called our attention to it as her dog was trying to eat it. Nobody has any idea how it got there. It looked like a mix of old vegetables, Chinese food chicken, macaroni, kibble, chex mix, and meat. What the hell was that doing out there? Did he put it there? A bunch of stupid shit like that just kept happening that didn’t make any sense.

Meanwhile when we went on vacation the fence got blown completely over. Leaving my mother-in-law to deal with it and the neighbor. He kept knocking on the door trying to get her to help him put the fence back up. A hilarious premiss, considering her attitude in general about doing anything constructive during the day. And the fact she’s had at least 3 major surgeries since I’ve known her and would be no help at all. Not to mention she’s not shy about voicing her opinions. I would have loved to be there for some of those door-to-door conversations. Needless to say she wasn’t much help on any temporary fix.

When we got back from vacation, the fence was completely turned over laying flat in our yard. I honestly didn’t care. The only bad thing about it was now our dog had to be let out, watched until she did her business, and then brought immediately back in. They continued to let their little annoying-ass barking bitch out there at any sporadic time they felt like. As much as I’d like to see our pitbull out there defending her territory, teaching that little thing a lesson, and shutting it up, I’m not good with my dog killing another pet or biting anybody. And that little runt wouldn’t stand a chance.

Property management finally got some fencing companies to come over and do some bids. Then they decided to not hire a fencing company at all and go with a random maintenance guy.

This guy was really good…at knocking on our door. Once a week for a month or so he’d come by and say he’s gotta get another measurement or check something out. He’d say the HOA was being picky about stuff or there were certain COVID restrictions that were being updated…the guy always had a story for why he hadn’t started the fence yet. And he always had to knock on the door to let us know.

About the third or fourth time he did this I was in the middle of watching a Minnesota Twins playoff game and I heard the doorbell. The game wasn’t going well and I was in no mood for whoever was behind the door ringing that bell. I took a look through the peep hole, saw the fence guy, and opened up the door.

“Hey Jordan, (he was on a first name basis with me at this point) they want me to go back there and check the distance between the poles and make sure it’s 8 feet…,” That’s all I remember hearing. I cut him off shortly after that and said “Great, you don’t need to keep knocking on my door and updating me about all this stuff you just need to fix the fence.” He sort of gave me a look that a father gives to his son when he’s disappointed in him, and for a second I felt bad. The feeling didn’t last long. Then he says, “Okay Jordan we’re just waiting for all the materials to come in and we’ll take care of it. Is your dog inside?”

“Yep, my dog is inside because there’s no fence or gate to keep him in the yard if I put him out.” I quickly said back.

An hour or so later I felt bad about it. But he was long gone by then.

About a week later he came over with a truck, another guy, and a trailer full of materials. After he had been working for awhile I went out there and offered him and the other guy some water. After I talked to him for a few minutes I told him I probably owed him an apology for the way I acted the last time I saw him. I told him it was just bad timing because I had a lot going on that day.

He explained to me that he should’ve called first and he doesn’t judge people. He’s been doing this sort of stuff since the 80’s, so he’s seen and heard it all.

He was a good guy and ended up doing a pretty good job on the fence. A really good job considering it was just him and his buddy, and both were the jack-of-all-trades type and didn’t specialize in fences. They were done in a day and a half. But they could have been done in half that time…

I’ve never heard somebody talk so much in my life. I went out there to offer them water once each day and regretted doing it both times.

I couldn’t break away. I couldn’t get back in the house once I went out. He just kept talking. The second time, after about 15 minutes I just had to turn my head and walk away while he was talking. Another time he went on and on about how the wood for the fence was delayed in shipping because of the Democrats. He ended that whole commentary by saying “but I don’t get into the politics of stuff .”

Neighbors came over and he’d talk their ears off. Next thing I know I’m looking outside and this guy is out there talking to neighbors who I’ve never even met. I’m looking outside and thinking to myself there’s literally a bunch of weird guys I’ve never talked to or seen before out in my backyard bullshitting right now. Where are my kids? I never knew what the heck they were talking about but could always see them yacking away out there. And it’s not like these conversations were taking place while they worked. These were all full blown breaks. One guy from across the street came over and told him his equipment was too loud and asked him how much longer he’d be. He ended up talking to that guy for 45 minutes.

I’m just so glad it’s over. Between the fence guy, the property management company, the neighbor, the dogs, the fence itself…I was getting hit from every angle there for awhile.

It was a stressful time for a stay at home dad.