We don’t see much of our neighbors. Cruising in or out of the driveway, we exchange smiles or a nod. If we’re particularly perky, we wave. On our block, the only thing to spark meaningful dialogue is a problem.
My next-door-neighbor probably sensed this when Molly and I approached her last week. At least I think it was her. Since 1993, I’ve glimpsed her maybe six times; hair back in a severe silver bun, eyes the color of chlorine. She’s my Boo Radley; only she never gets nice.
“Is that a new dog?” From her icy tone, I knew the conversation was not destined to go well.
“We’ve had her two years.” My neighbor tacked a stray hair back into place and stared past my shoulder, waiting for someone. I ignored the cue to make tracks. “I notice you haven’t been trimming your trees,” I tried sounding respectful. It came out meek.
Her yellow-green eyes shifted back to mine.
For weeks, dead palm fronds had been sailing 70 feet down from her lone Palm Tree and landing like missiles onto my property. Though our public works constantly trims the palms that line our street, my neighbor hasn’t followed suit. There are 1300 aging palm trees that the city manages because a) as a symbol of our town they need to look as picture-perfect as a postcard, and b) if you don’t, a fungus called Thielaviopsis paradoxa can spread through the trunk until the palm can’t support its own feathery head.
The gorgeous fireman who got the call when the first one-ton crown fell said, “It made a huge crater and the debris exploded everywhere!” To his knowledge, however, a palm had never hurt a resident.
Yet. Can you see the Coroner’s Report? Death by Date Palm?
My neighbor gave me a blasé look. “Nobody trims their trees.”
Of course people trim their trees. Considerate people. “The dead fronds might hit somebody.” Or worse, damage our Direct TV satellite dish.
She pushed past me to a waiting car. “So sue me.”
This. From my neighbor of 19 years.
I turned tail for home and got Code Enforcement on the horn. They advised me to fire off a letter to her. Plus, they offered to send a city investigator. Yes!
I crafted my letter. Printed photos of fronds. Sent it all U.S. Mail. Did you expect me to knock on her door? Within 48 hours, the city inspector rang my bell. He gave her two weeks to trim. Double Yes!
It’s been two weeks. More fronds have fallen. She hasn’t phoned. I’ve heard no whir of the trimmer’s saw. Meanwhile, Boo is holed up in her Ranch House fortress. Doing Zip.
What if she ignores the citation? “Then it’s a civil matter,” the Inspector said. “Strictly between you and her.”
I refuse to be yet another litigious Angeleno. It’s beneath me. But nobody said didley about launching fronds back over our fence, did they?