October 2023

Friendly Follies

Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones

Well I don't know how to start this except just jump in head first.

I'm out on the sidewalk of a Wednesday mid-morning. I got a hard enough time getting organized with my automatic sunglasses, making sure I put on my sunscreen, get that hat on before venturing into the radiation; you know if you even go just to walk over to the mailbox and you're not prepared, oh no no no no no, dermatologist daggers . My fancy glasses don't turn dark really quickly, they take their time so, sun being initially awful glarey, I'm just easy-peasy. Taking my time. I mean if my glasses can, I can, right?

As usual the bins are put out Tuesday night. Come 7am they already picked up the recycling; by 11am, neither garbage nor compost. Pretty typical.

So it's funny, I make a lazy left turn and look down my neighbor's driveway and they've got their car parked diagonally. They've done this before. I assumed it was just sloppiness. Of course it makes it impossible to get anybody's bins back into place next to either house. But I also notice that their recycle bin is also sitting there in between their car and my fence. Since recycling is gone, I'm a little confused. It is going to be hard to put either one of our bins away. Consequently, I'm standing there dumbfounded, trying to reconnoiter and make a plan.

Suddenly Ms Thing comes out of her house, boiling down the sidewalk towards me. I'm trapped. She's up by the sidewalk, I'm down the driveway. She proceeds to give me the stink eye and I don't know I guess I'm plumb taken unawares, hadn't connected the dots. Turns out the reason that the car was parked diagonally had nothing to do with driving skills and everything to do with territorial claims. It is wholly deliberate.

Now, it's been my recent continual aim to be observant, in a non-reactive (I'm just going to go ahead and say) Zen fashion. When something, let us characterize as unpleasant, occurs—such as has occurred to my little Library when an anonymous neighbor (not Ms Thing) started fucking with it—I take a considered approach, although I will admit it is entirely possible were I to come face to face when they was perpetrating on my library, I wish I could but I can't guarantee non-violence. I don't mean like laying hands on somebody or throwing rocks or something like that no, what I mean is, you know, losing my cool. Yelling and such.

When met with Ms Thing's resting angry face, robustly staking out her driveway property, I think I end up with a sort of halfsie. Not completely Zen, not totally reactive. I have one foot in two countries. But man does she test me.

First it's your sons go up and down MY driveway all the time (they don't), then it's you can always go up next to your house, (I can't because my heavy rain barrel is in the way underneath the copper rain chain and she knows that; it's been there for 15 years).

I then bring up anecdotally the brutal eradication of the little strip of flowers next to my fence—the swaths of campanula, sweet pretty little blue flowers, low maintenance, just cute as a bug's ear, until something that they were undertaking on HER driveway brought about my flowers' ruin. Twice.

She says she doesn't remember; I say well it was quite a while ago. In fact I had got kind of upset so I gave 'em another go, I mean, as in went back to East Bay Nursery, get myself probably 10 more little 4-inch pots, and it is not particularly easy, I'm not a great gardener, but I did scrape tiny holes for those tiny guys, and I watered them and as I said, low maintenance! Really hard to kill them from neglect anyway, but when people repeatedly walk on them and pile things on them—my vague recollection is some 2x4s? Something like that.

Anyway there's about 10-12 feet of evidence right there. They're GONE for crying out loud. There's one lousy little clump left, all the way down here at the corner. I gesture at it with my foot.
Well, she says, but if you were to plant something there I think that would be delightful and we would be really really careful not to step on them, but you need not to use my driveway. Everybody does it the same. She cites my other side neighbor. She mentions her other side neighbor. She names herself in this while I am literally looking at her bins right there across from mine. She has no egress from the far side of her house, whereas my residence was outfitted with a cunning little side door which feeds out from the hallway off my kitchen onto a little landing next to where my bins live. Next to her driveway. Now it is true if I hadn't any fence—no posts in the way—there'd be no problem because I would just sashay up through my front patio.

Wait a minute, hang on. You know what? I just realized I know how they do it. They don't need a side door. They have a side gate in their fucking fence. So what they do is they come out the front door, make a right, walk on their square pavers, go through their yard and Bob's your uncle. And since it's their car, they can move it when it blocks their bins.

She says well you can put your bins on your own driveway, which I can't do because Sam's car lives there. My driveway is ridiculously narrow. One of her debate points becomes that she and her husband decided years ago to widen the top end of their driveway up by the sidewalk. Not in my direction of course. In their direction, taking up oh probably 3 ft of their front yard. That's where that side gate is.

Gives the whole diagonal parking thing real dazzle. However it also leaves plenty of room for anybody not only to park straight but to move all kinds of bins with some impressive alacrity.

I'm finally reaching a point where I just witness myself standing there in the sunshine arguing with a woman who has pretty much never had any pleasant interaction with me or my family, has never been inside of my house even with a couple or three repeated invitations over the last 20 years, and I say to her in the gentlest possible way you know…I just don't agree with you at all and I feel like this is such a waste of energy. A complete waste of energy. And head back chez moi.

We'll never get those 20 minutes of our lives back.


Postscript: Ryan's opinion, being one of the accused sons, is that her ire was raised because perhaps he's too noisy at night when he tosses his detritus at 1am, coincidentally under her bedroom window, and she got set off on this particular morning for reasons unknown.

He intends on subsequently aiming for 2am.



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Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones has a long, full career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer. She writes a monthly column
and is a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2023 Claudine Jones
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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