After loud music from an upstairs neighbor woke him up from his 1 p.m. nap, Allen M. Haines, according to a Ridgefield (Wash.) Police report, began banging on the ceiling of his apartment with a broom handle.
Upstairs neighbor Toni Lynn Lycan responded, naturally, by jumping up and down on her apartment floor.
Haines, then, banged some more with the broom handle. Toni Lynn, in turn, jumped higher and harder until—and this was inevitable—she jumped so high and landed so hard that she broke both of her legs just below the kneecaps.
“I jumped on the floor and they snapped,” Lycan, 44, told the Associated Press.
Haines, in his defense, described the loud music from Lycan’s apartment as “weird Japanese-sounding flutes and organs.”
That story is from like 2003, but I’ve kept it close, as a reminder.
A reminder to not only love and respect your neighbor, but also, for safety’s sake, to rely more on yelling than jumping.
Lindy and I have always tried to be especially friendly to our neighbors, mostly to compensate for our mediocre lawn maintenance and giant bare spots in the yard that runs alongside our house.
I mean, we’re not the neighbors with the waist-high switchgrass and the hand-lettered “no trespassing” signs nailed to the trees. But we’ll also never be mistaken for people who hand-pick every weed and strap on a gas-powered backpack to blow the grass clippings off their driveway.
Our current neighbors, for the record, are the best neighbors any neighbors could have!
Here’s one example: One summer day, we returned earlier than expected from a vacation to find our neighbor secretly trying to fix the giant bare spots in the yard on the side of the house. I mean, he had even applied that stuff that looks like green mulch. We were just happy to have the help.
We have, though, had our share of bad neighbors.
In our first house in Rochester, we had one of those neighbors—he had lived there forever—who scared you enough that, when you hit a Wiffle Ball into his yard, you realized the cost of the ball was not worth the fear of what might happen to you if you crawled over—or lifted your kid over—his chain link fence to retrieve it.
This was a neighborhood where many of the same families had lived for decades, so grandkids regularly visited to play Wiffle Ball on the same street where their parents had played years before.
Not long after the guy died, his daughter held a rummage sale to clean out his house. There, at the sale, were boxes of balls he had been collecting over, what, 50 years?
One of our older neighbor’s kids—a guy in his 40s—recognized some of the balls as ones he’d lost in that yard 30 years ago.
So, that’s your hobby!
When we lived in Lansing, Michigan, we rented half of a one-story duplex. The very first time we met our neighbor—let’s call him Ron—was when we knocked on his door to introduce ourselves. The conversation went something very much like this.
RON [answering his door]: What the hell are you doing on my doorstep?
ME: Howdy, neighbor! We just moved in, and we’re here to introduce ourselves! We’re the Langes, and we sure hope you’ll join us for a special ‘get to know us’ picnic on our shared lawn.
RON: I always keep a handgun on the table right next to this door.
ME: That’s super, Ron! Anyhoo, we’re slowly backing off our shared porch now.
RON: If anyone I don’t know even starts to turn the door handle, well they just never know what might happen.
LINDY: I made you pie.
The two entry doors of the duplex, incidentally, were only slightly different. And right next to each other.
We lived there for a year and a half, and, I spent a lot of time explaining to people, in excruciating detail, what our entry door looked like.
Visiting friends and pizza delivery drivers probably thought I had some bizarre obsession with the nuances of door handle design and cornice patterns.
But while we considered Ron to be the strange neighbor, there’s this.
Our oldest child, daughter Hadley, was born while we lived in that duplex.
One night when she was nearly two, Hadley sat in her high chair eating spaghetti, as much as a two-year-old can “eat” spaghetti. There were noodles in her hair and eyebrows and bellybutton.
We had already started her potty training.
Like all first-time moms and dads, we believed that the amount of time it took to potty train of our first child would be a direct indication of our effectiveness and worth as parents. We were overzealous.
At one point, sensing an issue, I rushed baby Hadley to the bathroom. She had spaghetti in her diaper., and when I put her on the toilet seat, much of that diaper spaghetti was transferred to the seat. False alarm.
We—but when I write this now I know it must have been me—decided to clean up the seat later. We went to finish dinner.
Meanwhile, our duplex owner/landlord stopped by. We sat in the kitchen for a while, and she asked her usual questions and made her usual jokes about Ron, who was her longtime tenant and had a reputation as that nightmare neighbor.
Then she asked to use the bathroom. I said sure.
She was in the bathroom, I remember, for a much shorter time than seemed reasonable. She left rather abruptly.
How weird! What a weird way to act!
It was all a big mystery until I walked into the bathroom and saw our toilet seat, covered in what that woman, I’m sure, hoped was spaghetti sauce.
Then we realized that our landlord had probably walked next door, to Ron’s side of the duplex, to tell him what strange, strange neighbors we were.