Sunday, April 20, 2008

Like a good neighbor, but not quite

I’m not sure at what point I need to get insulted by the fistfuls of lawn service fliers that get stuffed into our mailbox daily, but I think we’re starting to close in on it. Those guys in the pickup trucks with the stenciled lettering on their doors are clearly trying to give us some sort of hint. They must idle through the neighborhood, panning slowly back and forth, trolling for lawns that look like chemical spill sites.

“Got one! These people couldn’t keep a plastic geranium alive. Quick, stuff a flyer in there,” they’ll say.

The worst part, though, is that they’re aiding and abetting my wife Kara as she attempts to convince me that a telephone and a credit card are landscaping tools.

“Why is our lawn the only brown one?” she asked me a couple of days ago.

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed,” I said, which was the truth. I’ve found that most problems are free as long as you refuse to acknowledge them. Other things I don’t notice: door dings, stains on carpets, sore throats.

“Everyone else’s lawn is turning green, and we still have last year’s leaves all over the place,” she said.

This may be true, but it’s not my fault that our trees stubbornly hang onto their time-release leaves well past the end of raking season. I can’t be held responsible for any leaves that touched ground after Labor Day.

Since we’re obviously not going to curry any favor with our neighbors through our botanical gifts, Kara and I recently decided to try actual gifts instead. Our next-door neighbors recently sold their house and moved out, an event that rarely happens these days. Judging from the programming on weekend cable TV, most homeowners have given up on selling their houses and have decided to become professional bull riders instead. Not wanting to miss out on the golden window of opportunity to meet the new neighbors and snoop around their house, Kara and I put together a basket with some goodies from a local bakery with the honest intention of delivering it to them.

“What if we go over there and it’s still the same people living there? We’ll go introduce ourselves and find out they didn’t even move,” Kara said.

“We saw the moving truck. It was parked out there for three days,” I said. I did hesitate, though. The shame of it was that even if it had been the same people living there, we wouldn’t have recognized them. We lived about fifty feet from them for nearly a year and the only member of their family we ever met hung out in their driveway and wore a dog collar. I think he was an art student or something.

Determined to avert a similar fate with the new neighbors, Kara and I gathered up the courage to go over and meet them.

“Is this a weird thing to do? I don’t think people do this anymore,” she said, not budging from our couch.

“Are you trying to wimp out? There’s only room for one wimp in this marriage,” I said. Our other neighbors had brought us a basket after we moved in, and now they’d need to pick up a hobby in cannonry for us to ever hold anything against them.

So like a scene out of Mayberry, Kara and I headed over to the new neighbors’ place with our baked goods in tow. We heard music coming out of the upstairs window, but the volume must have been cranked up pretty loud because nobody came to answer the doorbell. It seemed too John-Hughes-movie to throw small pebbles at the window to get their attention, so we gave up and went home.

Shortly afterwards, Kara gave me a look as I came into the living room munching on one of the giant chocolate cookies from the basket.

“Well, we can’t give them stale cookies,” I said.

You can put a flyer in Mike Todd’s mailbox at


  1. Won't you be my neighbor? I'd love to be in your neighborhood! We are moving in about 2 months and I hope our new neighbors are as cool as you and Kara. You can bet we'd open the door for baked goods. :o)

  2. Hey, good luck with the move! I'll send many electrons along in support of this endeavor, as long as I don't have to carry anything. All the best with your new digs. Hope you have fun getting settled in and score lots of free cookies.

  3. Mike, you dive into the suburbian psyche very well. And I think that same art student hangs out in our driveway too. He looks a little dirty, dressed oddly, and when I say something to him he looks at me with a mix of confusion and disdain.

  4. Joe Brown -- If there's one thing I do around here, it's psyche diving. Wait, I mean puppy pictures. Have you ever seen this guy in the driveway videotaping a plastic bag blowing in the wind? That's how you'd know for sure.