March 31, 2003

Small atrocities

We've had construction going on next door to us for about four full months now. They start in with the air-nailers and the circular saws and the stereo between 7 and 9am and they finish between 4 and 6pm. Most Saturdays somebody's been out here working too.

The noise is annoying, but the real pain of it is that it punches through the veneer of our denial about what's really going on next door: where we used to be able to look out across the neighborhood and see the hills in the distance, our windows are now completely filled with an enormous pair of two-story houses.

Our cute little house with its funky butterfly roof and roman brick fascade used to stand out in the block, an interesting, unique building among the more mundane ramblers and bungalows. Now it's hidden behind a gargantuan snout house.

We knew it could happen. The neighborhood is zoned duplex. Property values have been going through the roof for the last five years. No one was likely to restore the tiny little house from the 40s that once sat on that lot. But knowing it was coming doesn't make it any easier to face.

On Friday, the builder had to dig a trench between our house and the new building and in so doing broke off and cracked branches on several of our 40-year-old rhododendrons. What had been annoying and distressing became invasive and destructive. The tenuous grasp we had thus far retained on civility was shaken loose and each of us at different times confronted the builder and the workers in heated and exasperated tones. In anger.

Neither of us is accustomed to anger. We aren't good at it. Our arguments become unfocused and irrational. We lose our grip on what is important and on what is possible. Maybe anger does this to everyone, I don't know. In the face of our onslaught, the builder did the only thing he could do at that point: claimed regret and offered to pay for the damage.

An offer of money was no comfort to us when all we wanted was for him not to have done it in the first place. Not trash our bushes, not wake us up at ungodly hours for months on end, not build an ugly eyesore in our neighborhood, not have bought the property in the first place. We didn't say this, but really that's the only thing that could make us happy in our anger and our grief.

And so we have slowly subsided back into our stunned and pained state of tentative acceptance. But now with the added pain of shame at the way we reacted. And constant wondering about how we could have handled the whole situation better.

Posted by jeffy at March 31, 2003 11:02 PM
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