I was recently subjected to the lowest of the low in Suburbia-shaming: I was reported to the neighborhood HOA Yard Police.
Please note, this is not an anti-HOA post. I have lived in plenty of neighborhoods where I would have gladly given up my exterior-paint-color-freedom to have an HOA that took care of broken-down cars parked in lawns. I’m particularly fond of our HOA as they have been extremely generous in supporting our school’s beautification efforts and making our neighborhood a beautiful place to live.
My issue is the people who bypass the simple human interaction of discussing a concern with a neighbor and use the HOA to do their uncomfortable work for them instead.
In case you ever find yourself in the deep pit of despair associated with being yard-shamed by one of your friendly neighbors, who is waving, “howdy neighbor!” at you one moment, only to duck into their car and shoot off a report to the HOA about you the next, here’s my experience to help guide you through your stages of grief.
Stage 1: See a car driving by your house slower than normal and automatically assume that they are planning a major heist to steal all of your finest Ikea furniture. Say to yourself, “I better take a photo of this suspicious vehicle casing our neighborhood in case I need to report it to our neighborhood Facebook Group using the heading, “It Might be Nothing, BUT Keep Your Eyes Out for This Suspicious Vehicle!”
Stage 2: Witness said suspicious vehicle do a dramatic u-turn to narrow in on their target: Holy crap! I AM THE TARGET! Turn on the alarm! Hide the priceless Charming Charlie jewels! Oh wait…Upon closer inspection, realize that the suspicious vehicle is actually the Neighborhood HOA Yard Police there to respond to a complaint about your totally average, yet apparently totally unacceptable yard.
Stage 3: Admit to the Facebook-World that your jungle of a yard is completely out of control and a danger to neighbor children and animals who could be entangled and trapped forever. Beware! Stay Away! Nay, LOOK AWAY! No one should be subjected to this level of turf-travesty!
Stage 4: Wonder if the complaint was actually about the weeds, or about the political and social beliefs of the woman behind the weeds who is vocal about running a pro-LGBTQ+ site called Informed Parents of Austin.
Stage 5: Send an email to your awesome, all-natural, yard guy, who, like most yard services, is working around mother nature’s schedule because it has been raining just about every motherf*%$#g day for what feels like the past 17 months.
Stage 6: Find a letter from the HOA in your mail box two days later. Remember you’re late paying your HOA dues. Wonder how you’re a 45 year old woman who has so many strikes against you with the HOA that you’re not 100% sure which issue this letter is about. Open it. It’s the yard. Forget to pay HOA dues for a few more weeks.
Stage 7: Get increasingly ragey on the drive home from the mailbox. Pull over to the HOA common area next to your street and start taking a bunch of, “you think I have weeds, well look at YOUR weeds,” photos like an angry two year old.
Stage 8: Remember that the reason that your HOA common areas have some weeds is that they have a serious commitment to the environment and work their asses off to maintain common areas through hand-weeding and natural, non-chemical methods. Remember that this is one of your favorite parts of your HOA: that they value the environment and the health of our kids and streams over having perfectly pristine grass. Wonder why they don’t allow the same environmental commitment from their residents. Presume that they simply have to respond to reports made by other residents and probably had better things to do with their day than come take pictures of my yard. Decide to focus rage on neighbor who submitted the complaint instead.
Stage 9: Work through rage by spending an afternoon hand-pulling weeds in the rain until you’re completely drenched because Austin, Texas is like some freakish jungle where weeds grow three inches in a day. Think of all the times that you packed up your lawnmower to go mow the grass at the school to remember that you’re not a bad person. Break your no-chemical rule and go nuclear on some weeds before they can enter your nice, next door neighbor’s lawn.
Stage 10: Wonder if it WAS the nice, next door neighbor who turned you in. Get really sad. Remember the time she made you a platter of nice cookies for Christmas. Decide even if it was her, the cookies make up for it.
Stage 10: Complete a Kill Bill style list of all the neighbors who have ever wronged you. Realize that you actually like everyone in your neighborhood and if some stranger was concerned enough about the weeds to contact HOA without having the balls to just come talk about it, then they have issues that even the most pristine golf-course turn can’t fix.
In closing: To the neighbor who called me in, and to all of the neighbors who want to call me in but don’t: I’m trying. This whole “organic lawn care” thing was much easier in Seattle, but I’m not giving up. Also, if you think the front yard is bad, for the love of all that is holy, you better steer clear of our back yard.
Also, watch out for that whole “glass houses/throwing rocks” thing. As you look down on me from your lush lawn, remember that watering your lawn more than once a week is a violation too. 😉
The moral of the story: Let’s try keeping the “neighborly” in neighborhoods. If an issue is important enough to report to the HOA, it’s important enough to do the neighborly thing and go talk to your neighbor face to face. You never know, they may be going through something that is keeping them from being able to attend to whatever issue is bothering you.
Let’s save the HOA’s valuable resources for real grievances that you haven’t been able to work out neighbor to neighbor….like that crazy lady who keeps making Bingo games out of our neighborhood’s Facebook group.
Come hang out with me at my Facebook Page – there are NO weeds there.
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