cyle talley

Pissing On A Pile Of Wood Chips

My house is situated on an odd lot. About two acres large, it is split up the middle by a driveway that serves three domiciles. On the back right of the lot, is my home. On the back left and on the opposite side of the driveway, the home of my grandfather’s sister who has died and left the home to her only son. On the front right of the lot is a home purchased by a couple from Wisconsin as an investment. They do not live there, but rather, rent it out and come by a few times a year for repairs and upkeep. I have met them several times and, though I do not think highly of them, am congenial with them. Between their house and ours is a wooden fence and a sizeable yard on our portion. On the opposite side of the driveway from their home is what we refer to as a “pasture”- a 1/3 acre of lawn. My family owns that pasture, as well as their home and its yard. Of the two acres, we own and use 3/4 of an acre.

Are you with me so far? Good. Now that you have an idea of what the lot looks like, let me drop the following on you.

I briefly considered pissing on a pile of wood chips last night.

The wood chips in question constitute a very large pile dumped on the driveway at about where the wooden fence begins. “A large pile” in this case means “half of a dump truck load” and the pile is so large that it takes up the width of the driveway so that I was forced, upon arriving home last evening, to commandeer my vehicle across part of the pasture to get around it.

It was, as you might imagine, inconvenient.

Each night, promptly at nine o’clock, my dog and I take a walk around the pasture. It is perfect for walking in lazy circles and thinking to myself. Woody enjoys it very much, too. He gets a biscuit and a good twenty minutes outside to wander about and so he is exceedingly good at remembering our evening constitutional. So, there we were, walking around the yard last night. I kept staring over at the pile of wood chips and getting angrier and angrier. I am not proud of it now, but the thought did cross my mind nevertheless. I wanted to urinate on the neighbors’ pile of wood chips. Perhaps even get Woody to as well.

There is a back story. Perhaps if I explain it, my desire will make (slightly) more sense.

I mowed the lawn last week using a riding lawn mower. It’s a marvelous machine which allows me to mow the entirety of the pasture in about an hour and a half. I began mowing as I usually do- by making a large sweep of the perimeter and using that line to then begin moving inwards in concentric circles. The blower is turned to the outside of progress so as to avoid being mulched over with each pass. It’s logical. The blower goes to the outside, leaving the remainders to be cleaned up at the end of the job.

For my money, the best sort of job is a repetitive one that allows the mind to wander whilst performing the task at hand. Mowing the lawn with a riding lawn mower is a perfect example of this sort of task. Besides steering the vehicle (with two handles, I might add, giving it an odd “Star Wars”-type look), there is little to no physical exertion and so my mind is free to wander wherever it cares to.

Which is what it was doing before I noticed a foot pressing up against the front of the tractor.

The husband of the aforementioned Wisconsin couple was standing in front of me, his hands on his hips and a smug smile below the brim of his ridiculous African Safari-brimmed hat. Bent slightly at the hip and leaning forward as if to say, “Howdy doody!”, he turned an imaginary key, signaling me to turn the machine off.

I stopped the lawn mower, but not before cursing him under the din of its blade.

“Well hello there,” he bellowed, removing his foot from the tractor’s front bumper. “Sorry to stop you,” he chuckled, bouncing shoulders as he did.

“What can I do for you?”

“Well, uh,” he chuckled again. He does this a lot. It’s part of what I refer to as his “friendly neighbor guy” schtick. He chuckles with everything he says and turns on the Wisconsin accent when making requests in an effort, I presume, to ingratiate himself and make his ridiculous demands seem reasonable. As I said, he and his wife live most of the year in Wisconsin and bought this house in 2007 as an investment- about three weeks before all financial hell broke loose. Since then, they’ve tried everything to rent or sell it. Tenants move in for a few months and then move out. These tenants are usually loud or obnoxious. So, whether the Wisconsinites evict them or the “friendly neighbor guy” schtick grates against the tenants as much as it does me, they’ve had tremendous turnover.

“You uh, heh heh, you left some grass on the driveway and I uh, heh heh, am going to need you to clean it up, heh heh. We’re doing some work to the house today, heh heh. Making it nice and pretty. Pruning the shrubs. Gonna sell it soon and need it to look real good, heh heh. So yeah, uh, if you could just uh-“

“I have every intention of doing just that, sir,” his chuckling turns my skin inside out. Sure, I was a little curt, but his presumption that I was going to leave the grass was deeply insulting.

“Oh, right. Yeah, yeah, heh heh. Yeah, just uh, heh heh, just need you to uh, you know, clean the grass up. Yeah, that grass.”

“As I said, sir. I have every intention of doing just that. It will be gone in an hour.”

“Hoh, okay then. Heh heh. Yeah, you know. Really appreciate it if you’d get that grass,” and he walked away, still mumbling to himself about the grass.

As I started up the lawn mower and resumed my circles, I fumed. Who in the expletive expletive does he think he is? Presumptuous expletive! As though I were a lazy expletive expletive teenager who doesn’t know how to finish an expletive chore! As though I was some sort of deviant trying to put grass into their precious stone landscaping! Not to mention the fact that the expletive parks his expletive expletive jeep ON OUR GRASS! ON OUR YARD!!! And now he gets to walk up to me, smug and self-satisfied, and tell me how to mow my lawn or what affects him and HIS yard?!

I went on like that for about an hour, and well after he left.

Eventually, I calmed down. I became rational again. I did what I always do in these sorts of situations. I let it go. I swallowed it down and forgot about it. I finished the lawn, swept the driveway free and clear of grass and the bits and pieces of shrub from his lawn that he’d been trimming and decided to toss into my grass. I went inside and took a shower and left for the day to complete errands and other sundries.

Several days passed. Then, the wood chips showed up.

It is not as though there was nowhere else to put the wood chips. Their portion of the shared driveway is the entrance to the street we live on. They have a full carport that extends off of the drive and is fully able to fit at least seven vehicles at any time. I know, because their tenants have done it. Big trucks, too. Not just coupes and hybrids. They have a garage, too. There is plenty of room and plenty of options. But, they decided to put the wood chips in the middle of what, for all intents and purposes, begins our driveway- where their yard ends and ours begins. Why? Because it would put the wood chips closer to where they are intended to go- in their precious (and ill-advised) rock landscaping and alongside the house they are trying to sell.

There are several problems with this, in my estimation.

1. How do they expect to get any work done when there will be vehicles shuttling back and forth? Have they not seen traffic construction sites before? Slow progress occurs for a reason.

2. The side of the house is directly parallel to the driveway. There is no buffered zone between the two. How long do they expect the wood chips to stay there before time and wind and passing vehicles spread them to the four corners of the earth?

3. Who in the expletive expletive puts WOOD CHIPS on the side of their HOUSE?! Perhaps no one has told you, but Colorado is on FIRE, genius.

I was not home when the truck loaded with the wood chips arrived. I came home to the wood chip pile holding court in the middle of the driveway. African Safari and his wife were spreading the wood chips as I stared in slack jawed incredulity as I slowly drove over my lawn to avoid them. African Safari smiled and waved.

“You uh, heh heh, you left some expletive expletive wood chips on the driveway and I uh, heh heh, am going to need you to clean those up, heh heh! I’m trying to, heh heh, you know, get on with my expletive expletive day unencumbered by bumbling expletive expletive idiots! So uh, yeah, heh heh, if you could just- mmm, yeah, that’d be great!”

Which brings me back to Woody and I walking around the yard and my very, very bad thought. How great would it be to piss on that pile? I wonder how long it would be before it began to smell? Oh! Maybe I should drive my car over the sides of the pile a few times, get it nice and compressed!

I was surprised at myself. All the moreso when I woke up this morning, put on my running shorts and shoes and took Woody out early in the cool of the morning only to find myself still violently angry at the sight of the pile. Why I was so angry, I cannot be sure. Perhaps I felt infringed upon. Perhaps I was incensed at what I perceived to be unconscionably rude behavior. Perhaps he is an easy target.

I don’t know, but I did not piss on his wood chips.

Woody and I drove to a secluded trail to run this morning. On the way, we listened to a favorite broadcaster of mine, Colin Cowherd. He’s a favorite because of how he looks at the world. Though he seems to be a brash, arrogant alpha male with little concern or regard to anyone or anything else, he shows time and time again that his perception of the world is based upon pragmatism- though perhaps harsh pragmatism- and I appreciate that.

This morning, he discussed recent news events regarding a former NBA player, Scottie Pippen and a current NFL player, Maurice Jones-Drew. Both men have recently been involved in altercations with fans.

More simply put, these two world-class athletes have both punched fans in the face.

“Most of you will take issue with what I’m about to say,” Cowherd began. “But when these sorts of things come up, my first thought is always, ‘Well, what did the fan do to deserve it?’ Think about it. It used to be that sports fans regarded sporting events as cultural events. They’d wear their finest suits and dresses. They’d attentively watch games. Booze was frowned upon! Now you’ve got losers with very small lives pitching trash onto outfielders, tailgaters completely blitzed by 11:15 on a Sunday morning before their favorite NFL teams games. These guys, normally fine citizens, become absolute terrorists. They figure, ‘Hey, I paid good money for this ticket! It’s my right to heckle! I can say what I want!’ But they don’t get it. I paid for my ticket too and you’re infringing upon my right to enjoy the game however I like. You’re in my ear screaming expletives and ‘LeBron sucks!’ in front of my kids. With these exorbitant ticket prices now, fans feel like they’re owed a performance whether the athlete is in his or her arena or not. You see Pippen at dinner and you decide to tell him how much money you lost on a bet you made during the Finals over a decade ago. That he’s a bum. You rush him at his table and invade his personal space. What did you think was going to happen? Someone does that to you, you’re punching him in the face, no doubt. But, because he’s Scottie Pippen and you paid for that ticket a decade ago, you feel like he owes it to you. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re a loser with a small life who can’t handle the world around you. You’re also infringing upon everyone else. Stop it. You’re making life terrible.”* 

There wasn’t a soul on the trail as Woody and I ran. I liked that very much.

When we returned, I did my best to avoid looking at the wood pile and to have a better attitude about it in general. After all, it’s a minor convenience that will likely only be for a few days. It is a very first world problem and one that should not bother me so deeply. This too shall pass.

Freshly showered, I went down to the end of the driveway a few minutes ago to collect the mail and bring the trash can back from the road. African Safari again parked his Jeep on our lawn. I know why he did it, too- there is a sizable tree that gives a plethora of shade. It must get really hot in that Jeep. 

His wife has an SUV and she parked it in the carport with the trunk door propped open. She has a dog that appears to have at least some pit bull in it. It growled at me as I walked by. Relax, Cyle. I told myself. It’s just a dog. You like dogs. You like being able to take your dog places. It growled at me and I heard African Safari’s wife shriek at it to stop. I tried not to judge her for reinforcing its bad behavior and continued on toward the trash can laying by the road. As I put it upright and began walking it back up the drive, African Safari emerged from behind the wood pile and waved at me.

I regret to say that my “this too shall pass” attitude passed right by at the sight of him.

“When can we expect to have the driveway clear?” I didn’t ask so much as I barked at him. There was no mistaking how I felt about the pile of wood chips. He was clearly taken aback by my posture and tone of voice. His shoulders went back as though he’d been shoved. He knows me as a nice guy, someone who will accept whatever it is that he decides to do. To hear me get gruff, to hear a steely tone in my voice, clearly shocked him. He stopped in his tracks. His eyes met mine.

“Today.”

I nodded and continued back up the drive. The dog growled at me again.

As I sit here now, thinking about all of this, I wish that I could have that moment back. I wish that I would’ve said, “You know, John, it really rubs me the wrong way to have you so concerned about some grass in your driveway when you knew full well that you were planning on putting a pile of wood chips in mine. Being asked or notified would’ve been nice, but being thought highly enough of for you to be conscientious about where you put them would’ve been better.”

And there it is- the moral I’ve been wanting out of this story.

I don’t mind that John (yes, his name is John) is trying to make his house look nice. I was trying to do the same thing when I mowed the lawn and can hardly begrudge him a little vanity. I love productivity and going about my business and will never begrudge another person the same privilege. What irks me is that he did not take the lives of his neighbors into account when he went about his business. Whether because he did not think highly enough of us, or because indeed, he did not care about whether or not we were inconvenienced or, perhaps worst of all, because the consideration never even crossed his mind, he has indeed inconvenienced me and mine. Whether it is major or minor inconvenience is of no consequence. He shows his lack of concern in his every action- whether feeling justified to park on my lawn for a little shade or feeling brazen enough to ask me to stop the mower so that he can tell me how to do a chore. It is that lack of concern, the selfishness that is only concerned with its own ends that truly bugs me.

He doesn’t need to ask me permission, but I’d love to be taken into consideration.

 

 

*I’m paraphrasing. This is by no means an exact transcription of what Mr. Cowherd said.

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