Things I learned from watching true crime shows, Part 2 (Part 1)
Have you ever had neighbor feuds?
We’ve all had our fair share of neighbor issues. For the most part, the issues aren’t big enough to warrant a full-scale Hatfield’s and McCoy’s battle. Usually, the worst thing we do is swallow our seething annoyance and ride it out. People change, circumstances change, and before we know it, our once annoying neighbor is not so bad.
When Neighbor Feuds Go Bad
Out of all the episodes of true crime I’ve watched where neighbor feuds have ended badly, it’s because of people not willing to back-off. The one-upmanship problem. Ego. Whatever you want to call it, the problem could have been resolved before getting to the point of being newsworthy due to murder.
There have been a few episodes where the feuds were one-sided due to a truly psychotic person. But they are the exception, not the rule.
Not to be bleak, but those neighbors you think you’ll be friends with for life, well, watch your back. The horrors are real. From the man who dug through his basement into his neighbor’s, killed her, dragged her back into his basement and cut her up with a power saw, to the guy who poisoned the family next door via tampering with their bottles of Coke.
There’s the lady who was so enraged with her neighbor, she set her house on fire in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, she ended up killing an innocent elderly neighbor in the process. And there’s the guy who was so angry he shot and killed almost the whole family next door. The mom, dad, and son. The elder daughter survived since she was at a school function.
What Leads to Neighbor Feuds?
What leads to such a terrible feud?
Well, watching these shows it is arguments over property lines, disrespect of property, kids, pets, noise, vastly different personalities and upbringings. A whole slew of reasons.
Personally, I blame ego. Rather than converse, each person wages the one-upmanship war. A constant battle where no one wins.
You can hear it in the voices of those who tell the story. Between voice inflection, word choice, mannerisms, and avoidance you can tell she knows her loved one, or even she, herself was a part of the problem. Even while blaming it fully on the other party. You can read it in the eyes and the heavy weight in the air.
The one-upmanship goes something like this: Bob hates that Steve mows his lawn at 6:00 am every Saturday morning. In an effort to get back at Steve, Bob then works on his insanely loud vehicle at midnight. He knows Steve goes to bed early.
Then Steve gets ticked that Bob revs his motors and he raises the stakes more, he puts up bright security lights that illuminate Bob puttering in his yard. Not to be outdone, Bob puts up his own security lights that shine into Steves bedroom window.
And on, and on it goes, until somebody blows.
Just change out the aggression: loud noises between people who are early birds and others who are owls. Or the kids are loud, or someone builds on the property line, or someone parks a car with a tire on the neighbor’s lawn. It’s always the same. One person ups the ante and the other sees and raises the bet.
Lesson One in Neighbor Feuds – Converse
The first thing we need to remember is to talk to each other. We can’t assume the other person knows she’s interrupting our sleep. Some people sleep really hard, my husband is one of them. And he falls asleep quick. I, on the other hand, am a light sleeper and hear everything. Did I mention I wear earplugs and still hear everything? Yeah, it sucks. And I don’t fall asleep as quickly as my husband.
Our neighbors have all been pretty good. However, we will be getting new neighbors soon and there’s always the fear we won’t be as lucky as we have been over the past twenty-seven years.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had moments where our neighbors were loud and moments where I’m sure our neighbors hated us because of my husband’s band or my kids’ practicing trumpets, or me screaming at the kids or the cats, or our dog having a meltdown on the whole crate-training experience. Yeah, we’re not perfect.
But the thing is, we all have our moments and then we regroup and do better.
The number one lesson is that when your neighbor does something, remember they don’t know what you’re like, so you’re going to have to talk to him. “Hey George, I love that you have such a fabulous lawn. I work late on Fridays so I don’t get much sleep when your mower rolls by the window bright and early. Would you be willing to mow at 7:00 instead?” And maybe George will be willing and maybe he won’t. In which case, it’s not worth having a fight over.
If you like staying up late on Friday, maybe you can get a white noise machine and some earplugs to help drown out the sound.
Lesson Two – Take Stock
This is the hard part. You have to ask yourself if you are the one who is being a bit dramatic. Remember when I said I can’t sleep, yeah, I’ve been there. When one our neighbor’s kids was in high school there were many weekends in the summer I was getting quite witchy. We don’t have A/C, so we leave the windows open – only upstairs at night. The teen would be outside with her friends and there would be screeching (you know teen girls, high pitch stuff – I used to be one of those, I should hunt down our neighbors and apologize) until two or three in the morning.
This would drive me crazy. And I’d gripe to my husband. Rarely, was he annoyed. A few times when it happened on work nights he wasn’t thrilled. I did yell out the window one night “be quiet!” But no one heard me and I’m glad no one did because clearly not the best way to handle it. I seem to have been the only one who was annoyed by it. Therefore, the big problem was me.
The girl has since graduated and the silence from that house is sad now. It reminds me of how all our kids have grown.
When It’s Not Just You
The above story represents what the situation was when it seemed I was the only one annoyed enough that I couldn’t sleep.
When I watch these shows and I hear the people talk about the kids making noise, I always think of a family a few houses away from us. To them, the kids are just making typical kid noises. That’s what the grandma says even though she looks like the kids have utterly bull-dozed her.
Another family on the street has kids around the same age as those above. This family’s kids are what I consider typical. Happy playing noises, sometimes loud, sometimes squealy, sometimes bickering. Typical.
The other family lets the kids out and they scream the whole time. Literally hours of those kids screeching at the top of their voices. A few times I thought about calling the police because I couldn’t be certain they weren’t hurt or in danger. Until I walked down the road and saw that nope, they’re just playing at a deafening level.
One day, I’d taken my dog to the lake. As I was hanging out, a 20-year-old young man showed up. We got to talking while he waited for his girlfriend. Then the kids went out to play. I kept talking. The kid finally looked over at me and said, “You think everything is okay over there?”
I explained that it seems so, they just play at that asinine level of screeching. That’s when he said, “It sound like they’re beating the crap out of each other.”
And he was right. And it made me feel better that I wasn’t just an aging old fart with sensitive hearing.
So, lesson two is to be realistic, is it just you or are others annoyed or shaking their heads too?
Lesson Three – Don’t Engage
If you tried talking to the neighbor and you took stock to verify you have a valid reason to be upset, then you’ll have to decide your next steps.
Is there a way you can change the how the behavior affects you? Can you wear earplugs during the 3:00-5:00 scream hour? Would a window unit A/C drown out the noise? If the neighbor keeps parking on your lawn, can you plant some trees? Inconspicuously. By that I mean, don’t go out there and glare at your neighbor as you do it. They’ll know why and then your trees will end up dead.
Whatever you do, don’t engage the neighbor with round after round of trying to retaliate or overtly doing something to block them. It makes it worse.
If you have to call the police on your neighbor more than a few times, you might want to consider moving. In all the neighbor feuds that have gone horribly wrong, the pattern is the mostly the same: both neighbors instigating each other, bright security lights installed, higher fences built, police called repeatedly, video cameras installed, violence culminating in the death of one or more and the arrest of one or more.
No, we shouldn’t have to move, but when it’s getting bad, your family together, and alive, is worth more than any home.
A few places to find more information on dealing with unruly neighbors: How to Deal with Bad Neighbors and Bad Neighbors: What to Do Legally.