Marolt: Fear and loathing of homeowners’ associations
I still hate homeowners’ associations. A few years back I was stirred up because an association board member was driving around Snowmass Village taking pictures of newspapers left in people’s driveways after 11 in the morning, which is apparently against a covenant or two, and then publishing them on the Internet to embarrass the culprits.
Then there was the time I was elected to be our homeowners’ association president because I missed an annual meeting. Not long afterward, a neighbor called to tell me that So-and-So had a trailer illegally parked in their driveway. He admitted he hadn’t bothered to ask his neighbor to move it or cover it up or anything else because that was my job as president. “No it isn’t,” I told him, to which he replied, “yes it is,” and that I ought to resign if I didn’t take that responsibility seriously. I used my vast powers to appoint him my vice president and then I quit. I’m a legend in the local annals of homeowners’ association lore.
Those are minor reasons to loath homeowners’ associations compared to my gripe now, though. Homeowners’ associations are the work of Satan. It is his tool that will be used to make everyone on Earth hate everyone else and trust nobody.
It started when I let my dog out on his leash early one winter morning to take care of business. Mind you, he’s not running free to poop wherever he likes or pee on anyone else’s illegally parked vehicles; he’s tethered to my deck. He’s a good boy and when he is finished he scratches on the sliding glass door to come in. On this particular morning, I didn’t hear him and he barked; not howled for an hour, but barked once, possibly twice before I could get to the door.
Before 9 a.m., I had a call from the dog catcher, who was understanding when I explained it to her, and another from the association president, who was also understanding, but his hands were tied, he said.
Of course I wanted to know which of my neighbors was perturbed to the point of taking such ridiculous measures to voice a simple complaint and was so lily-livered as to be unable to muster the moxie to pick up the phone and talk to me directly about this simple matter. I find this behavior weird. I know it took a lot more effort and time to call the dog catcher and then the association president than to pick up the horn and call me, or simply yell across the yard.
Here’s the problem with acting like you live in a bubble instead of a neighborhood: Once you voice a complaint anonymously within a small geographic area, you implicate all your neighbors by association, no pun intended. It was somebody close to my house who complained, but I don’t know which neighbor it was. The anonymously complaining cowardly neighbor used the other neighbors as a shield!
I look down at the ground now when I see any of my neighbors, not knowing which of them is unwilling to confront me face-to-face or why. Am I that awful of a person or do they simply not have the time for me?
They act friendly, but I know for one of them it is a bogus performance of deceit; a fraud perpetuated on me. When you can’t figure out which “friend” is putting on an act, it makes you understand that you really can’t tell the phonies from the real folks in this world. It’s a terrible revelation.
It may not sound like a big deal, but it kind of is. It’s just enough to make me feel uneasy in my own neighborhood and I don’t like that feeling.
The worst of it, though, is that I have been denied the opportunity to apologize to the person I’ve aggrieved. Isn’t that an occasion that allows us to access the higher plane of being human? Righting a wrong without receiving pardon holds us in an inescapable bondage of shame.
I don’t want to always wonder which house the coward of the neighborhood lives in, always watching me, ready to turn me in. The only way I have figured out to redirect my hurt and bad feelings are to curse the messenger. If I can get the rest of my neighbors to do that, I feel we can reunite under a common cause to abolish the association.
Roger Marolt would rather live in friendly anarchy than distrust sanctioned by covenants and by-laws. firstname.lastname@example.org