Friday, March 9, 2007 | This week marked a major turning point in my life. I said the two words I swore I’d never say.
No, those two words aren’t “go Dodgers,” they’re “damn renters.”
I’ve hated the sound of those two words ever since the days when I worked in Rancho Santa Fe and old timers would complain about folks and add, “Well, what do you expect? They’re renters.”
The words “damn renters” always seemed to reek of class warfare and, since I was a renter for many years, I took them as an attack against myself.
Of course, now I am the proud owner of my own condo, I can see the other side.
At least I did this week.
Most of the time, things are quiet in my little condo community. It’s filled with young families and nice old people who look out for each other and nod hello while passing each other at the mailbox or in the parking lot.
And I think most of my neighbors are fine upstanding people. I just have a problem with the ones who own the chickens that are running through my backyard.
Yes, that’s what prompted my outraged yelp of “damn renters” this past week. It seems one of the families that recently moved in are keeping chickens in their backyard.
Actually, they’re not staying in the backyard. They’re jumping over into my backyard, leaving chicken poop all over and peck peck pecking my glass door.
I haven’t actually spoken to the folks who own the chickens but, apparently, they bought the birds to feed their snake. Sadly, he doesn’t seem interested in poultry so they’re locked up in a cage.
At least they’re supposed to be. Like I said, the chickens have been jumping the fence and one of them sat on my other neighbor’s barbecue for a few days before its owner grudgingly took it back.
I was at work when they were in my yard, and while my wife repeatedly asked our chicken owning neighbor to come get the birds, he never did.
So my wife called my father-in-law (he grew up on a farm in Wisconsin) to help get them back home. Apparently, he had to chase the damn birds around for a while before grabbing them.
When I heard this, I snapped and said my regretful “damn renters” comment and immediately felt ashamed.
Although the Home Owner’s Association guidelines don’t expressly forbid chickens, I have to think that it’s only because the people who wrote the rules simply didn’t think anyone would actually try and turn the complex into Tom’s Chicken Shack.
Despite my anger at having to clean up chicken feces, I still felt guilt about my classist statement. That is, until I met up with some old college buddies.
I mentioned the incident figuring that my pals would rail into me with quotes from Karl Marx but, surprisingly, all of them agreed with me — even two guys who are renting.
Turns out, two of my friends are having similar problems in their own neighborhood, but with college students not with chickens.
One of them, Otis, lives by SDSU and still remembers his fun-loving college days. However, now that he has kids, he gets annoyed to see drunken students barfing on his lawn at 2 a.m. in the morning.
Unlike me, who is passively waiting for the Home Owner’s Association to take the chicken issue up at the next board meeting, Otis is taking action.
“For about two weeks, the students at this one mini-dorm were forgetting to put their trash out, so it stacked up on the street. I got so mad that I printed out a photo of “Sanford and Son,” with a note saying, ‘Do we really want our yard to look like this?”‘
The way he tells it, the students have become a little bit better about taking care of their trash cans since then, but he’s now feeling like he constantly has to be vigilant, lest those college kids make more of a mess.
My other friend also had gripes with mini-dorms, but he admitted he was okay with the houses that had only girls.
“So sue me,” he shrugged.
I felt better knowing that my friends had the same feeling towards renters as I, but I felt like it was proof that we were becoming old fogies; the epitome of the famous observation, “Anyone who’s not a liberal at age 20 has no heart. Anyone who’s not a conservative at age 50 has no head.”
“When we were renting, we weren’t as obnoxious as these folks, were we?”
“Hell no. We were kinder, gentler renters. When we partied until 2 a.m., we would play sophisticated Latin jazz, not this damn hip-hop.”
“Yes, and when we urinated on people’s front lawns, it was with the joyful innocence of youth.”
“Yes,” but my friend Derek pointed out, “but I was the guy who would call the homeowners at 2 a.m. and scream at them.”
Then I spoke up.
“Sure, but when you did that, I’m sure they knew you were just kidding.
Plus, we never kept wild animals in the backyard.”
“What about that gecko that lived under your kitchen sink?”
“That was to eat the cockroaches so the landlord wouldn’t have to shell out money for pesticides.”
“Exactly. We were more thoughtful than today’s renters.”
I drove home feeling better about what I had become: an old fart content to hypocritically celebrate his youthful indiscretions while condemning those who engage in them now.
Meanwhile, it’s been silent around my La Mesa chicken ranch, er, condo complex, but I am formulating a plan in case the damn birds escape again.
First, I’ll call Michael Turko at KUSI, who actually got people to pay attention to Jim Madaffer’s sleazy park scandal.
If that doesn’t work, there’s always The San Diego Union-Tribune‘s “Just Fix It” section. I’m sure this case is benign enough for them to consider, especially since it doesn’t involve a dispute with a cable company.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who wants people to know that this story is not intended to malign San Diego County’s hard-working renters — at least the ones who don’t raise chickens in their backyard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, send a letter to the editor.