Bully Trouble in Paradise

Remember this kid?











As I walked along the narrow, tree-lined, lovely-even-if-in-disrepair road that leads to our little house in our own particular corner of a town I’ll call Paradise, I saw the bully next door approaching me. He isn’t a scowling little boy or even teenager, but the scowling grown man who rents the house and barn next door. “Scowling Bob” rode slowly toward me on his red motorcycle.

Since moving to our cozy yellow Ranch house in this friendly community more village than town—and this is the first house I’ve ever lived in that we (me and a partner or parents) actually own—the one disappointment is having a next door neighbor who’s not just unfriendly and negative but thinks nothing of yelling at my wife and me from time to time. Then there’s the unleashed dogs rushing us, their poop scattered across our property, the muscle cars, trucks, motorcycles and numerous boats (yes, boats) and for a long time the camper (yes, camper) parked right up next to our fence, a camper in which strange men would sometimes live for a while (yes, live).

Because Bob and his friends share a “hobby” of working on muscle cars and boats, we live with the loud rumbling of revving and repeated testing of engines and sometimes there’s a party with a circle of unfriendly (to us) drunk and shirtless men laughing raucously amongst several cases of beer. Once, as I stood on my front porch, the entire group looked over at me as they laughed. I felt like I was in an un-pc beer commercial and the joke was on me.

Once, near tears after a long afternoon of revving motors, I made the mistake of walking around the fence to ask Bob when the noise might end. He became defensive and began loudly ranting. The other men started defending him—one of them also raising his voice. We had to leave our property—as we often do—and take a hike (literally) for a little peace.

Regardless of how he treats us, when his dog (unleashed) was struck by a driver that took off, my wife went to him and asked if she could help in some way. He yelled at her (like he yells at his dog), even cursing, then sped off (endangering other people’s dogs) to go find the driver (rather than immediately helping his dog). Nor did he ever apologize.

For the record, every other person we’ve met on our street is friendly; this is not a “northerner issue.” And I appreciate muscle cars, admire a wide variety of motorcycles and trucks (especially my wife’s red Tundra) and my best girlfriend is a Harley girl!

To be fair, the NASCAR party next door becomes relatively quiet in the winter, which is why what happened a few days ago stands out.

Returning from a walk, I was in a goofy, transcendental state of mind, just feeling grateful for cliché things like being alive and healthy on such a gorgeous, oddly warm, winter day.

I grew up in a part of the world where folks—including strangers—are usually friendly to one another on the street, in stores and driving. Neighbors even more so. Before moving here, I rented on a block where my neighbors quickly became friends. We were respectful, helpful, generous, and looked out for one another, even driving each other to the ER on occasion.

So when I saw Bob approaching on his motorcycle, I chose to smile and wave. It was sincere—maybe a little vulnerable and nerdy if anything. I don’t have any ill-will toward the dude, regardless of how hard it is to be his neighbor, so I chose to smile and wave (as I often do) because that’s how I treat any other neighbor. Why should I treat Bob differently just because he acts like a miserable, hostile human being when he sees us? As usual, I felt it would actually take more out of me to participate in his game than to be myself.  

However, Bob chose to actually behave like a bully on the school yard. A grown man—he actually tilted his head and gave me a cynical “mean-smile” face almost identical to the little boy’s expression (on the left) in the terrific pic below!

"Mean Boys," Daniel Price (Flickr)

The usual glare looks much like the little one’s on the right. Yes, some expressions are cutest on kids!

Bob expresses his ill-will toward my wife and me in countless ways and this particular “mean-boy” behavior is certainly the smallest, funniest example. We don’t know what’s behind Bob’s animosity and hope it’s not homophobia in the raw. It’s hard to not “go there” when we’re the only same-sex married couple for miles.

Perhaps it’s just a case of the little bully on the playground growing older but not up?