Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not In My Front Yard

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Feb. 9, 2012]   © 2012

Over the years, my neighborhood has waged a personal war against RVs.  Boats, trailers, and campers tend to not be our favorite vehicles either. 

I don’t think there is a person on my block, including me, who isn’t totally in favor of recreational vehicle ownership.  We truly want you to have fun.  But we also truly want you to store this vehicle somewhere other than in front of our homes. 

This sounds very elitist, I know.  In fact, my older son Rory, a clinical social worker who heads up a VA program for homeless vets, thinks we all lack sufficient compassion for the poor.

“Rory,” I said, “If you can buy one of these pricey vehicles, you do not qualify as poor.” I pointed out to him that no one has ever abandoned their brand new shiny RV in front of my house for months at a time.  That’s because people with nice RVs pay for someplace to store it.  But people with decrepit RVs seem to be attracted like magnets to our block.

 The problem is, RVs beget RVs.  (And campers and trailers.)  As soon as one shows up, word seems to spread telepathically to other RV owners who conclude, “Oh, this must be a friendly place to park RVs!”  Pretty soon, our street looks like Camp Land West. 

 At various times, the neighborhood population has doubled with camper shell residents, whom, I had to agree with Rory, might well be homeless.   One time a woman came to door asking if Tony might have told us where he was going.

 “Tony?” we said.

 “He was living in the green camper across the street from your house for the last few months and suddenly he’s gone.  He’s my boyfriend but I think he may have gone to Vegas with another woman.  I just wondered if he said anything to you before he left.”

 “Houston,” said Olof to me at the time, “we have a problem.” 

 But most of the time, the issue is not people living in vehicles but long-term storage.   Technically, this problem should have been resolved with the advent of San Diego Municipal Code §86.09.06:  Vehicles cannot be parked or stored on a public street in excess of seventy-two hours without being moved at least one-tenth of a mile. What they should have added was:  “…and may not return to that spot for five years.” 

 Even after parking enforcement finally gets out there to chalk-mark the vehicle’s place on the street, some RV owners will drive it around the block (a tenth of a mile) and park it eight feet from its original location. 

 We in the neighborhood refer to this San Diego Municipal Code §86.09.07: the Neener Clause. 

 Now, I’ve always preferred cordial human contact in conflict resolution wherever possible.  In the many conversations I’ve had over the years with RV, boat, and trailer owners, the two reasons they all cite as to why they are parking at my house are these:

 (1) They don’t want to use up their own home or business parking.

(2) Their neighbors have complained that the vehicle is an eyesore.

 Amazingly, they cite these reasons totally straight-faced.  I usually just stand there for a minute  hoping against hope for the “Aha!” moment.  “Oh, I get it!  You don’t want my eyesore vehicle taking up your parking either!” In my fantasy, he jumps in his RV and drives off with a jaunty wave and a “I’ve seen the light!  It’ll never happen again!” 

 But that’s not how it goes.  After a period of silence, I am forced to point out as graciously as I can that a thirty-foot long RV parked in front of my house makes backing out of my driveway an absolute hazard, that we can’t park in front of own house while it’s there, and that we are hoping for a change of scenery from our living room window from this behemoth of a vehicle. 

 Sometimes this works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  One decrepit RV owner persisted in hanging around for a year, citing inalienable rights.  Determined to thwart the system, he moved his RV precisely every seventy-one hours and fifty-eight minutes in a one hundred yard circuit.  Some months later, Ugly RV’s Clueless Owner approached me and said, “Would you believe, people are vandalizing my RV! You’re the only nice person on this block!” 

 Since I’d long since asked him nicely to move this vehicle back to his nearby business, it was all I could do not to say “Actually, I’m just curbing my overwhelming urge to put plastique in your tailpipe.  I’ve just been hoping that if I take the high road, you will too.  And by high road, I mean that you will take this vehicle on a road, any road, that is not in our neighborhood.”

 Hope, for some inexplicable reason, springs eternal. 

RV owner stores his vehicle in front of our house hoping we won’t notice.

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