Saturday, January 20, 2007

Starting To Get To Me

When you first join the newspaper, you're sent out to cover all the crappy stories - product launches, if you're a business reporter, floods, if you're in crime, and if you're in the tabloids, boy oh boy oh boy. Any crank calling up to complain about anything, and I mean anything, could mean a story.

"Go check it out. Take a photographer, who knows, mebbe something there," the editor tells you cooly, between puffs of his noxious cigarette, one hand clearing somebody else's screwed up story (aiya, what kind of shit is this?) and one shoulder cradling a phone, as he's in the middle of another conversation. You're only worth about a quarter of his attention.

OK, you have this piece of paper with an address. An old lady called up to say her neighbour makes it a habit of throwing shit over the fence. You want me to follow up on this? You gotta be fucking kidding me! But you're new, anxious to make a good impression and that means you take whatever comes. Even shit. Literally.

OK, so you pull up with the photographer outside this terrace house in a relatively nice neighbourhood. Not the sort of place you would have imagined for this to happen. But it takes all sorts.

The old lady is waiting for you. Eagerly she invites you in, recounts with relish the evil ways of these neighbours. Ugh, what won't they stoop to.

But why, you ask innocently. Why?

"They're jealous, that's what. See my garden so neat. So nice my house. Not like theirs."

You peer over the fence and wonder. The other house looks just as nice. Just as neat. OK, there may be some toys outside, evidence of children, but other than that...both houses, equally nice.

"You don't know, there are plenty of evil people in the world, donnolar what goes on in the mind. Here I am minding my own business, and they do all these things, just because I'm old, alone, helpless." She sniffs a little, takes out a tissue to dab at her eyes.

OK, whatever. So what type of waste do they hurl, you ask.

Old lady pauses, mouth slightly open. You notice the grey hair sort of coming loose from the bun, framing her face. Those eyes look a wonder about her.

"Dog shit. Yeah, dog shit."

You look pointedly over the fence for evidence of a dog. Or cat. Or any animal. Nothing.

OK, you say, with a smile, snapping shut your notebook, I'll just wait for them to come back to get their side of the story. We always give the other party the right of reply.

Aiya, no needlar, she says, dismissively. Why you want to talk to them? They are no good one!

Nevertheless, you smile apologetically, it's a requirement. You know, what with lawsuits and trail off. Both you and the giggling photographer get into the car and wait. And wait. Then wait some more. Finally a car pulls up, mother and father in front, three kids at the back. They look like nice people. But who can tell?

As the mother gets out to open the gate, you approach her with a smile. Ma'am, I'm from Clotherweather News, and I was wondering if you'd be willing to answer a few questions. Your neighbour (you turn to see the old lady peering at you from behind her hall curtains) has made a complaint. The wife looks at the husband. They look tired. They sigh.

"You want to tell her?" the wife asks.

"Why not?" the husband answers. "I mean, she called the press in, what to do?"

They invite you in and recount how the old lady has launched a campaign of harrassment from emptying their dustbin to screaming imprecations at the kids to throwing chicken manure on their car. They kept ignoring the attacks, hoping that she would get tired and stop. Obviously, this was not going to happen.

"Why haven't you made a police report? Surely this sort of harrassment..."

"Aiya, not nice, old ladylar, maybe she'll stop after this. Anyway we're looking for a new place."

You feel sorry for them. Nice people. But there's no story. So you leave with the photographer. And wonder what it's like to be these people, to live with the constant persecution of a crazy jealous old woman with nothing but time on her hands to scheme and make mischief.

I no longer wonder now, I know. A series of petty irritations like minor terrorist attacks designed to disturb your peace of mind. You never know what's coming next. The Crazed Relative rubs her hands in glee. She messes with the common gate so it's difficult for us to reverse out. She patrols the area with broom and dustpan, waiting for the chance to break and enter. She wants to pluck the orchids, which are blooming luxuriantly. She wants to tell the roses, "I hate you, I hate you, why don't you die!" (No, I'm not kidding, she did this) She wants to help herself to a few pots of this and that. Unfortunately, Mom has installed locks on all our gates. So she gnashes her teeth in rage and hides the dustbin. So she hides behind the window and glares at us in moronic rage, plotting, plotting, plotting. So she makes like banshee and howls at the moon.

I have to admit, it's starting to get to me.


quilldancer said...

People who ave no life of their own often find it necessary to mess with people who do.

Jenn said...

You said it. Sad.

goldennib said...

I guess she needs to get excitement somehow. These kinds of situations ar ethe worst. They make you feel helpless because these people are just nuts.

A thinker said...

Wow, that's hard. It's difficult to be a lonely, bitter old person with no one around to love you--it seems she's taking it out on you.

I hope you find a way to resolve it peaceably...that kind of thing can be very stressful.

Jenn said...

Nessa: I wish I could be like my other siblings and laugh. After all, the situation IS ridiculous.

Thinker: Yeah peaceably would be nice. How is it that my family can never resolve ANYTHING peaceably?