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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Two situations came up this week that neatly contrasted each other. My conclusions follow their elaboration.

Some regular readers may remember when I added a rice cooker to my cubicle at work. I said at the time, “I think we’re going to have a lot of good times together.” Sadly, those good times have ended. I received a cease and desist email from my boss on Friday, citing a “few complaints” about the smell exuded by cooking the jasmine rice. I was as livid as I’d ever been at work and I went on a bit of a rampage, complaining to all within ear shot about the inequity of the situation. My boss did suggest that I could use the rice cooker in the break room, but that’s about 100 feet away and practically destroys the convenience of having it nearby (plus, it completely opens it up to widespread sharing and I’m not too keen on my fellow second-floor denizens helping themselves). I used to make up two cups of rice in the morning when I got in and snack on it throughout the day, thereby obviating the need to go out for lunch or purchase expensive snack items. That’s all gone now.

On the home front, our asshat neighbors to the east of us are building a patio cover on to their house. If you notice the time of this posting and the day of the week (Sunday at 7:30 a.m.), you’ll probably infer why this makes them asshats. If it were just today, I wouldn’t even be squawking. Unfortunately, this ruckus has been going on for fully three weeks (before our vacation to San Diego) and it’s nearly a daily activity beginning at 6 a.m. or earlier. It’s getting better: this morning there’s only the infrequent staccato of hammer falls. The noise is bad, but it excites my dogs. They go outside and bark at the asshats, which is exactly what I’d prefer them to do but just not so early. So then either Sandi or I have to go downstairs and holler at them to get back in the house. This is a pain and it’s compounded by the fact that Sandi is presently sick.

What interests me about these two vignettes is that they both illustrate an attitude about being a good neighbor. At work, my co-workers concoct any number of smells. They brew coffee, the smell of which disgusts me; they eat lunch at their desks, making me either crave whatever flavorful beef carcass they’ve got instead of my ascetic rice lunch or avoid inhaling as much as possible when it’s particularly pungent; they eat popcorn, the smell of which incites the strongest of cravings. What have I done for the last two years that they’ve been around: kept my trap shut (literally, when a former co-worker flatulated practically like punctuation—I’m glad he’s gone). I could’ve ran to the boss and whined but I instead chose to grin and bear it. Why? Because I expected the same from them. It would have been hypocritical. So we lived in a nice live and let live, woefully-small-cubicle utopia that’s now gone. If I can’t have my rice cooker, then you better believe that all of the other things I’ve put up with will cease as well.

And that’s why I’ve put up with the inconsiderate construction timing of our neighbor. Once you start down that road (you know, the one colorfully known as feuding), it never stops. Next thing you know, you’re turning each other in to the HOA over petty infractions and calling the cops when the dogs are barking too late. I don’t want to be that type of neighbor and I think that he doesn’t either since there’s been plenty of opportunity for both complaints. Unfortunately, my highly-paid co-workers don’t see it that way and, like spoiled kids, ran to daddy aka jefe crying about the olfactory offense while ignoring the odors they produce. Unfortunately, this leads us inexorably down that sniping road—my heightened sense of justice precludes me from any grinning and bearing.