The Night Ted Kennedy Died

by francine Hardaway on August 27, 2009

I was awakened at 11 PM by a banging noise, and then the barking of my dogs, who sleep in the bedroom with me. I was terrified, thinking someone was breaking into the house. I huddled in bed, thinking someone was coming after me, and trusting the dogs to protect me. Only after about a half hour did the next door neighbor women, who have harrassed me before about noise from my hot tub (which is right outside my bedroom, and which I never hear myself), begin screaming at me to turn the hot tub off.

Now I wasn’t frightened, so I got out of bed, put on a robe, and went to the bedroom sliding door, and called to them “I can’t turn it off or it doesn’t stay hot. It has to run all the time. And the Planning Department has already inspected it and told me it wasn’t too close to your property line.” Yes, they had already sent the inspectors after me, and the inspector said it was correctly installed and said he’d put the matter “in a file.”

I then got back into bed, wide awake, turned on the TV, found out that Ted Kennedy had passed, and began to cry. For me, this was the end of the long era of hope that began with his brother John in 1960, when I was still in school, and over the past forty years wound down a road of disillusionment and confrontation with some very harsh realities about human nature and government.

In the mean time, the two women from next door came over to my house and rang my doorbell, awakening the dogs once again. I wondered what the neighborhood thought, but I was not willing to participate in any more negative energy, especially that night so I didn’t answer. Hours later, I went to sleep.

At dawn, my doorbell rang again. I awoke and went outside. There wasn’t anyone there, but there was a handwritten note (I’ve had several of these before, on issues ranging from my dogs to the hot tub). These neighbors have lived in the neighborhood since it was built, and I think they are afraid of the changes that come over time. Ironically, we’re about the same age–just not the same temperament. Because I live in Arizona part of the year, I’ve used to the constant white noise of pool motors and compressors on central air conditioners that go on and off all night. Not only that, but I grew up in New York City! My hot tub motor doesn’t even hit my radar screen. Nor, I believe, should it hit the radar screen of anyone who chooses to live in a subdivision with small lots, among other families with children, dogs, hot tubs, and noisy arguments:-)

The note said,” How come your hot tub is off now when you said it has to run 24 hours.? How come it runs continuously all night long and during the day it goes on and off? It’s called deliberate harassment.”

I didn’t know what to do. I watched the talking heads mourn Ted Kennedy, with his great concern for the little people. I wondered how much the ordinary people appreciate someone who gives their life to people like my neighbors, who construe an automatic thermostat as “deliberate harassment.?” How can you deal with people like that?

I consulted the Sheriff’s Office, and they told me to get a restraining order to stop them from banging on my fence and ringing my doorbell in the middle of the night. I can’t even conceptualize doing something like that. I went back to bed exhausted, and spent an unproductive day mourning for Kennedy and feeling generally depressed. Even the dogs I could understand — they do bark — but the hot tub?

This morning my doorbell rang again. ANOTHER person from the Planning Department came out, this time with a colleague. They measured and photographed. Their determination? My hot tub is not too close to their property line, or too noisy. However, the did say for my own safety I should move it further from my own bedroom, which I agreed to do. How will that help them? It probably won’t. They will just have caused me to spend money and disrupt my own life.

Have you ever had a troublesome neighbor? How have you handled this? I’m at a loss. Although within my rights, I am clearly someone’s problem.

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August 28, 2009 at 7:59 pm

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marshallkirkpatrick August 27, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Ugh. Good luck Francine. I got no answers for ya. Have any of these officials told the neighbors that you are within your rights and they are wrong?

Karoli August 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

These days, I'm the whiny neighbor and I don't really know what to do about it, because I hate being that person. But when kids destroy the property and the peace on a daily basis in the middle of work hours, I really don't have much of an option but to complain. They do what they want. One of them defiantly told me he *likes* that spot and sees no reason to move.

I don't recall your hot tub making much noise. In fact, I can't remember hearing anything that was remotely bothersome, so I'm not sure what the problem is, but banging on doors and leaving nasty notes doesn't seem to be anything other than harassment. These people seem to be fairly irrational, too, so reason is probably not going to work.

I tried compromise in my situation. I asked them to move to the area behind my window, instead of being directly in front of it. It didn't work, so I'm biting my nails and counting the days till they go back to school. (3 left!!!)

The larger problem is the complete unwillingness to compromise on any level. I'd suggest an iPod and noise cancelling headphones to them, but I'm sure it would make no difference. :)

hardaway August 27, 2009 at 1:18 pm

No. They just dismiss the thing and move on. That's part of the problem. The first one said he was going to put his report “in a drawer.” At least the second one, new on the job, promised to write something if I wrote him an email promising to move the hot tub away from my bedroom, which of course I will do. I am only hoping that will take care of the problem.

hardaway August 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I know. You've visited me. You know my neighbor's dog (another neighbor) poops on my lawn, children run around in the street, dogs with absent owners bark all day long, strangers park in front of my house — and my hot tub makes almost no noise. Other neighbors have told me these particular people complain about all of that. I just think it's part of living in a neighborhood, and I rather like that. But then, I am a people person.

cynthiaholladay August 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Francine, your post made me pause. I don't have a response in terms of dealing with a specific troublesome neighbor – but perhaps a technique for tapping into creative ideas. I thought of this when I read your reflection about Ted Kennedy.

In essence, we're all little people. As little people, we think and act through a filter of either fear or love – sometimes back and forth like eye blinks. We try to be rational, but more often we're emotional.

Reading your account (without the perspective of the other party), the “conversation” leans toward fear. People are afraid of change and even become of afraid by imagining what hasn't even happened yet. Many people are desperate to be simply be heard – to have someone who will listen to their perspective and their fears. If people continue to not be heard, the pain begins to appear in seemingly unrelated ways. Then one person's fear interacts with another and starts a vicious circle. The only way to break the cycle is to “be” the opposite, which takes courage.

With these as possibilities, what are some creative ways the situation could play out? There's no cookie-cutter solution, but it can help to think about it through a conscious filter. FWIW
Luv, -C

lelawilley August 27, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I sleep with a fan on all the time so I don't hear noises. I don't know how you suggest that to these people who are next door. It doesn't seem like they really want to get along. Good luck with this problem.

Ginger Kenney August 27, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Francine it may run all night because of the temperature drop at night. Do you have a cover? If not, getting one might help somewhat. It could be that one of them has difficulty sleeping and if so they are undoubtedly short tempered about it and focus even more on what they see rightly or wrongly,as the reason for their lack of sleep. maybe gift them with a white noise machine they could use at night?

I am dealing with a difficult neighbor too, and it is miserable, especially when their actions reduce my property value too. I am just breathing deeply and praying their place will sell soon and they move back to Phoenix, can't happen soon enough for me. I have to stay low key because of my dogs, as one way they would undoubtedly start targeting me is to complain about my dogs.

I hope you can resolve it peacefully. Unfortunately there is often someone like this in a neighborhood it would seem.

hardaway August 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Well, I am hoping that if I move the spa away from my house that may just solve the problem. If not, I have already tried befriending them and explaining that I have the spa because I have had a hip replacement and have arthritis.

hardaway August 27, 2009 at 3:48 pm

I have a cover, and it is always covered. And yes, I am sure it runs all night because of the temperature drop. And yes, I am sure one of them has trouble sleeping. But earplugs might help. And if it runs and it's so noisy, why don't I hear it when it is literally ONE FOOT from my door (which the Planning guy told me is too close for my safety)?
What if it were an air conditioner or a heater and this were Phoenix?

Luke Kilpatrick August 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Its really sad that your neighbors are such a pain. I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live the way I do, If the neighbors are a pain, I can just hook up the truck and move. Maybe you could talk to your bank and get them to lower your payments on the house due to neighbor issues contributing to a declining home value :)

Luke Kilpatrick August 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I am sure these are the same people that complain about the HMB airport being too noisy as well, when it has been there longer than they have. I stopped reading the local paper's website because it is so full of people whining about noise that was or is there before they were. I live in a campground, and I have diesel vehicles drive by my trailer almost every night, but its the life I chose and I don't mind it. If you live close to people, expect noise. If you don't then go live in Boony Dune or Pescadaro where your neighbors are far away. These people need to get something better to do with their time, maybe go to Ace hardware and buy some sound proofing foam and leave it with a note on their doorstep?

Jeri Dansky August 27, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Have you considered using a mediator? I agree you're doing nothing wrong – but if the goal is a peaceful resolution where your neighbor stops harassing you, a mediator might help.

I know a terrific attorney (previously a Presbyterian minister doing AIDS hospice work) who does such mediation; Robin Crawford ( is a wonderful man with a very calming presence. And there's also the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center.

Pam August 27, 2009 at 4:36 pm

They sound like a grumpy lot. I'd kill them with kindness. Throw a neighborhood party and tell them to bring suits for the hot tub. It'll be harder for them to bitch later. And, if they do, you won't care as much.

Steve Cooperstein August 27, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Sorry Fran, but your title attracted me – and I'm disappointed that you didn't just take a deep breath and soak in the depth of the night. Hearing of his death late at night, it took me right back to the night Booby Kennedy was shot. Felt like I/we had lost something big – and we did, especially in these days of do nothing but bicker congresses. I hope you find a way to sit down with your neighbors and hear each other.

With love


hardaway August 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Once I was awake and heard the breaking news, that's what I wanted to do.
This is very important for people our age. I feel like I was interrupted in
my grieving process, and I wondered why these women didn't know he had died
(they're my age) and be occupied with larger issues — like mortality.

Steve Cooperstein August 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Sorry. Know how that feels.

Talking about mortality, we had 2 close friends die last week also of brain cancer. Scary.

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