Everyone needs a hobby, but…
When I first moved into this neighborhood, 17 years ago, there was the shell of an Alfa Romeo on blocks in the driveway of a house down the block. It was missing at least one door, parts of the body were rusted out, that sort of thing. Over the years, I have watched it slowly be reconstructed. It’s kind of cool to see. I’ve even seen the owner driving it up the street once. In fact, that’s the only time I’ve ever seen the owner’s face.
But it hasn’t all been cool.
His driveway slopes steeply down to the basement garage. At the other end it slopes down from the sidewalk to the street. So the only flat spot he has to work on the car is the sidewalk itself. And because he has thorny bushes on his property, and there’s a low sprawling cheery tree on the planting strip, when he has left it parked on the sidewalk (sometimes for days at a time) walking around it isn’t trivial.
Since every morning I have to walk that way to get to the bus, then back again after work, it was a bit annoying.
I sympathise. He has this (potentially) nice car he’s trying to restore, but the sidewalk is a public right of way. Technically, it’s a ticketable offense to block the sidewalk. Heck, a neighbor on the next block was cited for the lower tree branches that blocked the sidewalk there at about my chin level and up (and since I’m shorter than average, that meant everyone but small children had to crouch or duck to walk along that part of the sidewalk.
Most of the time the car is parked on the little bit that slopes from the sidewalk to the street. It doesn’t quite fit. The tail end of the car sticks out into the sidewalk, but you can walk through all right.
Some years go I remember a couple of days when not only was the car blocking the sidewalk, but a big tarp covered with car parts was spread out along the sidewalk. There have been numerous times when it was parked just off the sidewalk but various electrical cords and/or hoses were strung up from the garage to the car. Again, something I can step over, but a bit of a barrier to people pushing a stroller or a cart. And a trip hazard for anyone.
A few months ago we came home one night and found that the car had rolled into the middle of the narrow atreet, completely blocking it. We and the car behind us had to back up and go around the block. While I was unloading our car, once we got home, Michael walked down to knock on the owner’s door and help push the car back into the driveway.
Then one morning this week, just as I was about to get into the shower, I hear a horn start blaring. It wasn’t a “beep-beep-beep” of an alarm or someone pressing their “where did I park it” button. It just blared steadily.
After a minute of it going, I pulled my sweats back on and stepped outside. A couple other neighbors were just coming out. Of course, I’d been in a hurry, so I didn’t have shoes nor had I grabbed my glasses. I hadn’t heard a thud or crash before it started, but I was half expecting to see some kind of accident down the road. I couldn’t see anything.
A neighbor with a two-year-old in her arms said, “I can’t see any obvious cause. It’s like in a movie, someone just slumped over, head hitting the wheel?”
I went back inside for shoes and my glasses, then walked down the street.
Of course it was the Alfa Romeo. No one was in it. It was just sitting there, blaring.
I knocked on the door of the owner’s house. After a minute, an annoyed voice asked through the door. “What do you want?”
“Is this your car out here blaring?”
“I don’t know! Is it my car?”
I stopped myself from saying something crude. “I don’t know! It’s in front of your house!”
“Okay. I’ll be out in a minute.”
One of the neighbors who lives further away than I did had stumbled out in a robe and slippers. It wasn’t that early in the morning (I go in a little later and work into the early evening, myself). The blaring was loud enough to wake up someone at the other end of the block. And I didn’t pound on the door. I just knocked normally. I was trying really hard not to be Angry Man, so I was careful to just knock.
Since he heard the knocking, there was no way that he hadn’t been able to hear his own car, right under his window, blaring its horn for four or five minutes. What the heck did he mean, sarcastically asking “I don’t know! Is it my car?”
Even now, I still have only seen his face that one time he drove the car up the street while I was weeding our lawn. The only reason I even looked up from the weeding was because the car was coughing and sputtering and sounding like the engine was going to either explode or die any minute. It lurched up the block and out of sight. Minutes later the sound fading as he kept going somewhere in it. I’ve seen his legs sticking out from under the car while he’s working on it. I’ve seen his silhouette at night coming out to deal with the car. So I don’t know him.
All I know is he’s been working on this car for nearly two decades, he’s only gotten it into barely working order briefly a few years ago. He’s had a string of cheap cars that look like junkyard rejects parked at the curb in front of his house (and occasionally in the driveway behind the Alfa). His yard is always overgrown. And he blocks the sidewalk with rather tiresome frequency.
I don’t want to tell him how to live his life. But I really, really, really wish he’d pick a different hobby.