Neighborhood Hoarder Part 6: Maintenance

The neighborhood hoarder
     Part 6. Maintaining the groove and breaking into cars
During the clean-up someone raised the question, “What’s to stop it from going back to the way it was?” My thought was that it wouldn’t happen. Almost none of the stuff in the yard had been Dave’s. It was either left by his dad or by other people, mostly Don Roman. His dad was gone. Ren Ren was gone. With the junk gone, deadbeats no longer threw stuff there. All we had to look out for was Roman.
I asked Dave if he’d mind me doing a little raking around his yard on garbage days. He said that would be fine so once a week when I’d spend a few minutes over there. Just with that little effort, things stayed picked until October.
As mentioned above, Don Roman came back to town in Spring 2019, got his car, still full of garbage, out of hock, made an occasional nuisance of himself as we cleaned up but was no big deal—until fall when he left a couple of totes of junk under a tarp in the yard, and his car full of junk and rotten food in Dave’s driveway, all without asking Dave. Then he left town for the winter again. It was an “up yours” to the neighbors, at least we took it that way.
The tarp and totes, I don’t know what became of them. We get big windstorms here in fall. Maybe they blew away. A few weeks later, as I was raking on garbage day, I noticed they were gone.
As to the car, all four tires went flat. It sat there like a giant terrarium with condensation from composting food running down the windows inside, mold growing on the dashboard, algae growing outside. In spring 2020 I went over and washed the outside.
Covid had broken out. With no tourist season Roman didn’t come back in 2020. The car sat all summer. It wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t my driveway anyhow.

Terrarium car (with flat tires, on right) with second car that showed up in August.

That was that; until a day in August when some stocky guy I’d never seen backs a car into Dave’s driveway, got into a different car with someone else and drove away leaving the second car at Dave’s.
What’s this? I took a walk over there. The title was on the dash board. Owner: Don Roman. Dave said he hadn’t given permission for that and didn’t know anything about it. At least that car was clean with no garbage in it. Dave thought it would only be there a few weeks. Based on past experience I expected it was there for the long haul. I told Dave it wasn’t right. Feeling some leverage, I asked if it would be okay to at least clean the garbage out of the terrarium car. He said yes as long as I didn’t break any windows getting in.

The terrarium car, second-string saboteur

It was locked of course. Breaking into cars is easy, especially if they’re older and don’t have an alarm. There’s a nifty device that looks like a heavy duty blood pressure cuff. You slip the bag between door and frame, pump it up until you have a gap, then slide a thin rod through to catch the latch and you’re in. There are lots of how-to videos on the internet. This particular car had a frameless window which can crack if you’re not careful. I got one of those bags and a rod but decided not to use them. Why? I wanted evidence that this was done on the up and up, in daylight, with the property owner’s permission. Called the locksmith. For $50 he opened the car.

On garbage day it took two hours to fill four large cans with junk and rotten food from that car. Hit it with some disinfectant inside. Cleaned the windows. Not bad. Knowing from last summer’s pick-up that collecting keys was a fetish of Roman’s. I expected to find a bunch of keys in the car and did. Some went to the ignition and door locks. I hid them under a stone in the yard and left the doors open so the car could air out. Then went home to take a much needed shower.
When I came out, that guy who’d dropped off the other car was in Dave’s driveway. Always happy to make an acquaintance, I went over to introduce myself.
“Who opened this car?!” he demanded.
“I had it opened by a locksmith with the property owner’s permission.” I said. “And I cleaned it as you see.”
He said, “I’m taking care of this car!”
“Oh yeah? Since when?”
You know the sort of guy who used to throw his weight around and thinks he still can? He was one of those. He tried to get in my face. A brilliant quality of those guys is, if you let them talk they’ll eventually drop a turd in their own punch bowl.
He starts blaming the neighbors for Don’s problems. Says we don’t care about him or Dave. Tries for authority by sharing some of his business and legal connections with Don and the city. Some of which I knew about which certainly didn’t help his case and I told him so. Then he got peevish and stuck his foot in his mouth. He said he put the other car in Dave’s yard because he needed room for his own vehicles. [which affirmed he planned to leave it there]. Then he tells me he and Don Roman had a plan to cut down all the trees in Dave’s yard, then level it all for a huge turn around drive way. “It will look real nice.”
That was so wacky, and so perfect. Reading between the lines, it seemed to me he planned on parking vehicles from his business at Dave’s. I asked him who was going to pay for that. He got red and said, “I will!”
Having caught the magic bullet I said, “Let’s go see Dave.”
The guy folded at once and turned away. “I don’t have time. I have to go.”
“Oh no. Stay right there. This’ll just take a minute.”
Dave came out. I said, “Hey Dave. This guy says he’s going to cut down all your trees and make a driveway of your yard.”
Dave was great. As animated as I’ve ever seen him he said, “Oh No! No! No! No! I planted those trees myself. Nobody’s cutting them down.”
The guy, who’d apparently gone down in Dave’s basement looking for keys to the terrarium car complained that he couldn’t find them.

As to the car he’d just left in the driveway, Dave told the guy he wanted access for a car to get into his driveway to deliver groceries. Said he could park the second car on the street. So the guy did. Then he left in another car.
When he was gone I said, “Got something for you, Dave.” I went and got the keys from under the stone and handed them over. “Whatever you want to do with them. No way I was giving them to that guy.”
Dave laughed and laughed.

Tibetan prayer flags

I wasn’t the only one to have issue with stocky guy. When he came back to get something from the car he’d left on the street in front of Dave’s, the neighbor across the street asked him how long he planned to leave it there. The guy tried giving him a line of baloney about the car belonging to Dave (who we neighbors know doesn’t drive) and it would just be there awhile. The neighbor said, “I don’t think that’s true.” The guy says, “Are you calling me a liar?” The neighbor, who is young, and fit, said, “Well…yeah. I guess I am.”
Good answer. The guy left taking the car with him. A few days later I was up on a ladder on my shed stringing prayer flags a Tibetan friend had sent from Seattle. I heard a compressor over at Dave’s. The stocky guy and two other men were inflating the tires on Roman’s terrarium car. Then they were trying to start the poor thing. It coughed to life. My wife told me later that one of the men had asked, “When did you say he’s going to come back for it?” Apparently it was going to his place. Too bad for him. Looking like there won’t be a cruise ship season, in 2021 so we’re not expecting Don Roman.
Maybe it’s Karma. Dave’s yard is looking good.