It turns out that home-owner’s associations are a cultural universal. I just got back from our neighborhood meeting where the following issues were discussed:
- Dogs pooping on other peoples’ lawns. After deliberation, it was decided that a strongly worded letter would be sent to house 22. We all know that little white fluff ball is trouble. It’s time someone took action.
- Teenage hooligans hanging out in the park at night drinking and smoking. The neighborhood park will now close at 7 pm–if you are a teenager and/or a hooligan, that is. Otherwise, you are free to visit the park at any hour.
- People playing their music too loud late at night. Now, don’t misunderstand, the woman bringing up the issue has no problem with the occasional loud birthday party. But loud music until 4 am many nights is excessive. Her solution was to send the guards to the house on behalf of the neighborhood. To which another man responded that perhaps knocking on the door and asking that the music be turned down would be a good first step. It kind of cracks me up that we even have guards to send to the houses of non-compliant neighbors.
- The number of cars parked on the street. Yesterday there were at least four cars parked on one street in such a way that made it difficult for other cars to pass through quickly. Strongly worded notes might be sent to the owners of these cars as well.
- The purchasing of a large sign for the neighborhood entrance. Should it be made out of ceramic? Wood? Some kind of laminate material? Decisions.
- Raising the salary of the guards. This one nearly came to blows. The woman running the meeting, clearly the woman who runs the whole neighborhood, was clearly in favor of a wage increase. She would like us to consider the numerous responsibilities of the guards. Also, she would like us to consider that she has lived in this neighborhood 20 years. The man doesn’t believe in using the guards to reprimand individual residents piped up that he failed to see the relevance of that comment. We all live here now. Also, what are guards in other neighborhoods getting paid? More? Less? Shouldn’t we consider that a wage increase might put an undue burden on many of the neighbors who couldn’t make it to the meeting? At which point Neighborhood Boss rose from her chair and stabbed at the paper in her hand while uttering a long string of very fast Spanish. Someone else jumped in and moved the conversation back to “friendly neighbor” level.
We also discussed painting the playground equipment, installing an intercom system, painting a wall, and installing electricity in the guard station. Little kids ran around the park. A sixteen-year-old came by after an hour or so to see what was taking so long. He wanted his mom to drive him to hang out with friends. We chatted about lightly about jobs, gossipped about neighbors who weren’t in attendance, and sipped coffee.
I followed along with the meeting as best I could with my limited Spanish knowledge, but in the end I was outed. Neighborhood Boss closed out the discussion part of the meeting with a hand wave in my direction. “These girls are from California. And this one doesn’t speak Spanish. We’ll give her the first tamale.” That’s not an exact translation, but there were sympathetic smiles, and then somebody gave me a tamale.