The zombies want through this gate!!!
March 9, 2011 5:53 PM   Subscribe

We just bought our dream home and moved in the end of last month. Now I'm already having an issue with the neighbor regarding a gate. Long details inside...

Our house is one of five homes built on an alley next to a park. The park is small and everyone in the neighborhood has a key to get into the gate which opens to the back of the park. My husband and I noticed the gate was chained up with the lock on the chain the first night we accessed it.

This week I've been accessing the park each morning to meet my carpooler to work at the front of the park. I've been doing my best to rechain the gate as it was, but I guess it wasn't up to standards because this morning waiting by the gate was the renter of one of the homes. He was very confrontational and asked me what I was doing, where I came from, etc. He then starting saying how the gate wasn't properly locked up and people had been trying to get into the neighborhood and he, quote, almost shot a man a couple nights ago because of it. He really freaked me out and went into more elaborate tales of all the hordes of criminals trying to get through the gate and how he had family and leaving the gate not chained up tight was putting everyone at risk.

I don't know how to respond to this. The fence to the park separating our alley from the park isn't even high and criminals could easily jump it. Furthermore looking up past crime in the area the last six months brings up nothing. I was latching the gate and rechaining it and I feel like this guy is just being a huge jerk but he also has me freaked out. His claims seemed a bit outlandish for the neighborhood.

I've asked my carpooler to meet me somewhere else so I don't have to use the gate but this has been bothering me all day. The previous owners of the house said one of our other neighbors has had issues with this same renter but didn't go into details.

Mefites how would you handle this situation? I feel like I can't use the gate anymore to the park and I also feel freaked out by this neighbor that feels the need to be a gate bully. He was confrontational and even a little accusatory and I didn't like it one bit.
posted by rainygrl716 to Home & Garden (36 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh yeah and now I'm having anxiety about the crime too. He has me pretty wound up!
posted by rainygrl716 at 5:57 PM on March 9, 2011

Wars have been started over less between neighbors. Apologize profusely, kiss his ass, and let this petty tyrant have his win. Yeah, it sucks, but having a little shit like this going out of his way to find things to harass you about is worse. A little honey may go a long way towards keeping this guy off your case.
posted by Ys at 5:58 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would ignore him. I mean, you should do your best to re-lock the gate each time because, regardless of the real risk involved in leaving it open, there's just no point in not locking it up. But this guy sounds like a bully. Ignore him, but if he continues to be a problem (showing up every morning, giving you crap, talking about his guns), I don't think it would be out of line to call the police.
posted by phunniemee at 5:58 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Stand your ground, or you'll lose it.
Keep using the gate. You're an owner. You're entitled to it.
Remember also that you want to manage the relationship,
as if it is difficult, you will have to disclose it when you sell
(like the previous owner did with you).

Find out who he's renting from, and report to them the statement
"almost shot someone". Use certified mail, so you can verify delivery.
People pay attention to that.

Nobody wants a dangerous renter.
posted by the Real Dan at 6:04 PM on March 9, 2011 [13 favorites]

1. Congrats on the hosue. Very cool.

2. You neighbour is full of shit, and a paranoid crackpot to boot. There no hordes of zombie vampire criminals waiting to storm your homes.

3. Keep the peace by apologising. Do whatever you want - use and lock the gate when you're done as per normal - you live there too and that's your right. Forget about your neighbour, because he's not worth your mental energy.

4. If he gives you any trouble, complain to the relevant real estate agent. But you should try and keep the peace, if you can. That's doesn't mean that you should let him bully you.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:08 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

Write down times and details of your interactions with him.

Call his landlord and explain that his renter's behavior is unacceptable and threatening. It's the landlord's problem.

Personally, I would also call the city (probably code enforcement) and ask whether a private lock on a gate that separates what I assume is a public alley from a public park is remotely legal. (If it's either a private alley or a private park, I take it back.)

This all sounds like a speedy train to crazy town, frankly. Criminals aren't accessing your neighborhood through the park unless there's 16-foot fence around the rest of the neighborhood. (And even then, your local petty criminals are likely neighborhood teenaged hooligans who already live inside the 16-foot fence.)

I'd be upset too. Confrontations with crazy people always get me wound up and upset for ages.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:15 PM on March 9, 2011 [19 favorites]

You might check (call the parks department) to see if such a chain is even legal. Assuming that the alley is a public right of way, there are more than five households that have a right to access the park through that entrance. Then the parks department can come and cut the chain off and can bear the brunt of his wrath. If he goes really crazy, they have radios to call for police support. If it is the type of park that has rangers, a ranger would most likely cut the chain, which is even better.

If you are in a gated community or on a private road, having such a crazy-pants neighbor is really annoying.

Perhaps there is a way that, for a nominal investment, you could just put an auto-locker and a self-closing spring on the gate? Then you can avoid the issue of doing it "right." The gate will always lock correctly, and more securely and more easily than a chain. Your local big box home store will have half an aisle of gate accessories for you to choose from, and probably for less than 100 bucks.
posted by rockindata at 6:18 PM on March 9, 2011 [6 favorites]

Your neighbour sounds like he is Crazy with a Capital C. Talk to the people who own the house.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:19 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would pick my battles here. I think there is definitely something to be said for not giving ground, but fighting crazy with crazy is really tough to do, especially if he is really crazy.

I would definitely look into contacting the owners of the house and getting to know them as well as finding out whether the chain to the gate is legal. I would definitely bring it up at the next neighborhood meeting as well.
posted by TheBones at 6:40 PM on March 9, 2011

Maybe I am a wimp but unless I had been really excited about the park and it was a substantial part of what I liked about my new house, then I would be inclined to just avoid it and him for the time being so that I could enjoy my new home without being stressed out by a crazy, mean neighbor. Then maybe in a couple of weeks/months I might start using the park again--maybe he just had a bad day and he is not usually such an aggressive loon. If he went nuts again, I would apologize and back away slowly. If he was threatening then I would look into taking it up with his landlord/the police/whoever.

It is, of course, totally your right to use the park and ideally you should absolutely be able to use it without being harassed by him. However, I think that sometimes it is okay to accept that while you are totally in the right, and the other person is totally in the wrong, the stress and anxiety that it will cause you to stand your ground against them is just not worth it.

Oh, and if your neighborhood is rife with criminals but only of the variety that won't bother to hop a fence then they hardly sound too menacing. And that is coming from me, the uber passive wimp. :)
posted by pie_seven at 6:41 PM on March 9, 2011

Assuming you decide to keep the peace, what if you asked him to show you the "proper" way to lock the gate? (Yes, you'd be playing along with him, but maybe it would get him off your back and allow you to feel more comfortable using the gate.)
posted by lucysparrow at 7:08 PM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would say, "thanks for the tip dude! You're right you never can be too careful!" and a nice smile.

And then I would lock the gate if i remembered and if I forgot, no biggie. And if he confronted me again I would say, "I lock it tight every day after our chat, I have no idea who could have forgotten. Well, I guess a criminal could jump the gate if they really wanted to anyway, but I'll keep an eye and let you know if I see anyone using it and not locking it!"

And I would never think of this weirdo again. Good fences make good neighbours and all that jazz, but also just telling this dude whatever it is he wants to hear is only gonna effect you for the thirty seconds it takes to have a "conversation" with him. Disagreeing with him could take a lot longer.

Trust me, I'm on the exec committee for my apartment building. Oftentimes the easiest course of action is letting a baby have their bottle, and keep doing whatever you were doing. These people spend 3/4s of their time off the planet anyway; they'll enter the collective fantasy willingly.
posted by smoke at 7:13 PM on March 9, 2011 [17 favorites]

I was about to say virtually the same thing as smoke just said above. Just yes him to death while ignoring him. If that doesn't work, then I would play into him even more. "You mean there are hordes of hooligans out to get us? Yeah we should lock the gate, but stay right here while I call the cops so you can report it and explain the situation to them." He will either prove he is crazy or back down.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:17 PM on March 9, 2011

Write down times and details of your interactions with him.

This. Whatever route you take with this guy and the gate, there's a chance that he's nuts and the bullying would continue or escalate. If that does happen, you'll be very glad you have clear, detailed records to give the police to build your case that he has been bullying and harassing you.

Also, I think you are putting this on yourself too swiftly. It's easy for you and for him to assume that you messed up the chain because you're new, but unless you remember doing it wrong then it could have been anyone. Just chalk it up to him being full-bore crazy and be careful interacting with him in the future.

posted by Tehhund at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2011

You looked up the crime stats, and they're low, so I'd just let it go. In my experience, "be very careful: this city / neighborhood / world is full of dangerous criminals" is the most common delusion ever. Could fear of crime kill you?? Story at 11.
posted by salvia at 7:52 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This dispute is rooted in a bad assumption on the whacko neighbor's part that he's gotten you to buy into because of how forceful he was with the accusation. Namely, that you're the one who didn't close the gate properly.

He sees you in the park, and doesn't recognize you because you are new to the neighborhood. He becomes suspicious of you because of this, and confronts you about it, but because you have a legitimate reason for being there, he has to channel his irrational hostility elsewhere, and accuses you of not having locked the gate.

If he's uber-paranoid about people getting into the park, you can take that as an indication that this is an issue that has been occurring for awhile, since before you moved in. This means that it's some other neighbor or neighbors who are leaving it open. That's if he isn't making it up.

If you're unlocking it in the morning, and he almost shot someone at night like he said, do you REALLY think the gate would have stayed unlocked all day, with none of your neighbors going through the park and locking it?

If he confronts you again, tell him you always lock the gate properly. You can say this confidently, because you DO always lock the gate properly!
posted by alphanerd at 7:57 PM on March 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could try the Cognitive Bhavior Therapy approach discussed on MeFi
as a response to Internet trolls.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 PM on March 9, 2011

I would not apologize, because that sounds like giving in to a bully and letting him know that he got to you. Remember that he really doesn't have a leg to stand on: a) you know you locked the gate, so he has nothing on you; b) there is no crime wave in your neighborhood; c) even if there were a crime wave, the gate would not be critical to stopping it—criminals could jump the fence; and d) since he represents only 1/5 of the households with collective responsibility for the gate, his sense of ownership—his sense that he has a right to dictate precisely how the gate should be locked, and everybody else has to do it his way—is a tad overblown.

But I wouldn't say any of this to him. As other people have pointed out upthread, getting into an argument with this guy is not a good idea.

I would look for a way to "yes" him without going negative on yourself. Don't admit (spurious) fault, don't change your routine, and try not to let him get you down.

I would practice saying a phrase like "Yes, we all need to keep our neighborhood safe!"—something that you can agree with and that you'd expect him to agree with. Then if he confronts you again, say the phrase as many times as you need to, in a strong and confident voice. You can be confident—you're saying something everyone agrees with! Say it in an "I totally agree with you" voice even if you follow up by thinking silently "we need to keep our neighborhood safe . . . from violent lunatics like you!"
VIOLENT LOON: I found this gate improperly locked again! Criminals could have gotten in!

RAINYGRL716: Yes, we all need to keep our neighborhood safe! [unlocks chain]

VIOLENT LOON: This is a serious matter! I have a family to protect! Somebody on this block is not taking it seriously!

RAINYGRL716: Yes, we all need to keep our neighborhood safe! [locks chain behind her]

VIOLENT LOON: You're doing it wrong, look at that, somebody could break through!

RAINYGRL716: [without acknowledging the criticism] We all do our best to keep our neighborhood safe! [disappears through the gate and heads off through the park to catch her carpool]
Don't stop for an extended conversation. He doesn't get your sustained attention just because he wants it. Say as many "yeses" as you need to while he's right in your face, but then go about your business as usual.
posted by Orinda at 10:11 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

On second thought, this version might be better:
VIOLENT LOON: I found this gate improperly locked again! Criminals could have gotten in!

RAINYGRL716: Well, thank goodness no one has been hurt! [unlocks chain]

VIOLENT LOON: This is a serious matter! I have a family to protect! Somebody on this block is not taking it seriously!

RAINYGRL716: Well, thank goodness no one has been hurt! [locks chain behind her]

VIOLENT LOON: You're doing it wrong, look at that, somebody could break through!

RAINYGRL716: [without acknowledging the criticism] Well, thank goodness no one has been hurt! [disappears through the gate and heads off through the park to catch her carpool]
posted by Orinda at 10:12 PM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah, and document, document, document. Keep a written log of every interaction you have with this guy.
posted by Orinda at 10:14 PM on March 9, 2011

I would ignore him as the loon he is, but if he approaches you again I'd have a nice new padlock ready at hand and just put it on the gate saying one can never be safe enough hand him one key and you keep the other.. After his head explodes as he tries to figure the logic of it all you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you saved the neighborhood from short statured non-climbing crooks and loonie neighbors.
posted by Gungho at 6:31 AM on March 10, 2011

Response by poster: He did demonstrate how to properly chain up the gate, which ends up being nearly impossible from the park side and I told him I didn't know if I could do it exactly like that to which he said well that's how it has to be. It's hard enough attempting to manipulate a big cumbersome chain and I would leave my home ten minutes early to give myself plenty of time to chain it back up. Thank you all for the feedback. Right I'm meeting my carpooler somewhere else but I have a lot to think about regarding how I ultimately want to handle all this.
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2011

Tell yourself this above all else: Fuck this guy, he's a renter.

Don't engage with him beyond smoke's excellent "give the baby his bottle" advice. Get in touch with the owners- you likely have some kind of Block Association to deal with common park issues, or at least a contact list, right? Talk to them.
posted by mkultra at 7:18 AM on March 10, 2011

Wow, this is verry similiar to my own AskMe from a few months back. I followed the "don't feed the crazy" advice to the letter and although the guy is still annoying, he's no longer confrontational with me. Good luck -- it sucks but you can neutralize it if you take steps now.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:34 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

> Tell yourself this above all else: Fuck this guy, he's a renter.

no. sorry, that is not appropriate. Just because someone rents and does not own does not make them any less or a person than you, or any less of a resident of the community. If an home owner was acting this way to a renter I would expect the same level of respect as Orinda was stating.
posted by zombieApoc at 12:11 PM on March 10, 2011

I'd first go through the town / county / whatever to figure out if the gate is even supposed to be chained. If not, I'd request that the town / park / responsible entity have it removed. If it is allowed to be there, I'd just ignore the guy and if he continued confronting me I'd tell him that if he talks to me again, I'm calling the police and geting a restraining order.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:21 PM on March 10, 2011

Okay... After thinking about this some more, I suggest you post a new question about how to better solve locking the gate in a way that is relatively cheap and easier for everyone involved, with a description and photos of what's in place right now. Approach this guy, and get him on your side. Come up with a few of the best ideas, and ask him which one he thinks is the best one. (This is important to give him a sense of ownership over whatever gets put in place.)

Then talk to your neighbors about it in a tactful way, and see what they say. I suggest you point out that you'd like something that's easier for kids to use, that there may be illicit copies of the key to the current lock out there in the world from tenants who have come and gone, and that not everyone is on the same page right now with the best way to lock it up, and that this is adding unnecessary stress to the neighborhood for starters; you may be able to add to or delete from this list.

Your neighbors will probably be able to read between the lines if you drop this guy's name and say he thinks it's a good idea, and jump at the chance to get him off everyone's back over this issue. This addresses the conflict, gives you a good name with your neighbors, and fixes the safety issue.
posted by alphanerd at 2:27 PM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

zombieApoc: "no. sorry, that is not appropriate. Just because someone rents and does not own does not make them any less or a person than you, or any less of a resident of the community."

Not in this case. I'd even go so far as to say the guy probably shouldn't even be allowed in the park as a renter. Use of the common space is an agreement between the OP and the other owners.
posted by mkultra at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2011

Response by poster: Our alley is private so I don't think the city has any say in locking the gate unfortunately.
posted by rainygrl716 at 5:53 PM on March 10, 2011

What is the point of the gate as it now exists? If you can only lock it easily from the "lane" side, is it only so that you can go into the park and throw a ball around, walk your dog, etc, then go back to the lane? Is this why it is so difficult to lock from the park side? I think he is angry at the fact that you are using the gate as a thoroughfare.

I agree with Alphanerd above. The gate lock should be easily accessible from both sides. Involve your neighbours and get an easier to use lock, maybe put a return on the gate so it closes promptly too.

Crazies thrive in one on one situations where they can intimidate you. Get a group together (your neighbours) and the crazy will generally slink back into his hole!
posted by humpy at 2:02 AM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: I'm going to ask the other neighbors this weekend what's up with the gate and if it really is a problem if I use it. It allows me, someone who walks and buses for transportation, an easy way to access the stores and coffee shop by foot that is by the park. I wouldn't otherwise be able to walk over there. If the rest of the neighbors have an issue, I'm just gonna let the issue drop because it's not worth it. I'm also going to look into alternatives for the huge chain and padlock and see if anyone is interested in the idea of something more secure and less cumbersome. I really am beginning to think the issue is one of control since the gate is closest to his house and his house is directly against the park. I'm trying not to be bummed by this situation, though. Thanks everyone!
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2011

So is it a public park? Does the fence somehow enclose the park or is it something purely along the alley? I have a hard time imagining that such a chain has any business on the fence if it's a public park.
posted by bucko at 10:56 AM on March 11, 2011

I'm assuming this is a private park. No? Is there a non-gated entrance to this park?
posted by mkultra at 12:19 PM on March 11, 2011

I really am beginning to think the issue is one of control since the gate is closest to his house and his house is directly against the park.

The flip side of control is fear, and this guy is giving off a very fearful vibe. He may see the gate as something that makes him vulnerable, since his house is right next to the park, and if criminals are using it, it puts him especially at risk.

I'm bringing this up because seeing him as someone who feels powerless can bring you back to baseline with your own anxiety over the confrontation, and because of its connection to my belief that whatever solution you come up with should be something he supports. If you can see it this way, it will also give you some confidence should you approach him to discuss this. If you direct your efforts toward making him feel safe in future discussions with him, I predict he will be receptive to your point of view.

I'm glad you're talking to your neighbors about this, and I think those conversations will really put this into perspective for you, and hopefully make you some new friends.
posted by alphanerd at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: It's a city park, so yes, it is public. The front of the park is open, no gates, but there are homes along three sides of the park, and our private alley is along one side of the park which has the private entrance. My home touches the very back of the park and walking up our paved alley gets me to the gate, which is close to the fearful renter's house.

I understand he may be speaking from fear, but he was unnecessarily confrontational and outlandish about it. It's bad enough that he was sitting there waiting for me while I was on my way to work, and started off questioning me like I had somehow done something wrong. I'm a young female and don't appreciate that type of indirect hostility directed toward me. My husband told me in jest to just jump over the fence/gate since it would be so easier doing that than messing around with his convoluted chain and lock.

If the other neighbors feel it is a threat to have the gate be used, I'm just going to suggest we do away with it if the city allows it. It seems pointless having a gate that is unusable.
posted by rainygrl716 at 5:06 PM on March 11, 2011

Response by poster: Well my husband went out and talked to renter and another neighbor and now he's working with them to secure the neighborhood from the druggies that I guess hang out in the park and like to trespass into our alley. Renter guy is a little overzealous (he said he had to grab his gun and chase off someone last night too, and he says he does nightly 24 hours a day patrol in the park, whatever that means) but he apologized for possibly scaring me and I guess having someone look put for our alley is nice.

My husband wants to make sure I lock the gate right now too and they as a group are looking into options to make it safer, so all is good now I guess.
posted by rainygrl716 at 6:47 PM on March 11, 2011

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