As I mentioned in my last entry, I got this great bonus, bought some equipment and set out to unload the stress monkey from my back. Everything was going great and then in two weeks, it all went south…
We live in a circa 1890 brownstone near downtown St. Paul. The setup is condo units with an upper and lower unit with a basement space for the owners. The basement, although it had a low ceiling, was a good space for a small shop. The bench was already there so I just had to set up the table saw, planer, jointer and miscellaneous other items. I had a real desire to use hand tools too as I see them as therapeutic (they are the antitheses of technology). Everything was going great. I would spend a little time 3 to 4 evenings in the shop during the week. I was making an outfeed table, some jigs, some brackets to go on the rack of my SUV to carry my canoe and the lumber I would be buying. I was a happy woodworker.
Then, one Wednesday evening in June, our neighbor Sunny (she is to sunshine and pleasant disposition as hand tools are to technology) came down to the basement, burst through the door and proceeded to go off on me. F-bombs, irrational comments, and general unneighborly behavior ensued.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did not ‘clear’ the usage of tools in the basement. I should not have to however, it is part of our property. There is already a workbench down there. And, none of the other neighbors (common walls or nearby units) had a problem with it. In fact they thought it pretty neat. They commended me on finding something productive as well as creative to help manage the stress. Comments such as “I love the smell of sawdust!” or “Hey, whatcha makin’ down there?” were what I had been hearing.
Anyway, she proceeded to go nuts for 20 minutes and I just listened to this unbelievable diatribe with the occasional opportunity to get a word of my own in. I finally reached my limit and told her she either needed to leave me alone or calm down and talk about this like an adult. I apologized for her inconvenience and asked why this was an issue all of the sudden. She responded with some lame comment that she thought I was just building some closets. I was astonished. Who buys this kind of equipment to build closets and then lets it sit there…?
I was able to at least get her calmed down enough to explain that I would gladly work out a schedule that worked around hers and also reduced noise but I had no intention of giving up my hobby. I threw out some suggestions. She agreed to give it some thought and get back to me then huffed off.
I stayed out of the basement for a week. I didn’t even go down there to do laundry… I never heard back from her either.
This all happened just before KT’s (my sweetie) birthday and I was smack in the middle of making a jewelry box for her. It was also my first attempt at anything of substance I felt I would be proud to say I made. The birthday was rapidly approaching and I had work to get done! I went back to the shop and was doing some stuff that only required a few trim cuts on the table saw, some drill usage and then some sanding. I even quit working an hour before I normally would just to demonstrate I was taking her issues into consideration. I had just put the tarp back on the saw when she again burst through the door… This time though she was completely over the top! She got right in my face and shouted, “F#$% you, Jeff! Get out of this basement!” She stormed out. Took two steps up up the steps then turned around and stormed back in. She shouted the same thing at me. Get this. She left and came back a THIRD time just to do it again! All this took place in a span of about 10 seconds and then she was gone.
I was so beside myself I couldn’t think. I locked up and then went up to our place to tell KT about the new drama. Apparently, yelling at me was not enough for the neighbor. By the time I got up to our place, she had already gone through her place and then up the stairwell to our front door and was banging on it and yelling at KT through the door.
Do not ask me why we didn’t call the police… I think we were in a state of shock and I honestly didn’t want to aggravate her further. KT was really scared by the door thing and we were both concerned about what she might do next. Never again will I make such a mistake. Hindsight makes me think she probably achieved her goal, in her mind, via intimidation. I wasn’t intimidated. I was damn mad though and was trying to have the ‘cooler head that would prevail’.
The next weeks would prove to be interesting, even ridiculous. Ultimately, she pulled the “I’ll sue” card on the Condo Association board. Funny thing is, she’s on that board.
Rather than listen to my proposal regarding sound abatement measures, the board took the easy route and told me I have to move the equipment by a unanimous vote. Fortunately, they did give me 45 days to try and find a new space. Otherwise I could simply remove the motors and call the equipment ‘stored’. What a bunch of crap.
I searched for some cheap warehouse space but could not find any. Fortunately, KT’s parents are the best and let me set up in some space they don’t use, rent free, on their farm. The problem is it’s 30 miles away. However, any time in the shop is better than no time in the shop. I owe them so much as I am allowed to come and go as I please. They will be receiving a nice set of Adirondack chairs for their summer cabin for starters.
-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN