Nominate Your Favorite Complainer

At least once every other month there’s some municipality that sees fit to bust a front yard vegetable garden. Last month some Quebec officials ordered the immaculate kitchen garden, pictured above, removed. You can sign a petition to save this garden here.

So what sane city official or neighbor would complain about this beautiful garden? It’s a complaint so outrageous, that it attains a kind of athleticism. Joking with some friends last weekend, we came up with the idea of creating an complaint competition patterned after the Olympics. People would complain and then a panel of judges would hold up signs, just like, say, diving or gymnastics.

The truth, of course, is that most complainers are lonely, clinically depressed people seeking attention. Or perhaps bureaucrats justifying their jobs in a recession. So the competition might give our complaint athletes just what they want: to be noticed.

But on this blog, a yearly complaint competition would give us a way to organize and round up the most outrageous complaints. With urban homesteading activities on the rise there will certainly be more of these unfortunate situations.

My personal favorite world champion complainers are the folks in one West Los Angeles neighborhood who successfully delayed a much needed light rail line for 20 years. Or the mayor of Toronto who is busy ripping up bike lanes. Or the countless folks who have complained about vegetable gardens, chickens, bees etc. 

Do you have a favorite complainer who should be nominated to participate in our complaint competition?  Comments!

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  1. My personal favorite was the neighbor in my condominium who called at 8pm on a Saturday when my friends were singing me “Happy Birthday” to ask when we’d be through. He didn’t actually call the police that night, but he did on another occasion, so my friends think of him as “the person who calls the police when people sing happy birthday”.

  2. lol that West LA neighborhood is probably the one I’m from. Beverly Hills High which is a bit east of me didn’t want the rail to run under the school (not sure WHY not) while my specific neighborhood has legitimate traffic and children safety concerns. To give some perspective: the rail runs literally adjacent to our local elementary school. While I’m sure light rails have a great safety history (asides from occasional cars that stop in front of the train for whatever reason), parents will of course be very concerned about children’s safety, since our neighborhood is home to a lot of young families. Westwood gets horribly backed up as it is, with everyone heading north up to UCLA/Wilshire. Quite frankly it’s not that we didn’t want the light rail – we wanted it built to go underground in that specific area (just one or two measly blocks). It was also a shame that the abandoned railroads behind our street was to get developed in this way, it would’ve made a really beautiful park. People walked their dogs there and people hiked etc. With all the suburban sprawl it was the last place here where if you stood in the middle of it, it felt like you were far away from the concrete jungle. It would grow wild with waist high grass and wildflowers. I had a lot of fond memories there.

  3. I think a large portion of complaints are racially motivated. I know in at least 2 of the 4-5 garden complaint stories, the garden owner was black. In my neighborhood, people have complained to the city about my hispanic neighbors’ chickens, but not about my chickens (I’m white). I’ve seen people use racial code words like “ghetto” to describe gardens. One of my neighbors said “If they have chickens, what’s next, a taco stand?” So I think there are deeper issues there.

    • Ugh that’s awful. Some friends of mine kind of jokingly say that whenever they see a front yard garden, the owners are probably asian. Being asian myself and with a front yard garden, I’m not sure if it’s cultural or not but it seems that a lot of American folks I know that love gardening, love to do so out of public sight (or very discreetly – an “ornamental” artichoke or chard in strategic spots). I have a neighbor across the way who has a gorgeous backyard vege garden, but her husband forbids anything edible in the front yard. My friends also have an amazing back yard with lovely edible and ornamental landscaping, but the front yard is ornamental only. It seems that any kind of veggie garden in the front yard is seriously offensive for some reason. Why is that? To just keep up appearances? I don’t know of many front yard gardens in West L.A., but the ones I have seen were definitely tended by asian folks so I guess we’re fitting the stereotype. :/

  4. I’d like to nominate the folks on Cape Cod who delayed the “Cape Wind” wind farm for years because the specks on the horizon would “ruin the view” from their waterfront mansions.

  5. Can I nominate my neighbor, who I have named “Grumpy Old Woman Who Hates Everything”? Last summer, she called me up out of the blue (usually she stoically ignores me even when I am a few feet in front of her saying hello) and started screaming about rats. Apparently, because I garden and use straw as mulch, I was causing mythical rats to move into her garage. Far away from my garden. Instead of allowing me to work with her (by calling a rat guy to take a look and see if she did have rats–at my expense, mind you), she chose to go to the town board and complain off the published agenda. Then she started a smear campaign at any local group/event she attended, claiming I was dumping garbage in her yard and breeding rats to release in her garage. (She’s a little nuts, did you catch that?) Meanwhile, I hired a rat guy to come to my place and do a physical examination of the property & house, write a nice $150 report confirming that there were no rodents of any size and that I was following recommended pest deterrent procedures with food, etc., for the hens I keep; and I also harassed the county ag agent to come out and write a similar report for free. I sent copies of both reports to her, the town mayor, and the entire town board, with a letter asking her to please stop her false complaints or I would have to contact my lawyer. Surprisingly, the mayor responded by going to her house and telling her to knock it off…and now she is back to ignoring me. Mostly. This year, she was spreading a rumor that I was buying a horse, a cow, and multiple goats to keep on my 1/4 acre backyard “farmlette”. Not sure where I was going to put them, but it sure would have made things extra exciting around here.

    • Hey Chris–what a pain. Despite my levity in this post, I realize neighbors like this can be a huge drain–financially and emotionally. Good luck to you.

  6. The racial aspect reminds me of this article,
    “And the racial stigma against buses lingers even in lines that have not yet been built and boarded. When a new bus route was charted through a white Tempe, Arizona, neighborhood a few years ago, neighbors complained that the line would attract serial killers and child rapists. Also: ‘bums,’ ‘drunks,’ and “Mexicans, ‘who the commentators feared would soon be “drinking out of our water hoses.'”
    I wish people could hear themselves 🙁

  7. I’m a huge fan of the blog and enjoyed both of your books. I just wanted to say that I was a little disheartened to see your comment about complainers being “clinically depressed.” As someone who’s struggled with depression most of my life, it’s sad to see that other people still think of mental illness in these terms. I get the point you were trying to make, but that’s partly what makes it so upsetting when you tag on a label like “depressed.” I don’t want to belabor the point, I just thought I’d bring it to your attention.

    • I have also suffered from depression most of my life and think you’re being overly sensitive.

    • I didn’t mean to suggest that all people who are depressed are complainers. Rather, that I think a lot of the people who are terminal neighborhood complainers may be suffering from some sort of diagnosable mental illness–perhaps depression, but I”m not a psychologist. At the very least they are disconnected from their communities and from their neighbors–so this may be a manifestation of a kind of broader, social depression–a illness not of individuals, but of society as a whole.

  8. I’m going to nominate the officious busy-body code enforcement department of Campbell, CA (a suburb of San Jose, CA) for harassing local beekeepers and forcing them under threat of fines to relocate their hives outside of Campbell. Yet they drive by yards with knee-high weeds that are neighborhood aesthetic eyesores and apparently say and do nothing to the owner’s of those properties. Way to go Code Enforcement Campbell, CA; you are upholding the stereotype of “useless bureaucrats” nicely.

  9. I’d like to nominate my local HOA, for making me wash the “moss” (actually a few really interesting lichens) off of my wooden mailbox post. I’m waiting for them to complain about the real moss growing on the trunks of trees in my yard. Get a life, people!

  10. I really wanted to sign this petition, but it won’t let me unless I log in using Facebook. I have run into this problem several times now and it is really bothering me. Why must I participate in crappy fb to sign a petition??

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