Recently, local news outlets covered the story of two young girls who were forced to stop selling Girl Scout Cookies in front of their home. Such activities were prohibited by a local ordinance, and a neighbor had complained.
Unreasonable on the part of the neighbor? Most of us think so.
On the other hand, a couple of months ago, my favorite radio morning show hosts got into a discussion of one of the host's neighborhood kids. A neighbor had prohibited the kids in the neighborhood from crossing his property. The man was labeled "unreasonable." The kids had to play somewhere, they said, and they weren't doing any harm.
That's not the point. It's his property. He has the right to say no.
In this instance, I have to take the side of the neighbor. People who don't have children have as many rights legally as those who do. This man is in no way obligated to allow the kids on his property if he doesn't want them there. If one of the kids were injured on the property, you can bet the parents wold be yelling "Sue!" My parents decided against an in-ground pool when I was a kid because our next-door neighbor had made it clear she would sue if one of her kids got hurt in our pool--yet she was angry when Mom and Dad refused to allow them in our above-ground pool. Duh!
I have one child. One adult child. A child who, even when very young, was never a nuisance to our neighbors. I live in an apartment complex, one that's both kid and pet-friendly. It's a nice place. It would be perfect if it were divided into sections: families, party animals, and geezers. The Families section is self-explanatory. Party Animals--if a tenant has a stereo, they would be here. Let 'em drown each other out. The Geezer section would be for retirees and the rest of us who crave peace and quiet.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. I have one neighbor--there's always at least one!--who loves their music so much, they insist upon sharing it with the entire neighborhood.
Don't get me wrong--I do love music. I just don't love theirs. I don't love being forced to listen to it when I'm trying to work, sleep or watch TV. Finally, I have come to understand my mother's battle cry throughout my teen years: "Turn that damn thing down!"
So that's why she bought me those headphones....
Getting back to the kids. We have enough kids in this section to be a problem. No, let me restate that. The kids are not the problem. They're really not bad kids, just unsupervised. Their parents are the problem (God help them if they grow up to be like their mothers). The lack of a decent play area is a problem. With no playground, they end up bringing their soccer ball to the courtyard outside my apartment. It's a small courtyard, so when the ball is being kicked around, broken windows are a real possibility.
I know only one of my neighbors by name, so, to be able to identify the kids to management and police in the event of a broken window, I took a photo of them kicking the ball around the courtyard (I'm sure no one would admit to having broken a window). The kids told their mothers. That's how I met our resident harpies. They were on my doorstep, making complete asses of themselves over a photograph.
One of them started spouting law to me in an attempt to convince me that the kids could play on my doorstep if they wanted. At least I think that's what it was. Her Bosnian accent was so heavy, it was hard to tell. The others were Mexican. It sounded like an agument at the United Nations.
I could have pointed out to her that standard leases include a clause that states no resident is permitted to disturb the rights, comforts or conveniences of other tenants. That clause was explained to me by an attorney when I was preparing a lawsuit against a previous landlord who had become a nuisance to me and to the bank trustee who handled my finances.
Since these women needed things clarified for them, it meant that no, their kids could NOT play on my patio. They could NOT keep hitting my door with their soccer ball.
Recently, property management posted the above sign in the courtyard. I almost threw a party when I saw it! The celebration, however, was short-lived. The kids are still kicking the soccer ball all over the courtyard. Apparently, their mothers can't read....
April 7: A postscript to the Girl Scout Cookie debate. The Freedom Center of Missouri plans to file a lawsuit today, challenging the city's constitutional authority to prohibit the cookie stand. For the full story, click here.