Welcome to the Neighborhood
One of the first things delivered to our mailbox after we moved in was a notice that a sexual predator had moved into the same complex. This week, we got another fun welcoming gift in the mailbox: a plain white envelope, addressed to me, no return address. Inside was a brief rant from one of my neighbors, complaining about us riding our bikes in the grass, and threatening to have us reimburse the Home Owners Association for damage done to the common areas. He or she also included a handy photocopy of the relevant page from the CC&R with key passages highlighted. The author of the note really liked exclamation points!!! and had a mastery of that passive bureacratic voice: "the tracks have been traced to your unit." I really like that last part, the refusal to provide a subject to the sentence, leaving me with the Kafka-esque dilemma of a faceless accuser, tracking my movements.
In a number of other ways, the letter is a sad, suburban parody of the Kafka scene. Some person wants to intimidate me by co-opting the power of anonymity and bureacratic revenge. The letter presents itself as a missive from the system, something that cannot be questioned or even acknowledged. My only valid response is to cease riding my bike across the grass to the bike path. Interestingly, the excessive use of exclamation points actually undercuts the threat of the letter. As I always told my students, the exclamation point is most often a scream of impotency, the viagra sign of literary impotence. It is employed as an insistance of power where none exists. As such, Judy pointed out that we probably don't have to worry about this because anyone who would send an anonymous letter over such a miniscule matter probaby would never actually confront us face-to-face.
Such is our entry into the world of the HOA. I worried about buying property where an elected body typically made up of people with too much time on their hads would govern a sizeable fraction of what we could do with our townhome. On my good days, I saw it as a community bound together by a common interest in providing a pleasant place to live. On the bad days, I imagined it to be like every other group or committee I've ever had the misfortune of joining.