I try to get along with my neighbors. I really do, but some of my neighbors make it very difficult. One, in particular, a seventeen-year-old boy who dropped out of school a few years ago and still has no job, makes life on Church Street pretty miserable. You see, he likes to ride off-road vehicles, ATVs, four-wheelers, and dirtbikes. I get it, those are fun to ride. I had a dirtbike of my own when I was a kid, and I spent many hours riding trails around my father’s four-acre property outside the town where we lived.
The trouble here is that we are not “outside of town”, we are in the very middle of town, in what could rightly be called a historic neighborhood: the old mill village. The homes here mostly sit less than thirty feet from the street, and the street is little more than an old buckboard wagon road overlaid with a layer of asphalt.
It’s a tight neighborhood. If you have your windows open you can hear every word the neighbors say on their front porch. Many a spring night I have laid awake in bed, forced to listen to the rantings of the boy across the street, or his mother when she visits, basically screaming at the top of their lungs because they have no “inside voice”. And the words they use are generally filled with curses and eff-bombs.
For much of the past few months, I have looked the other way when the boy rides his off-road vehicles, seemingly from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, even in the rain. We had what amounts to a warzone here last summer when the boy’s cousin would bring a large ATV without a muffler over and literally rattle our windows with it. I think the police eventually convinced them not to bring that one back into town.
For a while, the only vehicles being operated were smaller four-wheeler types, fairly quiet, and mostly they rode (there’s a little girl from another house who rides with him most days) in the back of the property, away from the street and my house. This was not a problem. If people want to let their children ride without helmets, as dangerous as that is (a helmet saved my life around that age) it’s not my business.
But recently the boy obtained a loud dirtbike, which, by the way, is so poorly tuned it spews foul exhaust everywhere it goes and will not idle on its own, so the kid has to constantly rev the motor. And he rides it more and more often around the front. Thus far I have looked the other way and said nothing, but next week the weather will turn warm. My wife and I will want to enjoy the porch on the side of our house, or I will want to work in my gardens, which happen to be in the front yard because that’s the only place on our property with full sun.
So here’s the deal. We have a noise ordinance in this town. I have seen it. It applies to noisy dirtbikes in addition to loud stereos and such. It contains provisions for fines and, if that doesn’t work, impoundment of the equipment causing the violation.
I cannot reason with these neighbors of mine; I have tried and failed again and again. It always degenerates into name-calling and passive-aggressive behavior on the part of the oldest adults in the home. I will not attempt to engage them anymore. I have spent the past six months or more looking the other way and ignoring their efforts to get a rise out of me, and all it has gotten me is a slow escalation of their bullshit.
I am a property owner and a taxpayer, and as such, I have a right to enjoy my property as much as the next citizen of Ramseur. I tried to get the board of commissioners to consider an ordinance that would limit the use of ATVs and dirtbikes to properties in town large enough for them not to become such a nuisance, but my efforts were completely ignored.
So while the boy across the street may have the right to ride his motorbikes in his grandmother’s yard, I have an equal right to enjoy my yard without being constantly disturbed by the incessant noise and foul-smelling (not to mention carcinogenic) fumes of those poorly tuned vehicles.
Consider yourselves forewarned neighbors. Beginning sometime next week, and certainly by next weekend, I will begin calling the police to enforce our town’s noise ordinance, because your right to ride that damned bike ends where it infringes on my right to enjoy my home. Keep it behind the house, away from the street, and we’ll not have a problem.