Category Archives: Neighbors

I Thought I Won

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I made a bad mistake over the Super Bowl. My neighbor and I disagree about
virtually everything, from national politics to sports. He is a raving Trumpist who
supported the Patriots. I am a guy from Philly whose father was a plumber but
who struck it big in tech. We live next door and shout (mostly) cheerful insults
over the fence. When he proposed a Super Bowl bet we agreed that the winner
would get to decorate the loser’s yard with signs from the victorious team for a
week. So I marched over Monday morning with a load of green Eagles flags for
his front yard. But after I planted them he surrounded them with a row of
incendiary suggestions about what should be done to the various members of the
team, in ways that I find offensively racist as well as violating the spirit of our
wager. He claims we never detailed what “decorating” entailed. How should I

I Thought I Won

Dear I Thought I Won:

Clearly your neighbor does not like losing any more than did the
Patriots. The Internet was aflame about Brady’s refusal to stay on the
field long enough to let Foles shake his hand. Being a poor loser seems
to be part of the team spirit, no insult intended to the millions of Pats
loyalists who are good sports and practice good sportsmanship, and
with full disclose I too am originally from Philly .

You have two choices: (1) Put a sign on your yard with a big arrow
pointing to your neighbor, explaining the original wager and asking
passers-by what they think of your neighbor’s behavior; or (2) Tell
your neighbor what you think of his serious misinterpretation of the
bet and then remove your signs (which is likely his intent). Either way,
I would avoid doing business with this man, and put your time and
energy to work registering voters to counteract his political views.


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I do a lot of erranding favors for a neighbor who has been
incapacitated by a rare disease. She has a husband but he is busy
taking care of his 98-year- old mother, and I am retired and zip around
town to the gym etc. So several days a week she asks me “If you are
going to the store would you pick me up….” And though I would not go
to the store on my own as often as she asks me, it is impossible to get
to our neighborhood without passing a large market, so I generally
accommodate. She has complained bitterly in the past about people
who judge her illness as a result of her obesity, and has said how she
doesn&'t want to be her husband’s “food police” or have anyone try and
be hers.


But as her health and mobility decline and her treatments do
not seem to be having any kind of turn-around impact, she more and
more often asks me to pick up foods I know are not on her official
regimen. These are cloaked with seemingly legitimate requests, such
as “Avocadoes are on sale. Can you get me four, and so are the giant
bags of chips, so please get me three of those too.” I did it last week
but I am increasingly uncomfortable continuing to enable her. Plus,
every time I go to the “bad” sections of the market, it makes me want
to eat things I am trying to avoid. How can I decline without adding to
her woes?


Dear Schlepper:

Helping the less mobile is good. So is being a good neighbor. But
enabling and violating your personal values is bad, and you shouldn&'t
be put in that situation, especially if it hurts both of you.
Next time you deliver food tell her that you are changing your
schedule and diet and want to stop at the store less frequently. Ask
her to give you one list by early Monday morning, and assume her
hubby will pick up additional items on his way home from caretaking
her mother-in- law.


Tell her that while you understand her views about
“the food police,” you are trying to clean up your own act. Say simply,
I do not want to go into the “bad neighborhoods” of the market
anymore. Explain that you’re happy to bring her all the produce she
wants, but that she should also ask her hubby to be the treat-bearer,
because just being around them make your own choices harder to
support. She will not be happy. But she will get over it. She will almost
certainly test you, and you’ll have to decide where to draw the line.

Prefer More Privacy

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
For years I’ve let my neighbors use our pool/spa facilities, by invite
when we’re home and freely when we go on vacation. We’re about to
take an extended trip and have decided we don’t want so many people
traipsing in and out of our home and grounds while we are gone.
That’s especially true now (compared to the past) because their kids
are teenagers. When I told them that we planned to drain it and lock
everything, they acted like we were grinches. They offered to pay for
maintenance and even rental. How can I say a No that will stick? When
we come back, we’d prefer to see less, not more, of them, but we’d
like good relations.
Prefer More Privacy

Dear More Privacy:
I suspect a No that sticks will stick for a while. The old adage “good
fences make good neighbors” is not always true but in your case a
better sense of boundaries will need to be established. That you’re
leaving will make things easier, because it gives time for the new
regimen to set in. For the short run, say your insurer has made
draining and locking a requirement of continued coverage during a
prolonged absence. Say it’s not an issue of money but of liability and
safety. Also you might consider some signage. Actually speaking to
your insurer might be a good thing to do. You don’t mention whether
you’re using a house sitter or if you have some sort of security service.
Either or both might be relevant.

For the long run, when you get back tell your neighbors you’re going
to invite people over when you’re in the mood for company and for
parties. Also that you’re going to try and lower the volume on visitors.
You can say you’re happy to be neighborly on all other scales of
measurement, but that you need to recalibrate this one. Then invite
them over for supper and a pool party and do your best to find a new


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
For the last ten years my neighbor and I have done food trades. She
used to be an excellent cook, better than I am, though I have
improved a lot over the past few years. This system has worked really
well because I am single but don’t want to bother cutting recipes down
and don’t want to get sick of what I make. Her kids have moved away
so it’s just her and her husband, with a lifetime of habits of cooking for


We generally eat the same types of food, though there are
various things we each like that the other doesn’t. But a portion or two
of soup or casserole during the week that I didn’t have to make myself
has been the perfect solution to workday lunches and dinners. Here’s
the rub: her cooking has declined so much that it’s not only below par
but sometimes just inedible. I don’t know if her husband can tell the
difference. But I can. How can I gently communicate the decline or
extract myself from the arrangement?

Dear Blecch:
You can try to remedy the situation or you can try to extract yourself
completely. It’s a little dicier to try and fix it and then to end it later,
but given that this is a neighbor with whom you clearly have a
friendship and a long-term relationship, it’s worth the try. It’s
definitely a situation where I would not lead with complete honesty or

Invite her for tea and tell her you want to talk recipes and plan what
you eat more consciously. You can plead health reasons or the need to
be on a new food program. But say you’d like to agree on which
recipes you’ll be using because you are trying to stick carefully to
counting [insert as many of these as are true: calories, carbs, sodium,
whatever]. If she says yes, you can hope she follows directions when
she cooks. If she says its too much work, say you want to suspend the
trade until you [lose weight, get your blood test numbers down, etc].


Note: I’d counsel an oblique approach, dealing only with the wife, not
the husband. Unless he approaches you directly to say she has a
serious illness, and he’s worried about her, keep conversations with
him casual and neighborly. If he does say she’s ill, say you’ll cook for
her but you want to diminish any perceived source of stress and that
she should turn off the burners.


Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I’m having some work done at the house. My electrician told me that
he and the utility guy both smelled a very strong odor of pot coming
from my neighbor’s house. Once they told me, I realized it is the smell
I have noticed in the early morning when I get my paper. The
electrician said that he and utility guy were laughing about it and that
he doubted that the utility man would turn my neighbor in. I’m worried
that if I don’t tell my neighbor he will get busted and or that if tell him
he will move (he’s the quietest renter ever). Also that someone
nefarious will try and break in (he was broken into in the fall, though
he said all they took was tools); or worst that someone will think the
smell is coming fro my house. For the record I have never taken
drugs. Even though my neighbor does he is a nice person and a good

Dear Ask/Tell:
Knock on his door. Tell him you want to relay something you were
told. You don’t have to say whether you believe the electrician/utility
man or not (though you might inhale discretely while you stand there).
Explain that you really value him as a neighbor and are completely
indifferent to his personal habits, but less so to the possibility of
violence to persons or property so near to you. It’s not so much a
matter of giving him a chance to explain as it is giving him warning
without him having to explain. Suggest that if there’s a way to quell
the smell he would be wise to do so, or to relocate his indoor garden,
at least for a while.

Tell the electrician (assuming he comes back) that it was a one-time
party, that your neighbor was red-faced with embarrassment at having
been caught, and they you’re pretty sure it’s not a den of drug dealers
next door. Act casual and hope it all blows over like a puff of smoke.