I live in a Spanish style home in a decent neighborhood. I feel safe enough at night that I sleep with the bedroom window open. Sometimes I wake up to a breeze. Sometimes I wake up to the neighbor’s dog barking. Sometimes I wake up to the smell of rain. I love the smell of rain, especially in the morning. It reminds me of being a kid and sleeping in a house with married parents; a feeling of being whole and safe.
This was one of those rainy mornings. I gripped the covers tighter and snuggled into the pillow a bit more. My body became more dense and I sunk into the bed.
The rain called to me. I stood at the window and watched it fall onto the tree. I love hearing the rain hit the leaves over and over and I love watching the leaves rise in defiance again and again. I love the sound of rain gathering on the roof and racing through the gutters toward freedom like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemtion.
I love the sight of the grass being watered by automatic sprinklers. Wait… What? Why are the lawn sprinklers coming on if it’s raining? The automatic timer. That’s just stupid. Wait. If I think it’s stupid, what are the neighbor’s going to think? Great, the neighbors are going to think I’m the idiot neighbor who waters his lawn in the rain and they’ll think that because, right now, I am the idiot neighbor watering his lawn in the rain.
I put my robe on and went to the back door to find a neighbor already staring at me from his yard. He shook his head and before I could plead my case, he closed his door. I hate that he’ll have the upper hand in all stare downs until I catch him doing something as stupid or stupider than watering your lawn in the rain. He probably went outside to turn his off. Preemptive strike, no doubt.
It’s then that I realize, I have no idea how to turn it off. Not one clue. Don’t even know where to begin. I imagine there’s a big red lever on the side of the house labeled, “PULL THIS LEVER TO TURN OFF SPRINKLERS IN THE RAIN.” I go look, but there’s no lever. It was a rookie move on my part, and I’m sure he saw that, too.
I was doing so well in the neighborhood as being the guy with all the answers and remarkable abilities. I helped the lady next door with some wires, the man across the street with some brush and assembled so many things in the backyard for my kids; I could accomplish any domestic task. But now, light has been cast on a kink in my armor… sprinkler systems. I could feel my neighborhood reputation shifting beneath me.
I imagined my neighbors would huddle together the next day, occasionally looking over their shoulders at me with disgust, whispering to each other and I’d only be able to pick up on hurtful words and phrases, “… sprinkler system … Chris … doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing … mountebank … “.
I feel a tiny presence approach.
“What’s going on, dad?” my 6-year-old asks.
“Nothing. Do you want some breakfast?”
He doesn’t answer, only follows me to the front door. I open it to look outside.
The neighbor across the street was already looking at me, shaking his head.
My son waves to him and yells, “Hi!” then he looks to me, “Why is the water on, dad? Dad? Did you know the water is on? It’s raining, dad.”
“I know, son. I know.”
Before I shut the door, I yell my excuse to the neighbor, “I’m renting! Not my house! I don’t control this! The gardener – ” I shut the door before I finish my sentence. Why do I care what anyone thinks? If I want to water my lawn in the rain, I’ll water my lawn in the rain.
“This isn’t our house, dad?”
“It is our house, son.”
“Then why did you say this wasn’t your house?”
“Because it’s not MY house, it’s OUR house.”
“We share it?”
“Yes, son. We do.”
“Our water is on, dad.”
“I know. I don’t know how to turn it off.”
We sat and had breakfast. The sprinklers turned off. The sun came out.
I heard sprinklers come on again. I went to the back door. It was my neighbor’s yard. Ha! I don’t know what’s worse, watering your lawn while it’s raining or watering it right after. He came out and I shook my head at him. It feels even. He bent down, fiddled with something behind his bush and turned his sprinklers off. He shook his head right back and smirked, knowing that he’d won. But wait… look at that! He tripped on the steps; even had to put one hand on the ground. Looks like I win. He steps inside his house but left his dignity on the back steps. “Straighten out your pajamas all you want and don’t look back because I saw everything,” is what I thought.
I imagined calling 9-1-1 and reporting the accident. The fire department would show up at his door, “We heard someone fell.”
“No, it was just a little slip. I’m fine.”
“Well, sir, we heard there was a lot of crying and moaning. Mostly crying by a grown man. Like a six-month-old-baby-girl cry and we’re here to apply this band-aid.”
“I wasn’t crying and I don’t need a band-aid.”
I would show up unannounced, “I saw the whole thing. He fell, started to cry then laid there until just now when you guys showed up. Could be in shock right now. I’d say it’s pretty serious. You better take him to the emergency room.” And away they would go.
I’d have the upper hand forever.