Wrongfully accused, and taking down the whole neighborhood with me

I’ve heard that people tend to mellow as they grow older. I feel like I am doing the opposite of that. I am bellowing.

I’ve always been perceived, I think, as a relatively calm person. My in-laws, for example, who are Italian, have always thought of me as laid back, and seem to be in a perpetual state of apology that I am forced to endure the tempestuous nature of their family in general, their daughter specifically.

Whether or not I was ever truly laid back, I do not feel that way now. There is a high-tide of emotion within me that does not seem to be subsiding, and that gets released thanks to the most minor of things. The circumstances that have caused this—again, assuming I wasn’t always like this—could likely be traced to two young girls who, when they are not destroying everything in their path, affectionately call me Dad. Or, who knows—maybe it’s the result of a slow, imperceptible Italianization of the soul that has happened over time. 

I can’t blame other people for everything, according to several Facebook memes. Still, my current personality is Steven Segal-esque, out for justice for minor slights, real or perceived. I’m on edge, defensive, indignant about everything. What makes matters more interesting is that I often choose to go into battle the best way I know how—by writing—so all of my blown-out-of-proportion complaints have been well-documented. For reference, please see my two-week, work-related, documented fight with the United States Postal Service over $20. Or, better yet, don’t.

Then there was last week. I received a letter from our development, a “courtesy notice” more specifically, kindly informing me in bold lettering, please weed your property. Included in this letter was a photo of our wrongdoing, taken by the development “inspector,” although the evidence was actually a picture of our neighbor’s garbage can.

Obviously, the letter was received in error. For one thing, we had no weeds, something I was absolutely certain of considering I had spent the past several weekends doing very manly property maintenance that included pulling tiny weeds out of the ground and putting together a little playhouse for girls. The letter should have gone to our neighbor informing him to bring his garbage can in from the curb.

One could have assumed, judging from the voracity of my reaction to this clear mistake, that the letter was accusing me of murder. “WHAT? They have got to be kidding me! LIKE I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW!” My wife, of course, shared my righteous anger, and we decided it would be appropriate to react in a way not at all relative to what we had been accused of not doing.

That reaction was a diatribe of an email sent to our development office wherein I not only vehemently denied the non-weeding, but also indicted the entire neighborhood by expressing my indignation that we, of all the houses here, would get such a letter. I was like a crazy person who complains at a town hall meeting about things not even on the agenda. “Why don’t you send a ‘courtesy letter’ to what’s-his-face on the corner, telling him to clean up his ACT?”

I tried to preempt any counter-argument with even more aggressive commentary, inviting the inspector back to my house right now and every day for eternity. It was no doubt the most hyper-aggressive email involving weeds that has ever existed.

It probably took me two hours to write this email—it had to be perfect—and each snarky remark seemed to satisfy my insatiable desire for selfish justice. Hitting “send” sent an ecstatic rush of adrenaline through my body that I imagine people like Susan B. Anthony felt when promoting actual justice.

Ten minutes later I received a response: “Oops! Our bad. We’re training a new inspector and dealing with some hiccups. Everything has been fixed. Have a great day!”

Getting exactly the resolution I was hoping for left me with one remaining, burning question: What the heck is wrong with me?

If the tagline were "but somebody's got to take IN the garbage," I would have fainted.

Note: This column appears in the 3/20 issue of The Glendale Star and the 3/21 issue of the Peoria Times.