Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grill Drill

Naturally, right on the heels of phone problems came grilling problems. I’ve been noticing lighter fluid fumes coming in my kitchen window the past couple of months, just a little, and I assumed someone was grilling on a nearby deck or rooftop. This past Sunday, it was much stronger, and I ended up with a headache, and then realized someone was performing the heinous act of grilling with charcoal right outside my window, in the trash area shared by our building and the building next door, where it is now illegal to smoke cigarettes.

At first I thought it was the young fellow who most recently moved in, but after sitting with it for a bit, I realized who it had to be: the owner of the building next door, who has not demonstrated much in the way of affability, and who is an extreme pack rat.

In our building, there is an alleyway that leads from the sidewalk to the trash area. The people who pick up the trash walk through it in order to carry out their duties. The building next door has the same feature, but no one walks through it because it is literally filled to the ceiling with stuff. This fellow was grilling about one foot from the wooden side of his building, and just a few feet from the enormous pile of tinder in that alleyway.

It has crossed my mind more than once that the building next door is a firetrap, but I’ve also been living here for 13 years without burning to a crisp, so I haven’t worried about it too much, but if he’s going to grill right there, that amplifies that worry considerably, and Tom felt the same way.

I’d of course drafted a note right away and was going to just drop several copies outside the neighbors' front door, since I hadn’t figured out who the griller was at that point. Once I figured it out, I thought better of the note, since I’m not sure this guy won’t come over and punch me out. (Though Tom said I could put his name on the note along with mine, so maybe it would be one punch for each of us, rather than two for me.)

I called the fire marshal and they said absolutely it is not permitted to grill within ten feet of any structure, so we’re on firm ground there.

I went to sleep last night thinking this all over. Whereas once upon a time, I drafted a note and sent it shortly thereafter, I’m starting to get the hang of waiting, waiting, waiting. This allows some time for the pieces to fall into place, for helpful research, to understand what exactly I hope to achieve, and to make sure that attention is given to the matter not only when I’m angry and anxious, but also when I’m calm and in a good mood. Better ideas are likely to arise in the latter case.

At one point, I was thinking I was not going to start with this guy and that I would just let the fire marshal handle it—they might well like to have a look at that completely blocked exit.

I woke up at 2 a.m. (ugh) and was almost tempted to get online and continue my research, but instead I told myself that that would likely guarantee I would not get any more good minutes of sleep before morning. I told myself it was regrettable that I was wide awake at such an hour, but that this was the exception, not the rule, and that I would undoubtedly enjoy many more fine nights of sleep in the future. I told myself that a good plan of action regarding the grilling would emerge in time, but that the process was still underway.

In short, very different from former procedures.

By early morning, I’d decided that I will actually go ahead with a note, but not a terse and businesslike one, rather a friendly, chatty one that sounds like of course he is a good guy, and I’m a good guy, and Tom is a good guy and of course we all are interested in a favorable outcome. I decided not to assume that he’s a bad guy who will behave poorly.

Then I said metta phrases to myself, and the next thing I knew, my clock was chiming, I had slept, and I remembered three dreams, though not necessarily the world’s best dreams. I called Tom around 7 a.m. and said, “I thought it would be nice to start the day by discussing grilling.”

He said good-naturedly, “Didn’t we end yesterday by discussing grilling?”

“I think it’s nice to start and end every day by discussing grilling,” I said, and read him my latest note. “Very nice!”, he said. I’m going to continue to sit with it, and then I will probably send it off. Now that I know who the griller is, I can just send it directly to him.
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