I once had an upstairs neighbor I'll call Mary Clare. I call her that because that was her name. My Israeli roommate at the time, Zvi, had never met anyone with a name like that before and thought it quite unusual.
Obviously, the feeling was mutual.
Mary Clare was in her early twenties, a recent college graduate and a Catholic school teacher. The only thing that would have made her fit the Catholic school teacher stereotype better was making her 40 years older and a nun. Other than that, she had the whole image down. I once saw her carrying a ruler and quickly put my hands in my pockets. Prior to teaching phonics to third graders, she was a regular princess from a nice western suburb. She was far more suited to living in a full-service, high-rise apartment than in a duplex owned by a near-absentee landlord. Once she found a dead mouse in the basement and left a note on our door letting us know that it was our responsibility to remove it, thereby placing Zvi and me in the role of de facto property managers and bringing the sexual revolution to a screeching halt.
One beautiful summer evening, just after I returned home from work, Mary Clare walked into my apartment through the kitchen door (which she had a tendency to do when her knocks went unanswered). She asked that I join her outside for a moment, which I did in spite of me being halfway through changing out of my work clothes and into my more casual smoking jacket and slippers evening attire. Shortly after following her into the backyard I began to regret not locking the back door as soon as I got home.
The evening before my friend Jared had stopped by with his ninety pound Rottweiler, Syd. As Jared and I enjoyed a beer, Syd made his way about the yard claiming nearly every inch of it for his own. When Syd did his duty, Jared dilligently cleaned it up and threw it in the trash. Well it turns out that Syd was feeling a little tricky, because when Jared and I must have had our backs turned, our slobbering four-legged friend chose to deposit yet another gift on the lawn. Mary Clare found this and was not at all happy.
I calmly explained to Mary Clare that Jared and I had been outside with Syd the entire time and he must have made his mess during a brief instant in which he was out of our sight. Rottweilers are not small, and my yard is not very big, so you can imagine that not seeing the dog for any extended period of time would have been difficult, but I apologized for my indescretion nonetheless. In fact, I let Mary Clare know, Jared was careful to clean up the poo we saw Syd make the first time, so obviously we were both concerned about making sure none was left in the yard to begin with.
Well, now this was another problem Mary Clare had. It turns out that Jared placed the bag of doggy-do in the old metal trash bin that was used for yard refuse...not the old metal trash bin that was used for trash. This was extremely inconsiderate of Jared, and according to Mary Clare, anyone who would do this is evidently an asshole.
Now Jared was a lot of things. More likely than not, Jared was even an asshole. But I wasn't too fond of Mary Clare, or anyone, for that matter, calling a friend of mine she had never met an asshole. Taking the higher road, though, I let it slide.
Once again letting a zen-like calmness surround me, I gently pointed out to Mary Clare that Jared was courteous enough to clean up after his dog and that his mistaking a trash can for, well, a trash can, was an honest mistake. As for the mess that was missed, I took equal responsibility for it and assured her that in the future we would keep a better eye on Syd and his posterior deposits.
Mary Clare would have none of it. Without question she was agitated, and she had no intention of accepting my apology and letting it go. So she continued to rail against Jared ("that asshole"), Syd ("that asshole's dog") and me ("that asshole's friend"). Up to now I had maintained a slight level of sympathy for her position. After all, I doubt I would want to walk barefoot in my backyard only to find a steaming pile of poo in my path. And I suppose that if I were lifting the lid to a trash can used for yard refuse expecting the smell of freshly cut grass only to find a Wal-Mart bag stuffed full of stinking Rottweiler waste I might be a bit offended. But by this point in her tirade, young M.C. had managed to call Jared an asshole nearly a dozen times.
Eventually I asked her to refrain from calling him names. It was not only rude, but entirely uncalled for. She appeared to calm down and asked if she could just have her say. I let her go ahead.
"All I'm saying," she began, "is that it would be nice if when your friend brought his dog over he would clean up after it. Instead, this jackass dumps his dog's poop in the yard bin and leaves more of it on the lawn! What kind of asshole does something like that?"
With that, the conversation ended. No matter how valid her point have been, Mary Clare just couldn't help herself.
Mary Clare has long since moved away. Last I heard she was living in Chicago, probably in a tall building with a doorman that picks up dead mice and reminds other tenants to clean up after their dogs. But I doubt she's stopped calling people assholes just to make her case.
And I equally doubt her case will ever be made.