Something fishy*

Last week, I visited a site with a typical Hatfield/McCoy story, but like a lot of these, I can’t tell what to think, because I listen to one person and they seem pretty reasonable for a while, and they make the other person sound crazy, but my views switch when I talk to the other one.

In this case, Neighbor A reported that Neighbor B had cleared trees along a salmon stream years ago.  By the time I visited the site last week to bless the location of the plants that the one guy was required to install, they had established a long history of name-calling and general nastiness.

What happened this week is that the complainant who was upset about the clearing is now furious about the planting. 

To make this even weirder, the stream has a tiny island in it, and the shared property line goes right down the middle of the island.  The woman who didn’t want the planting hopped out to the island and plunked down her own potted plants, and paced up and down on her side of the imaginary line, while  his biologist was on other side of the line laying out plants for the other side of the same 6-foot wide island.  Yes, I said 6-feet wide.

After I left, she began contacting the Executive through Facebook several times a day.  Yes, I said through Facebook.   Among her complaints were that Neighbor B needed additional permits from the state for this work. 

My supervisor asked me to call the state to double check on the permits, which seemed to be borrowing trouble, because seriously, he was planting 7 trees on this island, but he’s the boss, so I did.

When I called the woman at the state, she was all, “have you held a public comment period for this?” and “we will surely need to review this one, yada yada yada.”  Which made me want to say, “are you freakin’ nuts?  We are talking about finally, after years of working towards it, getting this guy to plant some native vegetation on this tiny stream reach, and you want us to go through SEPA?”  But I didn’t, I said, let’s meet out there, shall we, and we can look at it together? 

I couldn’t reach the guy who was doing the planting on the phone, so I sent an e-mail saying I’m so sorry this is  contentious and difficult, but the neighbor has raised the issue that a state permit may be required to plant the island, so I’d like to ask that you hold off planting the island until I have a chance to meet with her on Monday, I look forward to helping this go as smoothly as possible, blah di blah blah.

This morning, I stepped away from my desk for a few minutes, and when I returned, had three angry messages from him saying, you know, you really can’t make me stop planting, and I want to see your legal authority to make me stop, and if these trees sit in pots any longer they could die, and I will personally sue you.  And so on.   I know.  So let’s recap, because this is rather confusing, and hopefully not too tedious.

Neighbor A complained about Neighbor B, who did unauthorized clearing along a stream.  The County worked for years to get to point where Neighbor B was willing to plant, which would be the remedy for clearing.  Neighbor A then complained that Neighbor B was going to plant, a 180 departure from where she began.  Neighbor B complained about being told he couldn’t plant, also a complete flip from where he started.  Which, I have to say, is so random and unlikely that it made me, for a few seconds, wonder if there is indeed a god.

To distract myself from the yelling, I created a model, and assigned odds to each component of the story.  Odds that:
Person B clears near stream:  10%
Person A files a complaint:  30%
Person B ultimately agrees to plant:  40%
Person A doesn’t want planting to happen after all: 1%
Person B won’t stop planting after he didn’t want to begin with:  1%
State decides to take jurisdiction on planting 7 native trees:  20%

Based on this highly scientific model, chances are two in a ten million that this would come together the way it did, which makes me strangely glad, because it turns out that I'm not just dealing with the angry freaky people, but rather, I'm part of a miracle.  That, and I think it means tomorrow will be different from today, which is good because when there's so much shooting, there are always people caught in the crossfire, and in this case, I am that people.

Luckily, I only had to work for a few hours, because I took most of the day off to attend a custody mediation session with a friend.  You know things are not going particularly well when you’re like, phew, I get to leave to go attend a mediated custody dispute.  I wasn’t too much help at the custody thing, because sometimes all you can do is be there to witness someone doing their very best in a hard situation, and hand them a Kleenex once in a while so they know they aren’t alone.

This story continues here:


  1. OMG. No wonder you can't sleep.

  2. im with you! I vote for the beers after the fact to ease everything!

  3. I take care of crazy people and even crazier cancers much like your feuding neighbors - always changing course and wearing out those trying to keep up with them. Ah, these jobs we do. I'm for handing a friend a Kleenex - that's what life is all about.

    You could try my approach while dealing with the crazy people: smile beningly while reminding yourself you are getting paid to do this, and will drive away soon. They have to continue living with themselves, and are most likely not being very well compensated.

  4. I love the line and the thought: "it turns out that I'm not just dealing with the angry freaky people, but rather, I'm part of a miracle"!


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