Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: We live in a townhouse development. The house adjoining ours is owned by a retired man (who lives nearby) and is occupied by his son and the son’s family. They are not the worst neighbors possible, but they seem to be very heedless of how their actions affect others. There are small things, like they leave their recycling bins on the sidewalk and let their dog out unleashed — and a few bigger things, such as the time the son was working on his car in the garage with an open can of kerosene and a lit cigarette in his mouth. We’ve reported them more than once to the homeowners association. The owner (their father) should be aware of the rules, but he apparently is not. Recently, their younger daughter left to live abroad for several months. My neighbors are storing her car here, occasionally driving it. There are already three cars in their household; they park one in the driveway and park the other two in “visitor parking” across the street (they don’t use their garage). Now, they’ve added the daughter’s car as well, taking up three spaces in a limited area. This past weekend, the wife told me that a member of the association’s board had contacted them to discuss the car storage situation (she implied that she knew we had complained about it). She was defensive, stating that they have been driving the car so, technically, it’s not “being stored.” She caught me off guard so I basically said, “OK, fine,” but I wanted to say, “That’s not the point!” I plan to disengage and only report serious incidents (and there have been some doozies), but it galls me that, as tenants, they feel they can just cavalierly disregard the rules. Any advice on how to handle future incidents? — Beleaguered Neighbor
DEAR NEIGHBOR: The owner of this townhouse (the father, who lives nearby) has a responsibility to make sure his tenants abide by the rules of your homeowners association. If this family is taking up three visitor parking spaces full time, and if visitors have to cruise the streets — then that seems like a pretty big violation.
The rules are there so that everyone in the association can enjoy their homes to the maximum degree without having to police and confront each other. Where I live, an owner can be fined for repeated violations.
The association should notify the owner and the tenants each time there is a complaint. Their house adjoins with yours, so their choices have an impact on you. Yes, some disengaging on your part might help you, but your neighbors should also comply with the rules — just like everybody else.
DEAR AMY: I find it really annoying when I say “thank you” to someone and receive a response of “no problem.” A couple of times I’ve responded with “I wasn’t apologizing,” which was met with blank stares. This seems to come primarily from young people. What’s happened to the gracious replies of “you’re welcome,” “my pleasure” or even “and thank you?” I’m always surprised when I hear that. Do you have a suggestion of how I can kindly correct this? It’s just not in my DNA to stop thanking people. — Appreciative Out West
DEAR APPRECIATIVE: Several years ago, I published a similar “no problem” complaint in this space and at the time I didn’t have a problem with “no problem.” But now that “no problem” seems to have completely replaced “you’re welcome,” I find I do have a problem with “no problem.” It seems like a non-sequitur.
And yet — I don’t like the idea of correcting strangers who are, after all, politely acknowledging something. It might be best to see this as another example of how our language shifts and changes through time. “No problem” is “You’re welcome” in modernspeak. You and I will probably continue to say “You’re welcome,” but we should accept that others don’t.
DEAR AMY: I take issue with your statement to “Conflicted” that 23 is too young to have a baby. My wife was 20 when we had the first of our nine children and life has been fine. You could have taken the position that she should not have children now because she is falling out of love with her boyfriend. — Tim
DEAR TIM: In my answer to “Conflicted,” I said she was “too young and immature to be a parent.” Emphasis on the “immature” part. Age does not convey maturity, as you no doubt know.