Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

People are idiots.

This is the conclusion I have come to recently, as a result of a brouhaha in our neighborhood over political signs. I had originally planned on posting about how, as an adoptive parent of two children, this whole Madonna adoption situation bugs me, but then I realized that I didn't care enough to find out all of the details of the story. I know that this is the internet, and it helps your ranting if you know next to nothing about the topic at hand, but that's not how we roll here at Chez SubJ. Bottom line, a kid who, by all accounts, wouldn't have lived to see his teenage years in his home country, has been given the opportunity to live a "normal" life. In the end, it's hard to be upset about that.

We live in a neighborhood that has, like most neighborhoods, a Homeowners Association. By and large, HOA's bug me, as I don't like other people telling me what I can and can't do with my home, especially considering that I keep most people in relatively low regard. I do, however, recognize them as a necessary evil though, as I'd rather not have my neighbor cut down all of their trees, or paint their house lime green. Our HOA is pretty low key, and for the most part doesn't cause any problems.

Now that it's election time, and we're in the midst of forming a city, campaign signs abound. Some of these signs have found their way into the neighborhood. Not a big deal, or so you would think.

A couple of weeks ago, someone emails a message to the HOA's email list that they had gotten a call about their campaign signs being in violation of the HOA's strict signage rules (I had no idea we had signage rules) but could they keep them up because the sign was for their teenage kid's friends's dad or something and said teenage kid was volunteering for the person running for office. I thought this was an odd request, given that, by asking this, they'd effectively be teaching their kids that it's ok to break the rules, as long as you're doing it in the service of public office. Come to think about it, that's probably not off the mark.

This email then prompted a bunch of responses from people who said that you're allowed to have political signs in your front lawns regardless of HOA rules (not in Georgia, you're not) and others saying that the signs weren't that bad and could they keep them and still others saying that they removed their signs but they want to put them back, so if people are allowed to, please let them know, thanks! There was a common notion that somehow their first amendment rights were being trampled by not being allowed to show support for the candidate for county commissioner, district 4, a notion that irritates me to no end. Upon purchasing a house in our neighorhood, we all entered into an agreement with the HOA that we would follow the covenants of the HOA, or risk action being taken against us. If you want to have a sign, put up your goddamn sign, just don't be surprised if you get fined. Similarly, if you took a job at McDonalds and asked everyone if they wanted any fucking fries with their fucking soda, thank you and have a fucking nice day, you can't say that your first amendment rights have been trampled if you get fired for using foul language. You're free to say whatever you want, you just have to be prepared to pay the penalty. Last I checked, the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a repurcussion free existence.

So these emails go back and forth, until such time where this one dude just unloads on everyone. He's all going off on why can't people be good neighbors and this is ridiculous and he had to be told about people's problems with his signs from his mother!!!!!! That last part I didn't understand, why his mother would be part of the HOA mailing list, but he wasn't. I mean, even if she lived with him, it's still kind of strange. So he basically calls everyone assholes and then vanishes, never to return to the debate again.

Then our fearless HOA leader gets on there, apologizes to everyone, makes some speech about being good neighbors and yay for folks who want to be politically involved and God Bless America and oh, by the way, everyone is free to determine if they want to follow the covenants or not.

Wait. What now?

I read the email a couple of times, as did Linda and we both came away with the same impression, that the president of the HOA basically told us it's ok to say fuck the covenants. Now, for political signage, I could care less what rules you want to follow, but if we go back to our previous lime green example, I'd appreciate it if people follow the goddamned rules. I searched the email for further context thinking that perhaps she meant that people were free to not follow the rules, as long as they didn't mind being fined, or having legal action taken against them, but that sentiment wasn't there. Perhaps she felt it was implied. I mean, technically yes, it's understood that we're all free to go buck wild and do whatever the hell we want at any point, however we still usually tell people not to set things on fire, or kick puppies, or wear white pants after Labor Day. Certainly when the topic of armed robbery comes up with my kids I'm not going to tell them that they're free to steal anything at gunpoint, only to then clarifiy the situation for them once they're in jail. That might be considered bad parenting.

Well, once that got sent, then everyone who had posted about taking signs down before were all asking if they could put the signs back up. They also posted about walking in the morning. They're going to meet by the stop sign at 5:45 AM if you're interested, but bring long sleeves because it's going to be nippy! On the topic of the stop sign, I find it odd that everyone is all up in arms about whether or not they can have political signs in their yards, yet almost everyone in the development runs both of the stop signs we have. Support for their candidate of choice must be more important than not mowing down my kid. Thanks for that.

But I digress. Now, there are more signs in the neighborhood than ever before. I think people are making up candidates just to piss other people off. There's also a request for a signage amendment to be brought up at the next board meeting so folks can vote on it. I usually avoid these meetings like the plague, but I'm tempted to go and be on the anti-sign side, if only to piss people off. I'm funny that way. Saturday we have our annual Halloween parade for the kids and chili cookoff (which I won last year, btw). It should be interesting. I'm hoping that the dude who was all pissed off shows up and starts going to town on all of those restrictive anti-sign motherfrakkers. I may have to mill about the crowd and stir things up. Nothing helps usher in fall like watching suburbanites fight amongst the bratwurst.

In closing, I will leave you with one of the finest bits of lyricism on the topic of signs, by the illustrious Five Man Electrical Band.

And the sign said everybody welcome, come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn't have a penny to pay,
so I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I'm alive and doing fine

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign


Booster MPS said...

I could not agree with you more. Last year I tried to get my HOA to bend on my Auburn Banner being outside my driveway during football season. At the end of the day although it is a small thing, I said fuck it. Fine me. I like my banner. It is not gonna move. If they are that up tight and want to play it literal then I should pay the price. They never fined me....and I took it down after football season.

Greg said...

If I were in your situation, I'd probably put up signs for Ronald McDonald for Congress, or Christopher Walken for President.

MQ said...

Oh, I have missed you SJ! I have yet to experience an HOA, but I am inclined to love them since my neighbors throw garbage between our stairs, let their son vandalize our OTHER neighbors' home, and lets their 16 y.o., 170 lb daughter walk around in miniskirts so short that you can see her stuff when she waddles up the stairs. Are there rules against these things in a HOA?