He waved a clipboard. Not a good sign. Magazine sales? Dear God, no. Petition? As it turned out, yes.
"Say, I'm the property owner at Number and Street. I'm collecting signatures to present to Snotty Suburb Town Planning Commission for a small increase in the size of the house I'm planning to build. Your wife/husband told me to come back."
Mental note to thank my wife/husband for that, I thought. By now I had my house key in my hand. I'd heard about this guy. He bought the property up the street a year or so ago, knowing it was zoned for a house of microscopic size. Went ahead and laid down the foundation for a place half again as large, probably thinking no one would notice.
Foolish, foolish fellow. As if no one would notice! In a suburb where the Planning Commission told one of our neighbors that he couldn't have a garden bench on his front porch -- when, and this is what makes it particularly rich -- his entire yard is surrounded by a tasteful wooden 6' fence. You can't even see his house from the road. But the Planning Commission sees all. Sort of like that giant eyeball in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
I know someone whose spouse was on the Snotty Suburb Planning Commission. One of the resident Academy Award-winning actors introduced their bad self to the Planning Commission member, who looked coldly at the extended hand before nodding and turning away. Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not much of one.
Our heavy-lifting yard guy (the one we call when the job is beyond something I can do) gets it -- he's worked Snotty Suburb for years. I wanted him to pour concrete between the railroad ties of a seldom-used set of steps up one side of our property. He stashed the unopened bags of concrete behind an azalea that dominates the side yard and mixed the stuff in small batches using a hose snaked through the laundry-room window. At the end of the first day, I checked out the job he'd done.
"Thanks," I said, gesturing at the covert mixing operation.
"I work this neighborhood a lot," he told me.
Back to Mr. Clipboard. He'd crossed the street and was now standing in a pool of golden light from the single streetlight, arm extended for me to take the pen. Not on your tintype, buster.
"Look," I said to him. "See that door? I have no idea what is going on behind it; I've been gone all day." (My suit might've tipped him off that I was just getting home from work, but if nothing else, Snotty Suburbanites in a Snit are consistent about not seeing any viewpoint but their own.) "I'm going in. If my wife/husband wants to come out, that's up to them. Good night." And I went in, shutting the door behind me.
Don't know how long he stood out there. I do know that's one guy who severely underestimated the Snotty Suburb Planning Commission -- and his house ain't getting approved for enlargement. If he builds it anyway, they'll make him tear it down. And there's a legal precedent -- because it's happened a couple of times.