Monday, June 1, 2009

Picking your battles

Gene Gogolak: All right, then, let's see. Basketball hoop and backboard. Portable. Nope, I'm sorry. It's not allowed.
Fox Mulder: You're kidding?
Gene Gogolak: I'm afraid not. Rules are rules. It may not sound like anything — a simple basketball hoop — but from there, it's just a few short steps to spinning daisy reflectors and a bass boat in the driveway.
Mulder: In other words, anarchy.
Gene Gogolak: It may sound tough, but ours is a system that works. That's why The Falls is one of the top-ranked planned communities in all of California. Most of our homeowners have been here since day one.
Mulder: I love the decor here, Mr. Gogolak. Is it, um... Occidental?
Gene Gogolak: Well, it's, uh, Nepalese and Tibetan, mostly. I go there twice a year on business.
Mulder: Oh.
Gene Gogolak: I run Pier 9 Imports. I can get you a great deal on rattan furniture if you're interested. Indoor only. Outdoor use is prohibited by our... CC&Rs. [Ed note: Contracts, Covenants and Restrictions]

-- from “Arcadia” 7-3-99 Season 6 of The X-Files

Somehow, some way, my email got on a listserv many years ago for former Marines. I don’t know what I signed up for or responded to or clicked on that caused this, but it happened. Usually, I’ll take a look at the subject line and delete it as soon as I notice it in my inbox.

Other times, if my interest is sufficiently peaked, I’ll click on it to see what the most recent outrage is, they’re usually post or links to articles about the shabby treatment of veterans in general and Marines and Marine vets in particular.

This link is one of the latter.

The story comes out of Houston and involves Frank Larison, a disabled Marine Vietnam vet, and a disagreement he’s having with his homeowners association. Apparently, someone on the HOA board has taken offense at the seven Marine Corps bumper stickers Larison has plastered on the back of his truck.

Larison’s HOA sent him a letter saying he either has to remove the stickers because they’re advertisements and, therefore, prohibited, or face having his car towed and being fined by the HOA.

Leaving aside matters of taste – seven bumper stickers is a bit much – did whatever genius who made this decision and then sent this letter really think they were going to win this fight? Ferchrissakes, they’re in friggin' Texas! Among the things you don’t mess with in Texas are bluebonnets on the side of the road, the Alamo and disabled vets. Did they really think they guy was going to knuckle under and take the stickers off? Or, more likely, was he going to pick up the phone and call the local TV news?

I should mention, I think HOAs blow great big monkey dicks. I mean, they luuuuv sucking on ‘em. Lots and lots and lots. And maybe even tossin' their salad a bit.

Like PTAs, school boards and other groups of their ilk, in my experience I’ve found they’re usually staffed by rigid, small-minded people with an over-developed sense of their own importance and a fanatical adherence to the rules no matter how petty. The problem is, they often have virtually unlimited power when it comes to regulating the lives of their fellow homeowners and can, in some cases, even foreclose on a person’s home.

This story? This story is a reporter’s dream. First off, it’s easy. Second, it’s got a sympathetic victim. And third, they get to make someone look really, really stupid. I mean monstrously stupid. If this were me in Larison’s position there would have been a sonic boom between me opening the letter and my phone call to the news station (I also would have called the papers too, but that's just me). I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The first rule of the news biz is don't mess with people who buy their ink by the barrel.

What’s going to end up happening here is the HOA is going to drop it and apologize, mainly because just about every other car in the lot has an advertisement-type bumper sticker on its ass end. And then, in about a year, they’re going to go after Larison again for some other reason and look even dumber.

But that’s just the way people like that think.

From Arcadia:

Dana Scully: [fadeout voiceover] "Several residents of The Falls have now come forward to blame the deaths in the neighborhood on Home Owner Association President Gene Gogolak. These same residents deny Agent Mulder's allegation that they were in some sense all responsible for the demise of Gogolak himself, claiming ignorance as to what actually killed him. It would seem the code of silence that hid the sins of this community has not only survived but — in its creator — claimed a final victim. Meanwhile, The Falls at Arcadia has been named one of the top planned communities in California for the sixth year running."


Fearless in Toronto said...

I generally tend not to worry about letters. Unless it says "Statement of Claim" (or whatever the equivalent is in the US to begin an action), it's laughable.

However, I am a big fan of writing my own threatening letters, especially where stupidity abounds. Sometimes being a lawyer is great.

Titania said...

That HOA is going to be SO sorry, it is not even funny. What in the world were they thinking? or better, were they thinking at all? Stupidity is limitless sometimes.

FoggyDew said...

Fearless - Ah yes, the famous curtain incident. We make fun of lawyers (not you, of course) but as a nation of laws we need them.

Titania - But limitless stupidity is also very, very funny.