Last updated: August 23. 2013 6:00PM - 9 Views

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Suggested head: A lesson in the high cost of being neighborly


There are all kinds of chumps in the world and right now, Iím feeling like one.

This time, though, it has nothing to do with a panhandler in a parking lot. It has to do with a very nice young couple who have moved into my neighborhood.

They showed up at my door the other day, having lived in their new digs for all of 20 days. I was thrilled that someone had actually purchased the house. At the same time, I wanted to say, ďAre you two sure youíre old enough to buy property?Ē

Maybe itís that Iím too old and thatís why they looked ďtoo young.Ē

Anyway, they arrived on my doorstep with a story about a tree and some power lines and a tree trimmer that would make us all safe for $150. It was one of those stories that your brain canít quite process, a story that forces you to say, ďRun that by me again.Ē

They told me there was a tree in their yard that posed a danger to the lines that supply power to three homes ó mine, theirs and the one in between. They must have discovered this when crews started trimming trees in our neighborhood on behalf of American Electric Power.

But they soon found out that the tree in back of their house was not eligible for the generic AEP tree trimming. If they wanted that tree trimmed, it would cost $150.

(Note that I didnít say it would cost them $150.)

I didnít doubt their story about the tree being a danger to the power lines. There was a day, a number of years ago, when I woke up to find the power off to part of my house. Try explaining that to people. They tend not to believe you. Either the powerís on or the powerís off. Itís not on and off at the same time.

On that occasion, I inspected the fuse box, flipped some switches and called a friend. He came over and determined that, in fact, I was right. Only part of my house had power. Then he inspected the fuse box and flipped some switches. No luck.

We called an electrician.

The electrician came over and determined all over again that, yes indeed, only part of my house had power. The fuse box was inspected a third time. Then the electrician went outside and started following the power line. He followed it to the end of my property and looked up. There it was: the problem.

It seems a branch on my neighborís tree ó same tree, former neighbor ó had grown around the power line and caused part of it to wear away. We called the power company. A crew arrived to trim the tree and fix the line. Whether the homeowner was charged for that tree trimming, I donít know.

Now, here we were years later, and the new homeowners hoped to prevent a power outage by trimming the tree that threatened the power lines. And they wanted my help. My financial help, that is.

Aha. Now, we come to the chump part of the story.

The young couple at my door rightly noted that if a branch broke off the tree, it could take down the power lines to the three homes. And, because we were all in danger, we could get the tree trimmed for a mere $50 per endangered neighbor.

I was speechless.

It must be nice to be so young and naÔve. I donít remember.

I was torn between rolling out the Welcome Wagon at a cost of $50 or hitting them with a few hard homeowner realities. I wanted to say, ďItís your tree. Itís in your yard. Why would we split the cost of trimming your tree?Ē

It wasnít a communal tree, after all. Only one of us had the right ó and the responsibility ó to trim the stupid tree. And, that wasnít me.

Did I dare get into an argument with these youngsters? Did I really want to ruin their new-home, new-neighborhood experience? They were so earnest and nice and naÔve.

In the end ó Chump Alert, here ó I decided it was worth $50 to keep the peace. I just didnít want to be the crabby neighbor and sour them on the whole homeowner experience.

But it bugs me that I didnít say what I thought. The controlling factor was not ó as the young couple believed ó how many of us were in danger but who owned the tree and who had the obligation to keep it trimmed.

Somewhere along the way, theyíll have to learn that lesson.

On the other hand, they got $50 out of me. Maybe Iím the one who needs to learn a lesson.

Next time my trees need trimming, Iím going to go outside and look up. Then Iím going to follow the power lines to see which of my neighbors might be in jeopardy if my trees come crashing down.

Iím going to knock on their doors, explain the situation and take up a collection.

If that works, Iíll be happy to say, ďLesson learned.Ē

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