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Achtung!


I’m not one to use a 1940s German political image lightly. I abhor the over-use of phrases like “Gestapo tactics.” I shudder when pop culture coins a catchy phrase like “soup nazi.” But once in a while, only when appropriate, one has to invoke the Fascist Arian party to accurately describe a governing system so out of control that its abuse of power must be called out in order to protect its inhabitants and preserve the rights of citizens throughout the free world. Unfortunately, that time is now.

As I write this, I have in my hand two letters from our home owners association admonishing and fining us for 1) “Unauthorized river rock” in our front yard, (apparently river rocks are strictly prohibited in our community. Who knew?) and 2) An errant shade sail in our backyard that is only visible from the street if you happen to be sporting 6 inch platforms, craning your neck, and awkwardly peering over our rear fence.

Now I am not against rules per se. I understand that civilized societies use rules and regulations to ensure the safety and sovereignty of their citizens. It’s just that I believe rules should be reserved for things that actually matter; like being kind to your neighbors or returning a lost pet. Both of which my local denizens have failed to do on more than one occasion. The only thing more disturbing to me than these ridiculous wrist-slapping fines is knowing that either someone voluntarily ratted us out over a harmless pile of rocks and a sun-shielding awning, or there is actually a person charged with trolling the neighborhood in search of these types of menial policy violations.

I recognize that times are tough. Far be it for me to criticize anyone for an honest day’s work. But really, if your employment depends upon stalking and reporting your neighbors for inane trivialities, what wont you stoop to next? Why should anyone care what type of rocks pepper my private drive? Surely no thoughtful human being would scout out my shade sail, secretly photograph it and send it off to the HOA Gestapo. (Please note that I am cautiously and deliberately employing this tendentious metaphor.)

Surely there is more that I could say about this matter. But I must go and prepare for my upcoming HOA hearing regarding these vital and pivotal issues. You know, this would actually make a great new reality TV series. Just call it “HOA.” There’d be idiocy, vindictiveness, likely even some violence. That’s every essential for a hit show these days.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

3 responses to “Achtung!

  1. Erynn ⋅

    Mrs. Gettleman, you’re a great writer. I would love to see a post on your blog about what happened to our country on June 28, 2012. The day which I believe America breathed her last.

  2. Tracy

    I work for an HOA and quite frankly I’m over listening to people like you reference the Gestapo and Nazi’s when talking to people like me. When you drove into your community before you bought it I imagine you looked around you and thought “Wow, what a beautiful place to live, everything looks so nice, I’m gonna buy a house here” New flash! There is no such thing as Elves or fairies, they don’t come around the community while everyone sleeps and create that look. Please allow me to believe your not so dilusional that you assume the community looks nice because all the ‘good, responsible’ people flocked there. It looks the way it does because a a series of seamingly unimportant ridiculous rules that, when all put together, create a great living environment that not only enhances your daily living experience but helps your property value, which we could all use in this damaged economy. Also consider the “Gestapo” as you so eloquently put it, work for your Board of Directors that you the homeowner, have a say in electing. You put the Board in control, if you don’t like the way they’re doing it go to a meeting and say something. We don’t make the rules and sometimes we agree, there are some that don’t make any sense at all, our job is to enforce them to ensure the community looks like the one that drove you to buy your home in the first place. I live in an HOA, I think some of our rules are dumb but you know what? I signed the same agreement you did when I bought my house, to follow the Guidelines and CC&Rs of the community so I suck it up and follow them, I have options as do you, move to a place that doesn’t have rules, when you do I look forward to seeing the next article about your neighbors front yard looks like a mechanics lot and the pepto pink paint job.

    • gettrich

      Wow! I have to say I appreciate your passion and commitment to your job. As far as I’m concerned, I was a much different person 12 years ago when we stumbled onto this empty lot and decided to build here. I didn’t fall in love with a bunch of finely manicured lawns or frightfully similar houses all lined up next to each other. I had never seen as creative a blueprint for a house and since nothing else was even built, I didn’t accurately visualize the finished product or how it might feel to me sitting next to a slew of xerox copies of itself. I did like the sense of security I (falsely) believed it would provide. But since people manage to sneak past our guard gate on a daily basis, I’m not so sure even that can be counted as a value.

      If I were to look at buying a home today, I would NEVER buy in a community with an HOA. I believe in individuality and am a staunch supporter of creativity. I want my neighbors to do whatever makes them happy. And I want neighbors who want that same thing for me. I was young and new to Arizona when we bought this house. I thought living in a gated community would make it easier to build friendships and develop relationships. Neither of those things were true. I love what we’ve created inside our four walls. It’s a haven of art and creativity. But the limitations put upon us by the rules and regulations are stifling. Frankly it’s baffling that anyone would want to spend his or her time, energy and efforts enforcing the kinds of inane ordinances established by the Board of Directors of an HOA, a governing group that I personally would avoid like the plague.

      I’ll leave you with my favorite line from my family’s favorite children’s book, “The Big Orange Splot.”
      “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.”
      -Mr. Plumbean
      If you haven’t read it, at least do me the favor of paging through it to understand how the other half might think 🙂

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