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A desiquestion:

Hi.  I live in a state that is undergoing a pretty serious and long term drought.  We are restricted to watering once a week, and either very early or very late.  All our yards are struggling except my next door neighbor, who runs his sprinkler every day for a good 15-20 minutes.  I would say it was his business, but everyone else is adhering to the rules, so it isn’t fair.  One more thing – his sprinklers also get the strip of the lawn on my side but that is on his property line, further setting off how terrible my own lawn looks in comparison.  Is there a polite way I can talk to him about following the rules?  Can I just ask him to stop watering that strip?


Ah, fairness.  It’s really the moral rule of the world, sometimes written as “All for one and one for all!”

But also written as “If I can’t have it, no one can.”

You’re right, though – he’s in flagrant violation of a restriction that, no, one person flouting it won’t make a difference…but if everybody did it, would really make a mess of things.  One only has to look at the 10 Items or Less line at a supermarket in an affluent neighborhood to see what I mean.

Sadly, this is already taken out of my hands, in that the law has stepped in where common sense and etiquette could have quietly worked their wonders.  You could have, for example, said to him in a friendly tone, “Do you know that your sprinklers run every day?  Since we’re in water restriction, I thought you should know.”  That presumes his innocence and gives him an out.  Saying it sweetly and innocently, without the hurt-feelings tone your letter conveys, is the best way to do it.

I mean, after all, you don’t know if he knows about the restrictions.  I don’t pay attention to those things, but then, I don’t water my lawn.  Maybe he’s really busy, and it never occurred to him?  Maybe he doesn’t scrutinize lawns like you do.  Maybe he does and is so stupid as to mistake his rule breaking as sheer dumb luck.

Don’t put anything past people.  The heights to which they sink is a constant amazement.

At any rate, if you feel uncomfortable doing that, and I can see that no matter how you phrase it you’ll sound like a busybody…report his ass.  There’s a number you can call, right?  To the city?  They’ll send someone out and issue a warning.  So it’s no skin off his teeth, so to speak, though he’ll regard all his neighbors with suspicion until you bring the drought up in conversation and, attempting to frame someone else, he’ll see through your petty ruse and realize it was you in the first place.

So keep your trap shut.

If he brings it up, say how appalling it is that people don’t mind their own business.  Ask if the fine was very large and tell him you’re considering flouting the rules yourself, because obviously his lawn is so very pretty.

Or was.


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