The problem: How can we redirect a compulsive neighbor who blows mostly imaginary leaves off his driveway, sidewalk, lawn, deck and patio sometimes twice daily, very often during lunch and dinner when we are dining and relaxing outdoors? Although we have never complained about the noise from his gas-powered blower, he refuses to speak to us because we first questioned, then challenged, a fence he built in violation of zoning regulations two years ago. We have gone from being his “favorite neighbor” to being despised. He holds a similar grudge against another adjacent neighbor over a different matter.

Low road: You do have all your motion-sensor lights positioned at his bedroom, don’t you?


High road: Ah, the sounds of summer. Birds chirping. Children laughing. Blowhard neighbors ruining everything.

This is not about sidewalk tidiness, obviously. This is about a childish, and lonely, neighbor who is hurt and acting out. He lost you, his favorite neighbors, burned bridges with another neighbor and is probably embarrassed that he violated zoning codes. He’s conveniently stuffed all those scary feelings at the bottom of a big imaginary leaf pile, and now you get to hear him blow off steam, twice a day yet!

Your first option is to get used to his noise. Summer is filled with mowers and motorcycles and music emanating from open windows past dark. Admittedly, it’s easier to embrace such sounds without history attached.

But since you haven’t complained directly about his brash blowing, it’s time to do so, generously. The next time he comes out, machine in hand, call him over for a lemonade first. He might brush you off. But he just might embrace giving up imaginary leaves to regain real friends.


Send questions about life’s little quandaries to Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at