Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A McLean Mystery

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have a love-hate relationship with McLean. I love all the conveniences: nice supermarkets, all kinds of shops within walking distance, our quiet street, and a nice half acre of property to garden on. In my old neighborhood, you had to go through a metal detector to get into the Giant, and we were so close to the Beltway you could hear the whoosh of the traffic even when you were inside the house with the windows closed at five in the morning.

What I don't like is the conformity and the lack of SES diversity and the in-your-face whiteness of the place. I'd never seen so many blondes in my life -- and I grew up in Fairfield county in Connecticut.

When we first moved here, my husband kept going on and on about how diverse the McLean public schools were, but what he was talking about was all the kids whose parents were diplomats from foreign countries. Which isn't diversity at all, it's like faux-versity.

Anyhow, McLean also has its share of eccentrics. There's a homeless guy -- McLean allows ONE homeless guy because he is very well mannered -- who wears a shiny silver puffer jacket (even in the summer) and a yellow hard hat and carries a backpack. Sometimes you'll see him hanging out downtown. Once we were at the Borders Books on Route 7 in Vienna and there he was, sitting in one of the chairs in the coffee shop and having a fabulous conversation with himself. We've seen him at the Starbucks in Chesterbrook too. He gets around.

And then there's the guy who lives behind us. Let's call him "Scotty" just for the purposes of this blog.

Scotty is an older man in his 60s. He's been living in his house, behind us on another street, for years and years. He's well-liked in the neighborhood. But Scotty is just a little bit on the odd side.

To be frank, he's a hoarder. Here's his backyard. This photo was taken from our backyard.

In his spare time, Scotty likes to drive around in his old station wagon pulling other people's crap out of the trash and then storing it in his car until it gets so full he has to put it somewhere else. Which is in his backyard. He's very partial to old nylon web lawn chairs and broken lawn mowers. Also old windows.

We noticed the pile beginning about 2 years ago. A year ago we called the county because as much as we like Scotty, the pile is a health hazard. County agents have been out at least half a dozen times, taking pictures, talking to Scotty, telling him he has to clean up, serving notices, etc. but the pile remains. And it keeps getting bigger.

I'm not the kind of person who thinks she has a right to tell other people what to do in their yards. If you want to recreate the Holy Land at the time of Jesus in your back yard, go ahead, in fact, please let me know because I'd like to help you. But piles of crap? You have to draw a line somewhere.

There's also a bit of guilt involved in the whole situation because if it weren't for Scotty, our house might have burned down a couple of 4th of July's ago, when my husband didn't think he had to douse the spent fireworks with water and threw them in the trash and at 1 o'clock in the morning, Scotty knocked on our door to tell us our trash can was in flames. This was before we knew he was a collector and we couldn't figure out how he could know what was going on in someone else's yard at 1 o'clock in the morning. Now we know he was probably driving around looking for crap and totally pi**ed that whatever was in your trash can that might be good was gone now.

So, we owe a debt to Scotty.

The other thing about Scotty is that he hitchhikes in the morning. You can see him most mornings on 123 hitchhiking towards the District. He wears a beat up old trench coat and he's kind of hunched over and he doesn't just stick his thumb out, he kind of flails his arm around with his thumb out. The first time my husband saw him, it was a really foggy morning, and there he was, this odd fellow in a trenchcoat, hitchhiking in the mist. He said it was like that episode on Twilight Zone with the hitchhiker who's really death. This guy.
If you put a ratty old trenchcoat on him, he'd be a ringer for Scotty.
I don't know who picks Scotty up. But someone must because he keeps going out there. We've heard he's retired from a federal job somewhere downtown, so we wonder -- where the hell is he going? To a desk in an office that's been long-forgotten and so no-one knows he's there? (Believe me, in the federal government, these kinds of things can happen. I was convinced when I was working in my old office waaaaaay at the end of the hall that if I died, it would be days before they found me).

It's a McLean mystery.


Pam J. said...

Hoarding is a very interesting human behavior. It's like comfort food to some people. Maybe it's just another form of conspicuous consumption, you know, like the person who can't stop buying purses or shoes or knives or paperweights. I had a friend whose stepfather was incapable of passing up a good deal on small appliances: toasters, radios, coffee makers. He had to build shelves for his basement to house his vast collection. He couldn't possibly use them all but he also couldn't pass up the good deals he found. Your neighbor sees that old window frame and says to himself "that's a perfectly good window frame. I might need that some day. I'll just put it in back with the other 24." My eccentric dad was like that. And Doug thinks that I inherited a touch of it. And he's not happy about it.

cyradaria said...

reminds me of grey gardens? i.e., cat hoarding.