When I hear the term passive-aggressive, I immediately think of my wife.
Don’t get me wrong; she’s not callous, cruel or confrontational by any means. However, if you piss her off, she certainly won’t ignore it – she’ll retaliate.
Although she won’t whoop you upside yo head (as she is very capable of doing), she will spend countless hours calculating how to strike back quietly and conspicuously – with her arsenal of passive-aggressive fire power. A couple of years ago, I was privileged to witness my wife’s mastery of this skill firsthand when we feuded with our next-door neighbor, Jack, about the fence that separated our backyards. Today, I refer to this conflict as The Fencing War.
For twelve years, my wife and I were impeccable residents of our own Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. We waved hello to Jack and his family on every occasion. We were entrusted with a key to their house. We cared for their beloved German Shepard when they went away. Because Jack owned a lawn service, we hired him to mow our lawn. Religiously, prior to his weekly service, Jack would call or text us to ensure the pet door was closed and the dog was inside. Although Clifford was not a vicious animal, we understood his precautions.
Then, one day, Jack didn’t call. Jack didn’t text. Jack sent a stranger to mow our lawn. The pet door was open. Clifford was outside.
My wife and I were away visiting family when we received the phone call. It was Jack’s wife, Lilly.
“Your vicious animal brutally attacked my husband and his helper! We called 911. We are on our way to the hospital”<click>.
Stunned and confused, we immediately called our housekeepers and asked them to check the security of the house. Once they assured us everything was in order, we called the Sheriff.
“We don’t have any information. The deputy that responded to your residence has not filed his report. You’ll have to wait a few days.”
Meanwhile, my wife and I remembered our security cameras – we hoped the entire incident was captured on video. Our house is fully equipped with surveillance: we have two outside cameras pointing at the front yard and one inside camera pointing at the back door. We were certain the skirmish occurred in the back yard. After all, that’s where Clifford’s pet door is located.
My wife accessed the downstairs camera via her smartphone and pulled up the video. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see much. Surprisingly, however, the camera captured the entire audio of the confrontation. It was crystal clear.
Jack’s friend: [Running the weed eater in the back yard]
Clifford: [Runs out the pet door, barks and bites the stranger after being antagonized with the weed eater]
Jack’s friend: Motherf*cker! You damn dog! You’re gonna die for this. I’m gonna kill your motherf*ckin’ ass!
Jack’s friend: [Turns off the weed eater, leaves our property, and returns ten minutes later with a pitchfork]
Jack’s friend: Come on out you f*ckin’ piece of sh*t! You’re gonna die today!
Although we were alarmed at what we heard, we were also relieved. Clearly, we were not responsible for our dog biting a trespasser on our property. After all, Jack’s helper was an uninvited intruder and according to the audio, riled up Clifford with the weed eater.
When we returned home, we received a copy of the incident report and accompanying photographs of the injury. The bite was superficial, at worst. The investigator informed us that Jack wanted us arrested for owning a dangerous, vicious animal.
In no uncertain terms, however, the investigator told us exactly what we already knew: an uninvited intruder entered our property without permission and provoked our dog. After the investigator had analyzed the audio from our security camera, the case was closed in our favor without hesitation.
Later that day, Jack and his helper pounded on our front door.
“This ain’t over yet! You’re gonna get sued! You’re gonna pay! And I’m taking down my fence. You’ll have to find another way to contain your vicious animal!”
Instead of being startled by Jack’s threatening words, they didn’t affect my wife in the least. She reached deep into her arsenal of passive-aggressive behavior and devised a brilliant plan.
After studying a survey of our property, it was clear that Jack did indeed own the fence that separated our yards. Within a few days, it was taken down as promised. With no barrier between neighbors, we were forced to walk Clifford on a leash – we certainly couldn’t let him run loose with the risk of him making his way onto Jack’s property.
Clearly, Jack was seeking a way to punish us – by forcing us to pay for a replacement fence. Giving in to his threat, we replaced the fence. However, the new fence was far from ordinary. We hired a surveyor to ensure the new fence would be built entirely on our property. We confirmed with the city that we understood all the local fencing codes and ordinances. We bought a fence permit. We hired a professional contractor.
Finally, the fence was built. It was a six-foot-tall barricade of pressure-treated hardwood planks positioned from the edge of our backyard up to the front of the house. From the front of the house to the sidewalk, the barrier was three feet tall. It was then that my wife’s brilliant passive-aggressive plan took full effect:
We painted the fence. And it was beautiful. We painted every other panel of planks with a variety of hideous, appalling and downright distasteful Easter egg colors – but only on Jack’s side of the fence. Our side of the fence remained untouched. Jack – and the entire neighborhood – could clearly see the rainbow of colors from the street and the walking trail out back.
Because we carefully followed all city codes and ordinances, Jack was absolutely powerless to change it. As a token of reconciliation, we offered to sell the painting rights to Jack for $10,000. Unfortunately, he declined.
Until he apologizes to us face to face for attempting to manipulate us, the unsightly colors on his side of the fence will remain forever. The colorful barricade will continue to embarrass him, and it will continue to embarrass the neighbors.
In the end, we refused to be exploited by someone who clearly intended to take advantage of us, intimidate us, and cash-in on at our expense. In response, we pushed back by using my wife’s brilliant arsenal of passive-aggressive skills.
Some people may think that we were the bullies. We disagree. We simply stood up for ourselves – but in a brilliant and innovative way. Nevertheless, despite anyone’s opinion of fault, we won the Fencing War.
[Moral of the story: Don’t even think about pissing off my wife.]
Photo © Dave Pasquel All Rights Reserved