Yesterday I found in my mailbox a Noise By-law Notice of Inspection from the City of Waterloo regarding persistent barking from my dog. No fine was issued; I’ve been asked to “mitigate noise from barking dog.”
The complaint is entirely legitimate. I am aware that my dog barks a lot and I sometimes worry that she disturbs my neighbours. (Indeed, I spoke with one neighbour about it in the past — I invited him to talk to me if ever my dog bothers him. The cheery fellow said not to worry and that everything’s fine.)
I’m not angry that someone was annoyed by our dog — that’s understandable. Had the complainant bothered to discuss the matter with me she would have found a very cooperative neighbour who is sympathetic to her plight and eager to resolve the problem collegially.
What angers me is that the complainant did not bother to talk to me first. Rather, she chose to force me into submission via by-law enforcement — a tool best used as a last resort, not a first line of defense.
Receiving an anonymous complaint from the City on behalf of a neighbour is an upsetting experience. Essentially, a neighbour is telling me, “You are so beyond reason and compromise that I cannot deal with you directly, or even reveal myself to you for fear of retribution. You are a parasite and you will be treated accordingly. The only way to get you to behave is by force of law.”
In a bitter irony, the Notice I received from the City bears the tagline, “Building a better community.” (What does the City hope to achieve with this tagline? Am I supposed to view this Notice as a community-building experience?) A better community is built when neighbours resolve their differences with friendly face-to-face discussion, sympathy, and understanding.
Conversely, the community degenerates into enmity and suspicion when a complainant sends goons from City by-law enforcement to do her dirty work while she hides behind a cloak of anonymity. It’s hard to care for one’s neighbours when one is treated as an enemy by them.
It seems to me that anti-social behaviour such as this is disturbingly common in Waterloo. But I suppose every suburb is the same. Back in the 1950s, suburbia used to be about comradery (or so I gather). These days it’s about forcing people to conform.
I don’t like living in a neighbourhood where my neighbours’ first instinct is to anonymously rat me out to the city, like a bratty child tattling to the teacher. I prefer it when my neighbours are capable of meeting with me face-to-face, like a mature adult. But neighbourliness such as that can no longer be found in suburban communities like Waterloo. I really ought to move out to the country.