Karenocracy Pt. 01 by themaneloco
“Welcome to the community,” a woman cheerily waved while hosing the pretty, purple flowers in her front yard. There was one small patch, sectioned off from the remainder of the garden, which just seemed to be a boring patch of grass without any character or personality.
“Thank you,” I said with a smile, before merrily making my way along the sidewalk. As I passed, I made a mental note of surveying all of the decorations she’d adorned her garden with; my own still rather plain considering it had only been a few days since I’d moved in. There were a few hanging baskets and potted plants near the door, and though they were pleasant, it communicated a lack of effort. I was already envisioning the ways in which my own garden would surpass hers. The opportunities were endless, and I was thrilled that I would get to play landscaper in a garden that I could call my own.
Things were so exciting recently, and as I strutted around the gated community, I finally felt like I was exactly where I belonged. The past years had been difficult, working my way up through the corporate ladder while living in a one-bedroom apartment. It had been a struggle, functioning in such cramped quarters, and I had been kind of embarrassed about the tiny size of my apartment. Even with my successful job, I’d refrained from bringing my friends back to my place, because I figured they’d feel the tiny apartment was beneath me.
However, having recently purchased a lovely new home, I now had a house that I could be proud of. I’d moved into a detached, two-floor plot that had its own front and rear yard, lined with a picket fence and a neat driveway to fit a large vehicle, if I’d needed. Along with that, was the benefit of living in such an exclusive community. There was none of the rabble that used to make noises all night long, as occurred in the apartments above and below my previous dwelling. The streets had been immaculate ever since I’d moved in, not a piece of trash in sight and no cars mounted up onto the sidewalk. It was just the kind of organised, clean and prospering neighbourhood that I’d always dreamed of living amongst.
My mother had been over the moon, and had excitedly helped me move in amongst that first week. She’d even given me some ideas about what I could do with the yard, and had purchased me a few decorative items to get me started with making the home my own. An oriental vase was the pride of joy in her own home, and she’d gifted it to me, along with a pedestal so it’d be the first thing anyone saw upon entering. It had the suitable effect, and I’d smile to myself whenever I returned after a long day at work, kicking off my shoes and being greeted by such a warming sight.
Gradually, over the first few days, I’d made the home my own, and it was beginning to reflect my own personality. It felt like I’d finally achieved something significant in my life, that went beyond the usual moments of things like graduation and a career. This was a financial step that I could be truly proud of, especially being a youngish, single woman. Some of my friends were still living with their parents, so for myself to have branched out with such an independent step, well, I was immensely pleased.
The few neighbours I’d crossed paths with so far had been friendly and welcoming. Often, while marching around the facility, I’d be greeted with waves and no one at all seemed hostile or unfriendly. My next-door neighbours, a youngish couple, had offered me smiles while watching my mother and myself move everything in. They’d even helped us lug a few boxes and I was already looking forward to the inevitable budding friendship we’d no doubt have. Things were on the up and I was so excited for what lay ahead of this important marker in my life.
About a week after I’d received the keys, and moved most of my things in, I’d been surveying my garden and considering what to do. All sorts of ideas were floating around, most of which revolved around garden ornaments. I figured I could have some decking laid, perhaps even have a pond installed. I’d perused some garden centres, and was quite taken in by the many stone flower pots, especially the ones with faces; where blooming flowers would resemble hair. I’d even liked the look of the metal archways that I could dot around, separating stone paths and hanging baskets of flowers and plants from.
I was just near the fence, measuring a few things out when the couple next door had arrived home after grocery shopping.
“Hey,” I shouted over with a wave after the car door opened. “How’s things?”
“Great,” the wife said. “You all settled in now?”
“I love it here.” I was stood with hands on hips. “I was just thinking about what to do with the garden.” I looked over at their own, which in all honesty, was rather mundane. They had some tables and chairs, but not much else. It seemed that gardening wasn’t something that they took a lot of interest in, whereas for myself, it was a favoured hobby. I’d had all sorts of fun arranging my mother’s garden, and the lack of one had been one of the reasons I’d wanted out of my old boring apartment.
“What do you have in mind?” the wife asked while heading to the trunk and taking out a bag.
“I have all sorts of ideas,” I smiled. “I was thinking I could have a load of flower beds put in, maybe even some decking. Get a BBQ and have a load of friends over from my work.” When she raised her eyebrow, I held my hands up defensively. “Nothing loud, don’t worry. Just a little get together to warm the house. You’ll be welcome of course.”
The husband too had lifted a few bags from the trunk, and had been listening with interest. “Just watch out for Carol before you go blasting any tunes,” he said. “She’s a total Karen.”
“The head of the Homeowner Association,” the wife interjected. “But don’t listen to him. She’s all bark and no bite.” She scrunched the paper bag against her side and nodded towards the street. “She’s the reason that everything is so clean around here. She runs a tight ship. If someone blocks the sidewalk with their car”–she shook her finger at me–“it’ll be Carol to the rescue.”
I looked towards the road, and pursed my lips while nodding with approval. “It’s certainly a clean community. I’m really impressed with the security and everything. The corridors in my old apartment used to have trash all over the place. I used to have to clean it up because no one else would.”
“Yeah, it’s great,” the husband said with a sarcastic twang. He then raised his hand and pointed it in my direction; fingers rigid together in a salute. “As long as you do whatever mein fuhrer says.”
The wife playfully slapped him on the arm. “Oh, come on, she’s not that bad.”
“She made me get rid of my birdhouse, for Christ’s sake,” he said. “The tree is in our yard. How is that any of her business?” He then turned his direction towards me and glared. “She comes marching up our drive, chirping about how I’d broken some made-up rule. Apparently, I’m going to compromise the ornithological ecology of the community and then she threatens to fine me a couple of hundred dollars as if feeding birds is somehow mortally inconveniencing her.” He shrugged, completely aghast. “Ornithological ecology. Can you believe that? I’m not importing the damn birds, they were already here!”
“You and your birds.” The wife rolled her eyes. “I’d say she did us a favour. I’m fed up of wiping their droppings from the windshield.”
I’d been animatedly nodding my head while listening to the conversation, a growing smirk appearing as I reasoned this was all some kind of joke that I didn’t fully understand. I awaited the punchline; however, it never came. “Are you being serious?” Neither of their expressions changed. “A birdhouse?” I looked between the two of them, but still, none of the expected laughter arrived. “Hundreds of dollars? You’re…you’re being serious?”
“Deadly,” the husband said. “She’s a no-good busy-body that lives for misery.”
“Oh, come on,” the wife said. “She’s just a lonely woman with nothing better to do.”
“Is she really that much of a problem?” I asked apprehensively.
“Noooo,” the wife said with a flap of her hand. “My husband is just being overly dramatic.”
I dipped my head, still intrigued by his spluttering, my curious expression directed towards the husband this time. “Can they…can they actually fine you for something like that? For a birdhouse? I wouldn’t think they’d have the authority.” I glanced quickly around the street and noted that most of the front yards were absent of all of the ideas I’d had for my own. They were uniform in their decoration, as if they were adhering to some unwritten rule of abandoning all independent thought and expression.
“Apparently so,” he said in an annoyed voice. “We signed a load of something or other when we got this place and evidently we can’t do shit with our own property unless the great dictator approves. I even ran it by my lawyer friend and he said to just avoid breaking the terms and don’t draw her attention because these Homeowner things are a minefield. There’s late fees and all sorts she can dish out on us.” He sighed in resignation. “We were so excited to have our own place that we overlooked the small print.”
“But…a birdhouse?” I looked between the two of them, startled and confused. “What’s wrong with a birdhouse? That seems so petty.” I looked at the wife aghast. “Everyone likes birds, don’t they?”
“You’re telling me,” the husband said. “Welcome to Woodville.”
Just listening to that was enough to make me gulp. I’d been so excited about getting my own place, and after having spent countless hours exhausting myself through the credit and deed agreements, that I’d just brushed over the Homeowner Association literature when it had been passed my way. I mean, it was a good thing, wasn’t it? They had security to stop thieves coming into the community, and everything was so squeaky clean. I mean, when I’d first viewed the property, the seller had bragged about how there was no dog droppings on the sidewalk, because the Homeowner Association would fine anyone whose dog soiled. As a result, the streets were unblighted by doggy doo. What could possibly be bad about that? For a small fee every month, we got to have someone to look after the good of the neighbourhood. That’s what I’d wanted after my apartment building had fallen to ruin. I didn’t want to be stepping over someone else’s trash every day.