Growing up, there was always that one person who had a difficult time getting along with most people, so they made it their mission in life to ruin everyone else's fun. Not knowing the tried and true philosophy of, "If you can't beat them, join them," this person made life miserable for everyone in their class, on the playground, or even in their neighborhood...
Sometimes, this person grows up, moves away, and completely changes their way of thinking. They join in on the fun. They take part in fun and games. They learn to relax and let people live and let live.
This is far from the case for the members of the "Collective of Inhabitants" (see: Homeowners Association), who never grew out of the phase, never moved on, and never learned to let people enjoy their lives. That is, until they crossed paths with a new homeowner by the name of Terry, who wasn't going to let them get away with their baseless rules, demands, and extortion tactics.
The leaders of this so called "Collective" had no idea what they were up against when they made the mistake of picking a fight with someone who wasn't going to lie down and accept defeat, someone who wasn't going to stop at anything to get revenge, someone who wasn't going to live and let live...
A couple of years back, Terry and her husband moved to a new neighborhood where they bought a house she described as being the "ugliest on the street." The new homeowner said the previous owners must have been big fans of Piet Mondrian, the 20th Century Dutch artist who served as one of the pioneers of abstract art because the front of the house consisted of red, blue, and yellow squares between the window frames and front door.
Terry, not being one to back down from a fight, painted the house to her liking, which she said pleased the neighbors on her street who she assumed had grown tired of looking at a piece of abstract art every time they left their house. But Terry's neighbors weren't the only ones who were paying attention. While Terry and her husband were still remodeling the house, before they even moved in, they received an invitation to a voluntary "Collective of Inhabitants," which Terry said read more like an "opt-in HOA that you can never leave."
With a long list of restrictions and no benefits for her, Terry simply said, "No thanks."
And that's the end of our story. Terry avoided conflict with so-called "Collective of Inhabitants," and she and her husband went about their lives in their new home where they lived happily ever after. Exit stage left. Pull the curtain. Go home, the show is over.
Wait... That's not how this one goes.
Although Terry trashed the group's "invitation," something more sinister was working behind the scenes. Something was simmering as she and her husband continued with home improvements, which included removing some overgrown trees in the couple's backyard.
But that simmer turned into a rolling boil when Terry received a letter from her city government one day.
"Apparently, I cut down a tree without a permit and they were sending someone to assess the damage," Terry recalled. "This is a little shocking, as I work with permits for a living and did some proper research before I changed anything, so I gave the city a call."
But when Terry called City Hall, she quickly found out that there was no such thing as a permit for tree removal on private property. But that's not the strangest part.
"Nobody from City Hall sent this letter printed on City Hall letterhead," she added.
And with that revelation, Terry knew what she was up against.
If the fake letter from "City Hall" wasn't crazy enough, whoever was behind the offense even sent an arborist over to assess the damage she had allegedly caused to a tree in her own backyard. Terry, not knowing anything about the arborist or who sent them, refused the service but still received a bill. When she tried to dispute the charges, Terry was told that the bill was supposed to go to the mystery person who forwarded them on to her address.
Remember, this is before Terry even moved into her house. She hadn't officially joined the neighborhood, hadn't made herself part of the social circles, hadn't gone to any parties. This would soon change.
When the great renovation project was completed, Terry held a BBQ so that she and her husband could meet their neighbors and show off the hard work they had put into their new house.
"I go invite people and bring a cupcake with the 'there shall be a grand feast, all are welcome' stuff on a little note, to make friends with the neighbors," Terry wrote. "I had already scored major credit by raising their property value with a single paint-job, so I was pretty happy."
As she started talking to her neighbors, Terry had numerous people say that she couldn't have a BBQ because it was against the rules of the "Collective of Inhabitants.'
"I tell them not to worry, I'm not in that," she wrote.
The very next day, Terry received a bill for membership to the "Collective of Inhabitants," which didn't have any contact information on it so Terry simply shredded it out of existence.
It was almost like there was a mole, someone in the neighborhood who was relaying all of Terry's moves back to the "Collective of Inhabitants." Terry, however, wasn't going to let some mystery person ruin her good time. No, someone had to stand up to them, and that someone was Terry.
On the afternoon of her BBQ, Terry heard her doorbell ring a couple of hours before guests were scheduled to arrive. But instead of the neighbors that she had spent the past few weeks getting to know, Terry was greeted by someone in an "official looking" City Hall uniform who was joined by a city supervisor who Terry described as being nothing more than a "a not-quite cop who took night school instead of the police academy."
"They heard I was having an illegal BBQ and were here shut it down," Terry recalled.
When asked what specific rules she was breaking, the man in the uniform pulled out a 60-page book and pointed out a rule stating it was "illegal to burn anything for any reason in your backyard."
From the jump, Terry knew something was up as that didn't sound anything like an official city rule. Her suspicions were confirmed when she took a look at the front of the book's label: "Collective of Inhabitants LAWS AND RULES"
When all of this was happening, the "fake cop" was just standing there with a smirk on his face as if he felt that he had won and defeated the new homeowner once and for all. Terry had a different idea and broke news to them:
Terry: "That's very nice, but I'm not part of that group, so I don't see how that applies to me."
Man From City Hall: "The rules apply to everyone in this street."
Terry: "Yeah... no they don't. You can't just go around inventing laws. Could I have a copy of that book please?"
Terry took the paper from the man and tossed it into her house for future reference. But the conversation didn't stop there.
Fake Cop: "So, I take it you won't have the BBQ?"
Terry: "Oh no, I'm having the BBQ, and I'm going to make it my personal mission to break another rule every time you bother me. So far, I'm two down, and have three to go."
Man From City Hall: "This is against the law! I'll be calling the cops!"
Terry: "No, this is against your rules, not the law. And that's four."
Fake Cop: "Ma'am, if you don't comply, you'll be placed under arrest!"
Terry: "Oh yes, shall we call the actual police right now? I wonder who's in the right here..."
When Terry took out her phone to call the police, the man from City Hall wasn't taking any chances and told her that the call "wasn't necessary." As the two men were walking away, the man from City Hall turned back and said, "You haven't heard the last of this."
Was Terry scared? Was she going to cancel her party? Was she going to apologize to prevent any future issues?
No. Instead, she spoke up and said, "That's five! Have a nice day!"
As the "Fake Cop" and man from City Hall were leaving, Terry's guests started to trickle in for their big BBQ. As one of her neighbors was walking up, they pointed towards the man from City Hall and identified him as the president of the "Collective," before jokingly asking Terry what "heinous crimes" she had committed.
"I told them I did nothing wrong because I wasn't in the group," Terry recalled. "That's when my introductory BBQ turned into a torrent of complaints about the 'Collective.'"
Over the next few hours, Terry's party slowly transformed from a BBQ to a group therapy session, where each of her guests shared the worst horror stories about dealing with the president of the "Collective of Inhabitants," and the abuses he had thrown down over the past few years. Terry said people were getting fines for leaving their trashcan on the street after 8 am or putting it out on the street before 10 pm the night before. But the fines didn't start and stop with trashcans.
As Terry soon found out, people were getting nabbed for everything from having a BBQ to painting a house too late in the day. Just a bunch of arbitrary nonsense like that. And Terry heard all of it over the next six hours.
Through all of this, Terry learned that her house was the only holdout on the street, so she came up with the most glorious plan for revenge the neighborhood had ever seen.
"Well, I had just moved in, and I owed the 'Collective' infractions, so I was open to suggestions," Terry recalled when discussing her revenge plan. "Three of my neighbors were extremely fed-up, and seized on this opportunity, perfectly willing to inconvenience themselves to stick it to the 'Collective,' and it turns out, this bull had been going for about six years."
So, while Terry had only been dealing with this for weeks and was already fed up, it's not hard to imagine how grateful her neighbors were after putting up with for the better part of a decade.
And so begins Terry's montage of petty revenge...
For this next part, just imagine listening to "Push It To The Limit" from the Scarface soundtrack because what Terry did plays out like one of those iconic montages from any number of '80s action movies.
After the BBQ was over, Terry went back into her house and studied the "Collective" rule book like she was preparing for the bar exam or something. And in a sense, she was preparing for the fight of a lifetime.
Terry's revenge started out simple enough. Remember the the weird rules about the trash can not being placed on the street sooner than 10 pm and removed no later than 8 am? Well, Terry suddenly acquired 17 trashcans, which she "graciously allowed" her neighbors to use, and even let them keep the cans at their houses... you know, just for the sake of convenience.
But what if they left "Terry's" trashcan at the pickup point outside of the allotted time? Well, since Terry wasn't a member of the "Collective of Inhabitants," no one could be fined. Funny how that works out.
Terry also found some "terrible wording" in the rule book which stated that members were not allowed to host outside parties after 9 pm. And wouldn't you know it, Terry became a master planner almost overnight, and would put on at least one party every two weeks. Terry, being the nice person she is, she even organized parties at peoples' houses for them. She felt bad about it though, but only because she couldn't attend every one of her parties each week.
Next, Terry suddenly became a pet owner after one of her neighbors was told dogs were not allowed to weigh over 20 pounds.
"I became the proud owner (that is to say, the dog still belonged to him in every way, except for the 'Collective') of a great dane," Terry wrote. "I really only saw the dog when its owner, I mean caretaker, took him on walks, but still."
Since all of the major garden work had to be done by a "registered gardener," Terry's husband started a one-man gardening business since "registered" wasn't defined anywhere in the rulebook. Terry's husband placed an entry in the local phonebook to make it look even more legit. But the thing was, business was lousy and he only took jobs that landed him no profit, but even though the subcontracted labor wasn't profitable, he always managed to find local workers willing to take the job. These people generally lived in the house where the work was being done. Funny how that worked out, right?
While all of this had become a fun game for Terry and her husband, they decided it was time to turn up the heat and really stick it to the "Collective of Inhabitants." They just needed the perfect opportunity.
Luckily, something was about to fall into their laps...
Remember all of that business about Terry and her husband receiving the membership contract for the "Collective of Inhabitants" that she quickly shredded into oblivion? Well, Terry didn't remember it. And Terry also didn't remember having to pay any "membership dues." But someone else did.
One day, Terry received a phone call from a debt collection agency because apparently, she had failed to pay her bill on time.
"I had to pay some tiny amount plus a big fine," Terry recalled. "I told them that if they could provide me with proof of a contract, I would gladly pay."
The debt collector promised to send over all of the information, including a signed contract that neither Terry nor her husband signed.
When the copy of the contract was finally mailed to her house, Terry discovered that someone had signed it using her first initial and her husband's last name. But with that, there was one major, glaring issue.
"I never took his last name," Terry wrote.
She nearly ripped up the document in the heat of the moment, but realized that forging a signature was an actual crime.
"HURRAY! I called the debt collection agency, explained that that was not my signature, emailed them my real signature, and they dropped it after some back and forth and another in-person visit," Terry wrote.
There it was. The final piece of the puzzle. The coup de grâce.
Unfortunately, Terry wasn't a lawyer... but her neighbor was. And not only that, he was "extremely motivated."
With a slew of charges included fraud, harassment, and countless other smaller offenses, Terry took the "Collective of Inhabitants" to court. And did she make them pay... for everything. Every little annoyance. Every unsolicited visit. Every forged letter. Every single thing they had done to the neighborhood over the years.
"It took all of 10 minutes after reading the evidence," Terry wrote. "Basically, we had a good case (because we had a lawyer), and the board of the 'Collective,' who was defended by the president (a professional manicurist) said, 'Look at the rules she broke - there's this rule, and this one, and this one...' to which the judge simply replied, 'But you forged her signature. She's not a member.'
Terry still remembers the way the president sounded as he cried out, "But she broke SO MANY RULES' as the judge slammed down his gavel.
The "Collective of Inhabitants" was fined a pittance, and ordered to pay a ton of damages to Terry and the other non-members, but since this wasn't actually a Homeowners Association, they didn't have much as far as working cash goes, and so they were forced to disband.
And so with that, this story, like the "Collective of Inhabitants" is forced to come to a satisfying ending. It may have been a long time coming, and countless lives may have been affected by the group of tyrannical busybodies, but revenge came knocking at their door like they had done to Terry so many times before.
With no one preying on the neighborhood with lists of arbitrary rules and "laws," things went back to normal for Terry, her husband, and the dozens of friends they had made through the process. At least now they can enjoy their parties without threat of violating the wishes of the "Collective."