Dear Amy: A friend recently returned from abroad. He is struggling to find a full-time job, so we let him stay at our place for a month and a half (rent-free) while we were away. We did this as a favor to him.
When we returned, we realized he had damaged a piece of furniture by using a homemade cleaning solution on it. He also turned a (very expensive) alpaca blanket into felt by washing it.
We let the furniture damage slide as a simple mistake, but when I brought up the blanket, he only offered to pay for half of the cost.
I recognize that mistakes happen. I know it’s dumb to spend an inordinate amount on a blanket. I also realize I could have been clearer about how to care for these things, but am I in the wrong to be frustrated by his offer to only pay half of the cost to replace it?
Since we returned, he’s traveled by plane to visit other cities, which leads me to believe he’s not completely cash strapped.
I feel like I’m being a snotty, privileged jerk, but it still rubs me the wrong way. — Annoyed Samaritan
Dear Annoyed: While you easily categorize and forgive one piece of damage as “a mistake,” you seem to put the other item in its own special drawer.
I would categorize these incidents as “mistakes,” and, yes, frustration is a proportional response. Does your friend owe you the total replacement cost? I don’t think so.
He was obviously very concerned about keeping your house and belongings clean (both of these mistakes are cleaning-related). I assume that other than these, your belongings were in acceptable condition upon your return.
I wonder if you have considered the value of having someone living in your house while you were away for several weeks?
While he was occupying your house, no one broke in, the pipes didn’t freeze and burst, and none of about a dozen possible catastrophes that can happen to unoccupied houses happened to yours.
According to you, this man was your guest. If you and your husband had been home when he did this, would you still expect him to pay?
Don’t beat yourself up for owning an expensive blanket but protecting your more treasured property from others’ well-meaning mistakes is your responsibility.
I think you should accept your friend’s offer and get yourself a new blanket.
Dear Amy: My husband and I live in a side-by-side duplex. The small backyard is divided by a low fence, and we each have our side.
New people recently bought the adjacent unit and have totally redone their side of the yard with sod, trees, firepit, hammocks, windchimes and a large trampoline, which they have located up against my side of the fence and about 15 feet from my kitchen.
They have three kids who, understandably, are crazy from being cooped up during the pandemic, but I am working at home and can’t peacefully enjoy my backyard or concentrate on work when kids are bouncing and screaming 15 feet from my table.
I genuinely like these people. They just seem oblivious to the considerations required when you live in such close proximity to your neighbor. Do I have to just suck it up? — Stressed in Suburbia
Dear Stressed: Ask your neighbors if they’d feel comfortable meeting you outside (I’m assuming you might not want to ask them inside, due to the pandemic). Bring a plate of brownies.
Admire the improvements they’ve made to their yard.
Tell them, “See that window there? That’s where I’m working these days. Can you do me a favor and try to keep your voices low when you’re playing outside and I’m working inside?”
You might put a red stop sign in your window during your busiest work hours as a visual cue. Don’t forget to remove the sign when you’re not at work, otherwise it will just fade into the visual background.
Aside from making them aware of the impact on you, they are kids, and kids are bound to be noisy. Headphones might work for you.
Dear Amy: I did not like your snippy answer to “Sleepless,” the college student whose mother pounded on a treadmill at 7 a.m.
College students need more sleep than adults. You should have been more compassionate. — Upset
Dear Upset: My answer was to suggest that “Sleepless” go to bed an hour earlier and ask her hardworking mother to delay her own workout for an hour. This would result in two more hours of sleep.