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Dear Jon advises 'W' on dealing with a stray toy plane and a grumpy neighbor.

by Dear Jon
May 3, 2001

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Forty-Sixth Sort_Dear Jon-Dear Jon advises 'W' on dealing with a stray toy plane and a grumpy neighbor. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON

Dear Jon,

I've noticed that your flow of Actual Letters has stopped. Is there anything a concerned reader like myself can do?

A concerned reader.

Dear A,

Yes. You can write a letter to Dear Jon and ask for advice. Like you did just now. And like "W" did below. This returns us to an "All Actual Letters" sort, for the first since sort #42, I think. But I don't have time to look it up.


Dear Jon,

Recently I had a falling out with a neighbor of mine. It had to do with a plane, a toy plane, accidentally landing in his backyard. See my son, we'll call him "Air Force" was flying his toy plane near my neighbor's yard. Now my neighbor, we call him, oh, I don't know... "China", seemed to fly his toy plane deliberately at my son's causing my son to crash land his toy plane in China's yard. Now China won't give me back the plane, toy plane that is. The situation is further complicated because China believes I am good friends with another neighbor whom China does not get along with. We'll call that other neighbor, um, "Taiwan." Anyway, what do you suggest I do to get "Air Force's" plane back from "China"?


Dear W.,

Do you pronounce that "double-u," or "dubya"? Just curious.

Your predicament points out many of the problems in our nation. Where is our sense of community? When did neighbors stop being neighbors? And why do we spoil our children with toy planes from Radio Shack (trademark) that actually fly? What is wrong with holding a wooden model in hand and using our imaginations?

Our overly consumerized, overly materialized suburban culture is at the heart of your tale of woe. But you're asking for advice, not for social criticism.

To begin with, try to imagine what your neighbor "China" is feeling and thinking. There has to be a reason why he would keep a toy plane that crashed in his yard. Ask yourself these questions:

"Did his toy plane survive the collision with my toy plane?" If not, he may be keeping your toy plane as compensation.

"Does my toy plane have more gagdets and gizmos than his toy plane?" If so, he may want to keep those gadgets and gizmos from the wreck, and use them in other stuff around his house, for example, to upgrade his satellite dish.

"Did I have a camera mounted on my toy plane so I could spy on him and warn my friend "Taiwan" that China was going to aim the grass clippings at Taiwan's driveway the next time China mowed?" If so, well, even with your best intentions, you have to admit that most people like their privacy.

Does my neighbor "China" follow the rule that defines domestic and international relations around the world: "Finders Keepers Losers Weepers?" If so, politely asking, which I am sure you tried, won't work.

What you need, W, are some options. Let me spell them out for you, with some pros and cons, in the language that suburban Americans understand.

1. The Hollywood Fantasy Option: Steven Segal leads a crack team of Green Berets in a break-and-enter, toy plane recovery operation. Toy planes, of course, are easy to hide under your coat. This would get much more complicated if you were trying to recover a REAL aircraft.

2. The American Option: Sue! And to make it worth your attorney's time, be sure you sue "China" for punitive damages equal to the house, the lot, the two sedans, the boat and the luxury SUV. Fortunately, this local suburban case would not be submitted to binding International Arbitration, because you never know with those kooks in The Hague.

3. The Hollywood "Revenge Comedy" Option: You know, toilet paper the house. Get China drunk at a frat party and then saw his car in half. Sleep with "China's" wife. Train China's angry adopted son, "Tibet," in effective means of destructive rebellion. Ha ha ha. Isn't that hilarious. Then make a sequel.

4. The Second American Option: Let him keep the plane, and show you don't care by buying and playing with all kinds of neat toys. Like the 5-Speed rider lawnmower with overdrive. And you know that Radio Shack (trademark) is going to come out with an even better toy plane. Be the first to own one. Out-consume China. Show them that they will NEVER keep up. Make them ashamed of their pettiness in keeping the toy plane when it's so obvious that there is no competition.

5. The Multinational Corporation Option: Despite repeated citations by police regarding domestic abuse inside China's house, despite Taiwan's repeated complaints against China of noise and harassment and disturbing the peace, despite the allegations that Tibet was actually kidnapped into China's house and forcibly held there, go ahead and give China "You're My Favorite Buddy" status. Let China borrow and use anything in your backyard, for free. This kind of friendship will enlighten China to the error of its ways. The more of your stuff they get for free, the more likely they will become friends with Taiwan, and the more likely they will let Tibet go, and the more likely China will let the people in his own family grow and flourish in responsible liberty. Right?

6. American Pee Wee League Baseball Dad Option: Next time you ask for your plane back, take a baseball bat along and use it first while you scream profanities. On the international front, this would be something like, oh, bombing a few bridges and power stations.

7. American Frustrated High School Male Option. No need to explain. In international relations, this is pressing the button for the big boom. The violence, being totally random, is all the scarier. Of course, you destroy your toy plane too, and you will probably die in the process.

Rule out options 5, 6, and 7. They represent unreasonable extremes. I tend to go for option four. That means more money in your "toys" budget, but hey, who minds having more toys?

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