Welcome to the Neighborhood

“Wow.  I had no idea the homeowner association fees would be so high.”

The attorney paused in his paper-shuffling.  “It helps if you don’t think of them as fees,” he said, with an air of practice that made it obvious he was repeating the phrase for the thousandth time..    “Ah, well, I’m sorry, I forgot you were from out of state.  Did the realtor even show you around the community?”

“No, I haven’t seen much of it at all, except for the drive in from the gate.”

“Well, then, let’s take a break from the signatures, and I will be happy to show you around myself.”  He stacked the papers neatly, stood, and gestured towards the door.

Outside, the morning sun was shining as he led his client down the street.  After a few short blocks, they came to a sparkling lake.

“It’s huge, and beautiful.” Against the State: An ... Rockwell, Llewellyn Best Price: null Buy New $3.99 (as of 11:20 EST - Details)

“And it makes for a great border,” the lawyer said.  “There’s one just like it out on the west side of the neighborhood, too.”  He turned, and they strode side by side away from the water, past a wide variety of homes all fronted by perfectly immaculate lawns.

“This does seem like a great place to live,” the client said.

“Oh, it is.  I’ve been here all my life.  And your HOA fees cover the cost of so many things here.  For example, if someone falls on hard times, they can apply for free food.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” said the client.  “A safety net, to help people get back on their feet?”

“Exactly.”  They strode past the local elementary school.  “We also have our own schools, so the fees go to pay the teachers and administrators.  Not to mention the textbooks and course curricula; the HOA has experts that put all of that together for us.  They make sure that all of the kids get exactly the same quality education.”

As they passed the high school, the lawyer continued.  “We also have to pay for the buses and the weapons.”

“I’m sorry,” the client interrupted, “but did you say weapons?”

“Yes, I did.  Every now and then they gather up all of the fifteen and sixteen year olds, hand them baseball bats and chains, and bus them off to beat the snot out of the people in another neighborhood.”

The client was aghast.  “Why the heck would you want to do something like that?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  To keep them from busing their people out here, of course.”  At the look of confusion and concern on the man’s face, he added “and don’t worry, all of the kids come back, safe and sound.  Well..almost all of them.  Mostly.  Anyway.”

They walked in silence for a long while after that.  The attorney seemed content to let the client observe and learn without any added comments.

The client pointed out a dish high over the houses.  “I assume you get internet via satellite here?”

“Huh?  Oh, no, that’s not internet.  That’s a listening post.”

“Listening?  You mean they spy on you?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t really call it spying,” the lawyer answered.  “They monitor phone calls and email.  It’s a tool to help them spot those busloads before they get here.  Though,” he added, a bit quieter, “I think they also use them for other stuff.  Like preventing robberies, catching crooks, chasing down people who cheat on their HOA fees, stuff like that.”

“How could you possibly cheat on your HOA fees?  I mean…you either pay them or you don’t, right…?

“Oh, no, your fees are on a sliding scale,” the lawyer said.  “The more you make, the higher your fees.  After all, the more money you bring in, the more likely you are to use all of the benefits of the neighborhood, so it just makes sense that you should pay more.  There’s even a point on the low end of the scale where people who make too little actually get paid instead of having to pay, so there’s an incentive to cheat built right in.”

They waited for a few slow-moving cars to pass and crossed the street, and walked around a large building with flags flying.  Behind the building, there was a row of twelve cages, eleven of them occupied.  The people inside looked sullen and bored.

“Here, I can show you that we take your safety seriously.  We lock away all of the dangerous people to make sure the neighborhood is safe.”  After a moment’s pause, he added “I’m going to have to send in a second request for another row of cells; we’re just about full.”

“That’s quite a level of security.  What did they do to get locked up?”

“Oh, the usual.  Burglary, rape, attempted murder.  Those two there tried to cheat on their HOA fees, and the three on the end grew the wrong plants.”

The client stopped dead in his tracks.  “Wait.  Did you say…plants?”

“Yes.  The HOA is very specific about the kinds of plants you can grow.  Heck, those three will be in those cages longer than the two who cheated on their HOA fees.”

The lawyer led the way back towards his office.  “Like I was saying, it helps if you don’t think of them as fees, or taxes, or anything negative like that.  If you think of them more as dues, it helps.  They cover the costs of all of the cool things the HOA does for the people who live here.”

When they reached the steps leading up to the door of the attorney’s office, the client said “You know, I think I’m about ready to finish up those papers now.”

“Good!  I’m glad to hear it.”  He held the door open for his client to step through first.  “You’re going to love living here.”

By the time the attorney reached his desk, the client was indeed finished with the papers–the last shreds of them were falling through the air, scattering around the office like snowflakes.

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