Be Careful What You Wish For
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It happens all the time. You wish it would stop raining, and it does-and it starts snowing instead. You wish someone would ask you out-and you spend months being stalked by that creepy guy from the gym. You wish you could move away from a city you hate-and you end up getting plopped down in the middle of farm country (and not only do you have hay fever-but you don't even know how to tip a cow).

So be careful what you wish for. Be careful when you wish about the weather. Or about your social life. Or about your future. Or about your neighbor's noisy old truck.

As is usually the case, I had to learn that the hard way.

A little over a year ago, when we bought our first house, it was a little bit like any relationship. We saw it, and it was love at first sight. It was perfect, and we were ready to commit. Two days later, we put in our offer. The next day, everything was settled. And we couldn't be happier.

But, of course, once we settled in, we started to discover the house's quirks. For instance, the guy who had sold us the house (for the sole purpose of making it look pretty and flipping it to make money) hadn't done the best job in fixing it up. The pretty new floor covering was hacked in the corners. Huge snags in the new carpet had been covered with piles of extra cable. The pretty new paint job started to crack. But it was more than just the house. The neighbor who lives behind us turned out to be a hunter-and we awoke one morning to find a dead deer hanging from the tree right outside our dining room window. Our front yard also happens to be the big hangout for all the kids in the neighborhood-the kids who like to hit rocks with golf clubs. Or bats.

And then there are the next door neighbors. They seemed just fine at first. A nice couple. Sure, they tended to decorate the outside of their home rather excessively with flags and lights and little kids' swimsuits (which, I'll admit, weirded me out a bit), but they seemed to be perfectly harmless. My problem was with the neighbor's truck. Looking at it, you'd probably think nothing of it. He had a nice, though rather large, pickup truck parked in the driveway (because, as I later learned, their garage was so jam-packed with junk that they couldn't park as much as a Vespa in there). The truck looked like a pretty nice truck-as long as it was just sitting there, without the key in the ignition. But once it roared into life, it was a whole different story. It was so loud that the deep rumbling shook our whole house. I had to secure the breakables on that side of the house-just like people on the West Coast do, to prepare for sudden earthquakes.

Each morning, we'd roll our eyes as our neighbor started his truck to leave for work. At 7:40. We could almost set our clocks to it. Normally, that wasn't a problem-just an annoyance-since we were already up and about. But if, for instance, I was sick and wanted to sleep in-or if our neighbor decided that he wanted to leave (as he did every day for an entire week not long ago) at 5:15 in the morning-the sound of the engine starting would instantly wake me. I'm pretty sure it also woke a few light sleepers in the next ZIP code. It didn't matter how sick or tired I was. It didn't matter that we had an air purifier running next to our bed to drown out such noise. It scared the living crap out of me every single time. In fact, a few times, when he started up the truck when I was already in the shower, the noise scared me so much that I almost slipped and wound up with a nasty concussion.

To make matters worse, though, he wouldn't just start up the truck and go. No, he'd start the truck and let it warm up in the driveway for a few minutes, revving the engine as I lay in bed, wondering why people paid the quarter for the vibrating bed in old motels-because it wasn't doing anything for me.

With each late-night return or early-morning departure-even when he came home from work and parked his rumbling truck in his driveway, just feet from my office-I would complain. I would moan. I would swear and yell. And I would threaten.

"Someday," I'd vow, "I'm going to go out there in my pajamas and kick his ass."

I threatened to rip out vital parts from inside his engine compartment in the middle of the night. I threatened to call the cops and file a complaint. And in our more jovial times, my husband and I discussed buying our neighbor a new muffler for Christmas-or putting up those highway sound barriers between our houses.

But of course I never did any of that. Mostly, I just complained. And whined. And wished that that stupid truck would just go away.

Then, one day, a week or so ago, I got my wish.

Out of the blue, the truck was just gone one day-and we never saw it again. It was replaced, and a new vehicle appeared in the driveway. And, sure enough, it was a little less noisy than the truck. Oh, it was still noisy-and it still made me shake my head and scowl when our neighbor would come home from work and rouse me from my inner monologue. But at least it didn't scare the bejeezus out of me when I was trying to sleep.

On the other hand, the neighbor had replaced his obnoxiously loud yet tasteful black truck with a hearse.

Brown. With frilly curtains.

Circa 1972.

It wouldn't surprise me if he got a good deal for disposing of the coffin in the back. I heard him vacuuming it out the other day, and it gave me the creeps. In fact, every time I drive past it, I shudder.

Obviously, when I'd wished for the truck to go away, I hadn't been specific enough about its replacement.

So let this be a lesson to you (and to me, for that matter). Be careful what you wish for.

Or, if you must wish, at least be a little more specific.

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