One day in late July someone rang my doorbell, insistently. It was a worker from the gas station.
I observed the gas station, out my bedroom window, since it opened. I saw this guy doing stuff at the station, with inexplicable goings on like an oil barrel sized drum used as a garbage can being drug to the dumpster with another guy, at 4:00 a.m.. It took both of them to lift it to empty it into the dumpster. The heavy scraping sound woke me up.
I couldn’t imagine why there wasn’t a) a garbage bag inside the drum, that was emptied when it was full and b) anyone who has ever done housework or menial jobs knows that a heavy garbage can is miserable to wrangle which is why you have small garbage cans for heavier trash and they are emptied frequently. This guy also caught my attention as he would stand around in the empty parking lot, chain smoking, having long conversations on his cel phone between 1:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.. The talking woke me up many times. I was unimpressed.
The gas station man was QUITE indignant after I answered the door. He seemed very angry that I had contacted Mobil/Esso to inquire about fencing, etc. He felt that I should have spoken to them first. I told him that I had spoken to the renovation crew, and gave them my number for the owner to contact me to discuss a fence, and that no one ever contacted me. I told him that anyone who parked nose in had headlights that shone through the canvas that I put up, directly into my kitchen and dining room windows, and this was unacceptable. I took him into my backyard to show him that the back of their building had no eavestroughing, and the water from their rooftop AC unit was running down the wall. I told him this was their property – but that water could and would undermine their building. It was already growing algae or moss, on the newly repaired wall. I showed him the blind spot by the gas mater and told him they should put a gate up, so it wouldn’t be used as a urinal or worse.
I also told him that all the other gas stations in the area had privacy fences next to a residential neighbour. He asked if I would be willing to pay for 1/2 the fence, say $2500.00?($ 2500.00 ?!)I said that I did not think it was my responsibility, and that this (a privacy fence) was the cost of doing business. I also asked him if they would build an enclosure around the dumpster, which he dismissed as being too much trouble. Somewhere in this was a conversation about the gas station. I had found a document online that suggested the finished station had been sold for $ 1.5M. When I mentioned this, the dude scoffed, and said it was $ 5M ! Also that the owner had 27 gas stations ! Well, I thought, if they paid $5M for this gas station, they could certainly afford to put up a fence. I pointed out how anyone at the tire compressor could see into my entire back yard, and into my house if my curtains were open.
While I had gotten a quote for the extended chain link fence, it seemed pointless to share it, as I would still need to purchase, create and install opaque privacy cloth, which had a short lifespan. They were a business, and all the other similar businesses in the area had opaque fences. They were on a higher land elevation, so the fence should be their problem to solve.
During this period of time(July/August), one of the renovator dudes showed up with the device that paints lines on pavement. These were oriented towards the gas station building. This helped to minimize the headlight issue at least.
The gas station guy told me his name, which was long, and the short name he was called, Abi. He did not seem to remember my name, so he called me ma’am, a lot. A Note to you youngsters out there: this is typically insulting unless used in a formal context and/or the woman is over 80 years old.
Somewhere in August, the factory started to tidy up their lot. I got nervous when the trees and vines next to the parking lot were trimmed, as they created some welcome privacy. I spoke with the guy trimming the trees, and spoke to the factory owner/manager/something just to make sure they weren’t planning to remove the fence or trees.
Let me make this clear: at no time did the gas station manager (I guess he was the manager ?) or owner or anyone else affiliated with the station ever approach me to discuss a fence, or ask for suggestions or recommendations for a fence builder. I had my back fence, with the antique doors, built by an experienced carpenter. I had the posts set for that fence and the picket fence done by a company that sets posts and builds fences. My experience with both entities had been good, and I had no qualms about the quality of their work, or pricing. I would have recommended either or both, if I had been asked.
Now – if you want to build a fence, and expect your neighbour to share the costs, this is what is typically done : you discuss what kind of fence is agreeable to both parties, you get several quotes with references, and you mutually agree to put up that fence. If you are extra careful you have a survey done. If your neighbour is not agreeable, then you have the option to put up your own fence, on your own property, and pay for it yourself.
I had spoken with the tree trimming guy several times. He was a neighbourhood guy, whose aunt lived across the street. He did odd jobs in the area. He told me he was going to build the privacy fence for the gas station.
I didn’t know anything about him, except that he had been pleasant to me. It didn’t seem like rocket science to build a fence.
The morning glories planted next to the chain link fence had been doing very well. They scrambled over the fence with many blooms adjacent to the dumpster. They would have to come down. I could plant them again next year. I told him to do whatever he had to do, showed him the Smoke Bushes and asked him to not damage those.
I asked him if they were going to get posts set or how the fence was going to get built ? He told me the manager wanted him to use steel post brackets, bolted to the concrete retaining wall.
The concrete retaining wall was at least 50 years old, and I had my concerns about whether it might be crumbly or unsound when drilled into ? I was also concerned that even 6″ bolts might not be strong or deep enough to support the weight of a fence, in a windy place like London. He told me they were going to saw off the posts for the chainlink fence. Despite the age of the posts, they were still very solid.
A bunch of building materials showed up next door.
They took down the fence in the back first. I looked out from time to time as they struggled to get any of the brackets set. The retaining wall was full of pebbles and rebar. This went on all afternoon, past supper time until after dark, with a hammer drill.
Somewhere in this the manager dude came out. He told me that I would have to pay them $ 1000.00 towards this fence.
All the decisions about the fence, including who would build it, had been made UNILATERALLY. I had never been shown any quotes, or asked for my input at all, except that I had been emphatic that there needed to be a tall privacy fence.
I refused to pay $ 1000.00 for this fence, then in progress. More discussion, which digressed into shouting ensued.
I told him that having an opaque privacy fence, next to a residence was a VERY LOW BAR for a business, and the fence was their responsibility to build and pay for. He disagreed. I asked him if he was aware that the location of their vents had filled my house with gasoline fumes ? He said the vents were perfectly safe, and that he would even climb to the top of them and smoke a cigarette to prove it. I said he didn’t want to do that during a refuelling as they would be spewing gasoline vapours. I said that as a residence next a business that I am entitled to privacy, as well as safety. This was not safe. I asked him where the fire extinguishers were on the pumps, and why they didn’t even have no smoking signs on the pumps – as required by law ? He did some texting and within 5 minutes the other station employee appeared and placed fire extinguishers by the pumps ! What good were they doing in their storeroom or wherever they had been ?
And so on.
Now let’s take a moment to look at the fences I have built:
The doors were close in height and width but not identical. John did his best to make them look uniform by lining up the center panels, and trimming the doors accordingly. They were set on sturdy 6 x 6 posts to withstand the force of the many winds, and to support the weight of the doors. My photo is bad but they are certainly level and straight.
The picket fence had 6 foot posts, professionally set. I attached all the pickets myself and tried to be careful with the spacing to make it appear uniform. I had worked drafting patterns and sewing for over twenty years, and was very aware of how discrepancies of a couple of millimetres times several pattern pieces or grading can negatively affect the outcome. I am very neurotic about measurements and consistency as a result of doing this kind of work.
The first fence section in the back was assembled and put up:
I was shocked and appalled. Not only were the brackets not even properly set, the fence looked like this ! The neighbourhood dude had a helper and they both had measuring tapes, too. This is what I see when I look out my kitchen window. How could a fence be this terrible ?
The front fence section was consistent at least. They realized that setting the brackets into the concrete was nearly impossible. I had looked online and there were ways to attach a wood fence to metal posts, using brackets, like this:
I even printed out a couple of photos and gave it to the guy building the fence.
This is how the front section looked:
It’s a little hard to tell due to the tall Cosmos flowers, but nothing is straight. The 4 x 4 posts were used as part of the construction – BUT ARE NOT SET INTO ANYTHING. This section of the fence is attached to the 4′ steel posts, which are still firmly set into the concrete. However the planning and construction is very inconsistent and unconsidered. Some of the posts are attached with brackets, other parts are with the steel strapping used for ducts…
This is how it looked from their side, though.
Here’s that section in the front again. The snow highlights the way nothing is level or square: