Another summer, another moving season in Northern Virginia, a region filled with peripatetic military and federal families. Some folks, like us, move by choice—our three-bedroom townhome with no yard had become inadequate for our four small children. Others, like the family of six across the street, are compelled by their neighbors to uproot themselves.
The reason, supposedly, had to do with smoking. Several neighbors complained about the parents for puffing their “cancer sticks” on their front stoop, in their idling cars, in a small common area, and out their third-story window. These habits may indeed be a nuisance. But I suspect the neighborly complaints reveal not only the gulf between meritocrats and the working class, but also the elite’s opportunistic approach to grievance.
The most vocal of the complainants, a housewife and member of the HOA board, is neighbor to another gentleman who likewise smokes daily outside his house. Another retired gentleman, a half-dozen homes away, smokes constantly on his front stoop. Before I married and my wife moved in (and even for some years afterwards), I occasionally smoked cigarettes or pipes in a comfortable chair on our little porch. Why no complaints about any of us?