Charles’ Lighthouse, 2003
My neighbor Walter [not real name] and his wife came to our area in the late 1960s to start a medical practice. They built a home and raised four children on a gorgeous wooded point on a neck of land that pokes out into the Lynnhaven River. At that time, the hundreds of acres around his home were heavily wooded. Walter landscaped the grounds of his home lavishly. His children kept horses and rode in the woods and nearby fields. Walter planted azaleas and camellias along the narrow lane that would later become a public street.
Over the years the parts of our street that Walter didn’t own were subdivided and gradually sold off. You could tell that Walter took it personally whenever a tree had to be removed to make room for a house or the shrubs along the lane pruned back some. Luckily, the newcomers only took out what was necessary and took pride in the maintaining the floral shrubs along the lane.
In 2003, in preparation for a party which I described here, Walter bought a length of floating dock to replace a smaller, older pier. Walter's buddies from the Knights of Columbus, appreciative of his kindness through the years, built a miniature lighthouse which they installed at the end of the floating dock.
At the same time this was going on, an old hunting lodge across the river was being renovated into a home. The new owner of the property added a pier that extended some forty yards out into the river. Because it was so close to the deep water channel, the new pier required permanent safety lighting. And because the homeowner happened to be in the marine construction business, the pier was not only substantial and well built, but also fitted out with the latest commercial-grade lighting.
One of the floodlights on the pier shined right across the river into Walter's bedroom. His wife was content to close the shades, but Walter was having none of that. He rang up the homeowner on the opposite bank and asked that the light be turned off, away or removed altogether. The owner did not take Walter's call kindly and refused to make any changes.
Then, while out raking leaves a few days later, Walter spied the lighthouse at the end of his floating dock and had an idea. He had his gardener/handyman install a powerful floodlight in the lighthouse that would shine across the river into the new people’s windows.
It was an effective, if hostile, strategy. The first night Walter turned the light on it took only a few minutes for the new people across the river to call and complain. If Walter would turn off his floodlight, they quickly offered, they would put a shield across the part of their floodlight that shone into Walter's house.
Had they waited any longer there probably wouldn’t have been an agreement. What the people across the river took to be Walter turning the light off to give them some relief was actually the floodlight blowing out all the circuits in Walter's house and plunging the whole property into darkness. The failure of the handyman to make sure Walter's house could handle the increased electrical demand of the new floodlight had inadvertently solved the whole problem.