“Can I ride my bike into your house?”
No, not a threat — just a question from an innocent 4-year-old walking past teacher Chloe Hannan’s Arlington home. The 450-square-foot cottage is next to the Minuteman Bikeway and lacks much of a sidewalk, so she and boyfriend Jan Vanderspek are accustomed to chatter from curious passersby. Her landlord thinks the home was once a blacksmith shop; now, it’s almost a tourist attraction.
Sometimes people knock on their windows, which is jarring when she’s on a Zoom call with preschoolers. Other times, people take photos or ask whether the home is actually an Airbnb. (One person responded angrily when she said no, insisting that it should be.) Often, though, it’s funny.
When the 4-year-old asked whether he could ride his bike inside (Hannan gently declined), he replied, “I don’t even think it would fit!” No offense, of course.
The encounters have ramped up with COVID-19, she said, with more people on the bike path and others — usually adults, and some without masks — lingering outside.
“I sincerely don’t think most people mean harm in these instances, and therefore I don’t react in a mean way, but I can’t help but feel I am in a fishbowl sometimes,” she said.
In Nahant, 16-year resident Liz Carlson also suffers for her seaside peninsula location. Although the town maintains parking rules for nonresidents, that hasn’t stopped bold travelers from using her property as a visitors lot.
“It happens all the time in my driveway,” said Carlson, who is also a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker and understands the town’s coveted location. “People pull in, park, see if anyone’s looking, and then walk away. The other day, I poked my head out and said, ‘I’m sorry, this is private property.’ The person replied: ‘Are you expecting guests anytime soon? If not, why can’t I park here?’ It was a little outrageous.”
The interloper finally huffed off. She also put up a “no parking” sign, which was stolen.
Lately, she noted, a tow truck has been prominently stationed at the town’s entrance, a not-so-subtle reminder to park with caution.
“The reason we live here is the same reason everyone wants to come here,” she said.
Sometimes, the intruders aren’t even human. In Acton, Alissa Nicol’s hens have been attacked by off-leash dogs roaming onto her property from abutting conservation land, even managing to tear through chicken wire.
“Now we don’t let them out unless we plan to be in the backyard,” Nicol said.
But when tensions are already high and the weather is warm, sometimes a sense of humor is the best response to unwanted intruders.
Hannan and Vanderspek recently put out a doormat for the summer with a quote borrowed from the movie “The Big Lebowski”: “Hey, this is a private residence, man!”
“Hopefully it doesn’t get stolen,” she said good naturedly.