With Neighbors Like These…

MAINE—Operating a porn site for profit is hard in and of itself and especially challenging these days, but no one needs neighbors like the ones in this story, who decided to ask Ann Landers how to best deal with the porn site next door. The question was then published on the local news site SeaCoastOnline.com, which is where we found it. The Ann Landers column is now written by two longtime Ann Landers editors, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, but you already knew that.

The letter said:

Dear Annie: We live in a quiet family neighborhood. Recently, a neighbor tried to locate the owner of a rental home next door in order to discuss a shared fence issue. When our neighbor could find no contact information through the city department of housing, he searched the Internet. He was shocked to discover that for the past 10 years, the owners have had a porn site registered at that rental home address. None of us wants a porn site associated with our neighborhood. How should we handle this?

The answer was:

Dear No Name: While we certainly understand your moral objections, these owners seem to be running a legal operation. Most web-based or home-based businesses are fine unless there are customers or employees coming to the house. There may be a requirement to have a business license, but that's about it. You can contact a lawyer in your city to find out whether there are other possibilities, but we suspect there is nothing you can do, legally, about this. Sorry.

Here’s what I would have replied:

Dear Nosy Neighbor (whose name I wish I knew so I could broadcast it to the entire state): Can you answer a few questions for me so I can try to understand where you’re coming from before I try to help you? First, if things have been problem free with your neighbor for ten years, why do you care what they do for a living? Second, how exactly is the porn site “associated” with your neighborhood if you were ignorant of the fact for ten years even though you’ve lived right next door? Third, who said it was your neighborhood? Okay, so here’s my advice: why don’t you try minding your own business? And here’s a promise: If we find out that you went ahead and informed all of your neighbors about the porn site, creating trouble where there was none before, we will immortalize your sorry ass in this column.

"Boy, if life were only like this." - Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977)