Photo: Douglas Zimmerman / SFGate
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It all started with a family of garden gnomes in San Francisco’s Glen Park.
Back in 2015, a resident of this sleepy enclave on the south side of the city was irked by people surreptitiously moving around the smirking figurines in her front yard, and she started posting almost daily complaints in the neighborhood’s Nextdoor forum.
Nextdoor is intended to be a place where people post tips, updates and concerns about their neighborhoods. It’s where you share a photo of your lost cat or alert neighbors of a serial package thief. But anyone who frequents the website or app knows it’s also a place where people stir the neighborhood pot by freely griping about the pettiest of things such as a garden gnome being relocated three feet from its carefully chosen resting spot.
Jenn Takahashi was living in Glen Park at the time, and she found herself logging onto Nextdoor after work for the gnome update.
“It would bring me such relief,” Takahashi says. “Whenever I would come home no matter how crazy of a day, it would be refreshing to go on Nextdoor and find this post about someone touching her lawn gnomes. It added levity and always kept things in perspective for me.”
She says this is when the idea started growing in her mind to start a Twitter account curating the most random, absurd and laugh-out-loud-funny bits on Nextdoor. The garden gnomes were only one tidbit among the sea of neighborhood absurdity stewing with endless material.
Take the complaint from the neighborhood elitist about the older-model cars parked on streets with expensive real estate, or the offer from the hoarder who wants to know if someone has a need for her baking soda that expired three years ago. Take the tale of the woman whose cat showed up at home with shaved legs, or the distraught post from the guy whose robotic Roomba vacuum cleaner escaped out the front door.
“I don’t know why but Nextdoor rocks my world,” says Takahashi. “It’s so eye-opening. I’m a curious person by nature.”
Takahashi talked about her Nextdoor obsession over drinks at San Francisco’s Tempest dive bar in SoMa. This rough neighborhood is where the 30-year-old San Francisco State University graduate with an infectious smile and memorable laugh now lives.
The SoMa Nextdoor, she says, is depressing with postings about stabbings, drug needles and feces on sidewalks. When she moved here, she told her friends and family that she missed the lighthearted posts from from quaint and quiet Glen Park. They started sending her bits from the drama unfolding in their Nextdoor communities in other neighborhoods and towns.
One thing led to another and Takahashi launched the Best of Nextdoor Twitter account, officially going live in October 2017, by sharing these posts from friends. Then random people started sending screenshots of their favorite Nextdoor posts. (Click through the slide show above for some favorite posts from Best of Nextdoor.)
The idea gained traction two months later when a Seattle Nextdoor user sent her a drama-filled thread starting with a complaint about neighborhood noise during Seahawks games.
“One neighbor had a cannon that went off every time the Seahawks scored a touchdown,” Takahashi explains. “It spiraled from there. People said it disrupted pets. One sweet neighbor chimed in and said we should talk this out. They all met up at the Seattle library and people showed up in their Seahawks gear and brawled. It shut down the library. They all got kicked out.”
People sent her screenshots of the Nextdoor thread that blew up during the library meeting, and she live-tweeted “all the drama.”
The Twitter account has exploded with 237,800 followers, and Takahashi has another 12,200 fans who are tracking her Nextdoor picks on Instagram. Among those followers are a few notables, including Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, Angela Kinsey, who played Angela on “The Office,” and Tyler Ferguson, Mitchell on “Modern Family.” By comparison, the actual Nextdoor website’s Twitter account has 34,000 followers.
Takahashi isn’t making big money off all this fame; she’s only been paid for some speaking appearances. There’s talk of a book and a streaming series, but she isn’t ready to share details.
For her, success doesn’t come in the form of money. It’s all about giving her followers laughs.
“Someone recently sent me a video with her entire family around the dinner table cry-laughing while looking at Best of Nextdoor,” she says. “I realized this is why I do it.”
Takahashi has been amused by odd neighborhood behavior ever since her childhood in Tracy, a Central Valley commuter town off I-5. In search of drama in a generally boring place, she devoured the local police blotter as if it were a comic strip and specifically recalls an incident where a woman called 911 to say she was attacked by a chicken.
“The chicken didn’t exist, but she called the cops saying the chicken scratched her,” she says. “I was fascinated by why she would do that?”
When pressed for more details on her own neighborhood and her family’s interactions with neighbors, she tossed her head back and laughed hysterically.
“I never realized this,” she says. “I never put this together. My parents started their own neighborhood watch. People would email my mom and dad about suspicious activity in the neighborhood. Why haven’t I ever put this together? My mom is just like me. She wants to be in the know.”
Takahashi is definitely in the know. She now receives 50 submissions on average per day from people pulling the best postings from Nextdoor forums, and she pores over them at night when she’s not working on her day job as the communications lead for the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. She highlights about one out of every 30 suggestions and doesn’t have specific criteria on what makes the cut, but usually choses items that are funny, heartwarming or quirky. She’s entertained by people who are petty and passive aggressive but not cruel.
A recent favorite featured a solicitation from a woman who wanted to borrow a dachshund to take a photo with. A neighbor responded by Photoshopping a dog into her Nextdoor profile photo.
Takahashi has a list of topics she won’t cover. One is dog poop, because it’s the most common topic of discussion on Nextdoor forums nationwide. She has also stopped sharing posts from people asking for threesomes.
“I feel like anyone who has a Nextdoor account knows how crazy your neighbors really are,” she says. “Why would you try dating them?”
Dead animal photos, suicide threats and racist material don’t make the cut either.
“Some people who submit don’t know what the account is about,” says Takahashi. “I don’t post anything that puts a damper on your day” says Takahashi. “People send me the craziest most racist stuff. They send me all these posts about someone who says they’re going to shoot the next person who knocks on their door. I don’t find that funny. I don’t post those.”
Immersed in the world of Nextdoor, Takahashi has learned a lot about human nature. For one thing, she says, people are suspicious about everything.
“One of my all-time favorites is someone posted a photo of a super tall sunflower and this neighbor was convinced the sunflower was a camera and the neighbor was using it to spy,” she says.
Takahashi is most surprised by how honest and mean people can be. “They have their names and addresses tied to these Nextdoor posts,” she says. “It’s amazing how honest they can be toward their own neighbors. And how petty they can be and air out their dirty laundry for everyone to see.”
But Takahashi isn’t looking to out anyone with their Nextdoor snark, and she blacks out last names before she shares submissions. “To be completely honest, I only try to focus on the lighthearted stuff,” she says. In other words, garden gnomes.
Amy Graff is a news producer for SFGATE. Got a story idea? Email her at email@example.com.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/best-of-next-door-funny-stories-tweets-13910149.php.