Wednesday, February 22, 2012

on being a neighbor.

to be honest, i haven't had the best of luck with neighbors. and it's not to say i've had bad neighbors (the people who live in the apartment next to me, and in fact my floor in general, are very nice and all have super cute dogs), but every now and then i have what we could call - an experience.
the one that effected me the most, hands down, was my neighbor who lived across the hall from me when i first moved to nashville. i could tell right off the bat she was a bit different. at first i just thought she was spacey, loopy, maybe took one too many xanax here and there. but i was determined to be a good neighbor. so when she asked me for a ride one day, i happily obliged. i waited until the super was done fixing my heat and on our way we went. after about thirty seconds in the car she told me she was afraid they had just bugged our apartments to listen to our conversations, and then asked if "they" had told me to wear green that day.
the moment that you realize that your neighbor is schizophrenic, and you happen to be behind the wheel of a car, is not a good one.
suffice to say the next couple of months were a mess. she would knock on my door at all hours of the night. i stopped watching television and putting the lights on in my living room because when she knew i was home she would insist on coming over. and i felt awful. i knew she was sick and i knew she needed help and soon found out her family was struggling to get her into a facility. but i also knew that she, being a schizophrenic, had the possibility of being dangerous and i couldn't really help her. to say the least - it was not the neighborly experience i was look for.
enter new york city. where you have thousands upon thousands of neighbors. my friend moved to the city, ten blocks away from me, a half a mile. in many other places we would be neighbors. in those ten blocks there are about 15,000 to 20,000 people separating us. if not more. it's hard to feel like we're neighbors.
which brings me to my point. my building. where my true neighbors live. my building is fairly small. probably about 150 to 200 people live in my building. most people are friendly, but besides holding open doors and asking about how days went, we keep to ourselves. and then two weeks ago, in my quiet little building, i was awoken by what could only be called a lover's quarrel. never, in my almost ten years of living in apartments and dorms with thin walls, have i heard a fight like this. screaming. cursing. throwing someone out at 3 AM. it was almost a cliche. until there came that moment of clarity, as i slowly left the land of sleep, that someone could get hurt. these people were very angry at each other. and they were in love. and sometimes people do things like throw books or throw punches when they are angry and in love and it's 3 AM. and i lay there, hoping no one would do that, wondering what i would do. because you can't hear that and fall back asleep with a clean conscience. but if you call the cops you become the bad guy - the one your neighbor gives dirty looks to because you got involved in her business. luckily, after about a half hour, the fight died down. i think he finally left, but i can't be sure. what i do know was that he was 29 years old and, i quote, "a fucking deadbeat". i definitely know that. she really emphasized that point.
but in all seriousness, both of these incidents make me wonder: what is our responsibility to our neighbors? when does their business become our business? when should we get nosy, and when should we not? i know it varies from the type of place you live - cities are different than rural communities. apartments are different than homes. but in general, what do you think? are you friends with your neighbors or do you keep to yourselves?

9 comments:

  1. gosh, girl, you got some craaaazy neighbors.

    This is a tough one though, because my first instinct is to stay out. But then, what if you could do something to potentially save someone? Tricky business.

    I have to admit that I'm not a super friendly neighbor (although I am a super friendly person). I pretty much keep to myself and just give the occasional wave or small hello. I want to be friends with my neighbors, I just haven't found cool enough neighbors I really want to be friends with yet. Maybe if you and I were neighbors??.... my life would be complete.

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    1. seriously. truly a little crazy.

      i'm on the fence about it too - because you want to be protective of your home and always have a safe place to go at the end of the day. if you're getting involved in other people's business, that may not exist anymore because they won't want you around. but it's hard to stand by idle (thankfully it didn't come to that, though). tricky business indeed.

      and yes, if we were neighbors that would be wonderful! i have a feeling you won't get upset if i wear green.

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  2. The most interaction I've had with our neighbors here is with the snake incident. Once when I was coming home from laying out by the pool (life's rough, I know), there was a snake blocking the entrance to our apartment. There was no way around it, and when another man also came home at the same time, he apparently was also scared of snakes so he and I just stood there looking at it, trying to figure out how to get it to move. Thankfully management sent someone to kill it. We went on our way and haven't spoken since. It doesn't seem like people in apartment buildings (at least in my experience) really want to have much interaction beyond the hello in passing. Once we buy a house and move into a neighborhood though, I definitely want more interaction with our neighbors. That's one of the things I'm really excited about!

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    1. haha - i love that he was deathly afraid of snakes, too! (and what i would give to live in a place where there are pools for me to lay out!)

      i'm with you - i look forward to having more of a community. it just seems like a fun and easy way to make friends and casually have people over. a neighborly community seems like a benefit to me. the only apartment buildings i've seen it in have been in ones where a lot of grad students live, otherwise it's more like what you pointed out - people keeping to themselves.

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  3. Wow. You have some luck! I'm sad to say I haven't had much contact with my neighbors except that time I caught the crazy cat lady hiding behind a tree so I wouldn't see her (fail) and a nice letter from our apartment building after our downstairs neighbors complained about our stomping. At this point, I'll probably just keep to myself. Kinda sad, but whatever.

    In college one of my roomates had a HORRIBLE fight with her boyfriend, and of course my mom was visiting. They were in the livingroom screaming, cursing, and crying, and we didn't know what to do. I was just a freshman, but there's no way I wouldn't get involved now. I'm all for minding your own business in general, but when their fight is disturbing you AND then you think something bad might happen, privacy goes out the window.

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    1. it's nice to hear management was on your side (and not your overreacting neighbors).

      yeah privacy can be hard to have, and insist upon, when you're having fights like that in dorms/apartments. living in homes is where people can get nosy, although even then you'd be surprised with how much a voice carries in a quiet neighborhood.

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  4. Whoa. That is an intense neighbor history. And I thought it was bad when we lived above the lady who would fry Asian fish every day when I was first pregnant and the smell would come upstairs and make me want to die on the spot. Living in NY we've always been friendly with our neighbors, especially others with dogs (easy talking point) but never really made friends with them. I don't know, it would be nice to have a neighbor friend but everyone always seems so busy and rushed here that it always seems to be more of a bother than anything.

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    1. oh man. while i love fish, that must have been tough. especially since you were pregnant.

      i do think it's hard since we all have our own lives, it's just like inviting neighbors over to watch the game, or a bbq - an activity you were going to do anyway - would be nice. although, let's face it, if you're not worried about people bugging my apartment you're already a step up in my book.

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  5. Since moving to London, I have been really unfortunate with neighbours. I think it's a city thing, people have busy lives and everyone prefers to remain a bit anonymous, whether it's on the train, bus or even at home. I became quite friendly with an elderly man across the road from me but it got to the point where he would come over every day and go into great detail about his bowel movements etc and I wasn't able to start dinner, leave for work or relax so I ended up having to creep into my own house! Your home is your safe haven where you can shut out the world and truly relax. So yeah, neighbours can be very tricky. I tend to not get involved, regardless of the situation. It may be wrong but it keeps my life a little less complicated.

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