Wednesday, March 3, 2010


“A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing” - Hesoid

When I was young the neighbors were people I played with, people I was excited to see. I remember growing up in a ultra-suburban neighborhood, walking distance from the elementary school and junior high. I spent many afternoons playing with Skip-Its or playing Roller Hockey Tag around the school. Even as I aged, neighbors were at least the people I walked with to and from school. As we I was young, neighbors were friends and playmates.

When you make the transition from home to dorm-life, neighbors take on a completely different meaning. Neighbors, including your roommate, become the many different people in the dorms. You are all of a sudden thrust into an environment with many different students who have many different values and engage in very different activities. It can be a fun environment, one where you make friendships that last the test of time. It can also be an invasive environment, with little to no respect for privacy.

From dorms to apartment living. This environment provides a little more privacy, as I no longer share a bathroom with an entire floor of college students. But apartment living brings about the beginning of irritation with neighbors. When I used to sleep on a loft bed, which I assume must have been strategically placed right below my neighbor's stereo, every morning at approximately 6 a.m. he would blast the best of Cher, Madonna or Celine Dion. No Joke. Quite the rude, abrupt awakening. Then there are passive-aggressive notes left on the front door about noise you or one of your roommates has made. There are neighbors who slam their door every time they enter or leave, shaking your entire living room. There are neighbors who you swear are keeping a family of illegal immigrants above you as there is an incessant "thump, thump, thump" above your head which you swear must belong to a family of 8-plus. Lastly, there are the neighbors who cook 24-hours a day, creating a never-ceasing curry smell in the entire complex, even coming through the drain in your shower. Ick.

From apartment living I have transitioned into condo living, which hasn't changed much. Neighbors come and go in my complex, but incidentally, they are mostly renting too. I find that neighbors who are renters, certainly have less respect for the complex than others do. I still hear the "thump, thump, thump" above, but it is from a couple, not a family. We have neighbors who smoke pot in the corners of their patios trying to hide it, but you can't quite cover up that smell. We also have neighbors who are friendly and say hello and neighbors who have helpful advice about the complex. But even now, neighbors are more and more like strangers. I was shocked I was invited into my new neighbors place on Thanksgiving when I locked myself out of my condo (and Mike was still at work). I actually chatted and got to know her, which I think is becoming rarer and rarer these days.

Eventually I want to move back into a suburban community. One where I can feel comfortable for my future children to make playmates with the neighbors. I don't think I will feel quite grownup until I live in a community like that again. It is interesting because I know very few people who live in my complex, but I know a lot of people in the community where I work. I walk downtown and see several faces I know. The people of this community I work in have slowly become my neighbors. The ones I feel comfortable to smile and say hello to. The ones who usually don't irritate me with "thump, thump, thump."

The more I think about it, your neighbors can be anywhere depending on how you look at it. Your neighbors can be your coworkers. I spend 40 hours a week with my coworkers. Their cubicles neighbor mine. They can be people in town. They neighbor me as you both visit the same places to shop and eat. And the main definition, they are the people you live near. But more and more, the people you live near are the ones you know least about and I keep the greatest distance from.