Now I’m not exactly new, we’ve lived here for almost a year, it will probably be a year by the time this post goes up, but in general, I’ve never been a big fan of neighborhoods. It goes back to growing up, where most of my neighbors weren’t the nicest people, they didn’t want to be part of a community, they wanted to live in their own tightly-packed slice of suburbia, where they mattered and pretty much nobody else did. Growing up, I was responsible for maintaining the yard, but we had a Japanese family next door who was anal about their yard and the father spent all of his time sweeping every last grass clipping into the gutter, then sweeping it 1 inch past his property line into our yard. And I went out and swept it right back. It became a war and it’s always stuck with me.
The other thing I’ve never liked about neighborhoods is that everyone is always in your business. One of the first places we lived, we had people actively looking over the fence into our back yard all the time, trying to figure out what we were up to. Peeking on your neighbors was the neighborhood past time and I hated it. So when we moved, I made damn sure that we didn’t move into a neighborhood. We ended up with a 16 acre plot of land and our closest neighbor was 1/2 a mile away. I loved it. Nobody bothering us, nobody poking their noses into our business, it was bliss.
Of course, I recognized there were some things that we missed during all of those years. Virtually nobody came to the door on Halloween. My kids had nobody they could just go outside and play with. They had to be taken to their friends’ houses or had their friends brought to ours. I had nobody I could trust to watch after the house when we were gone, no one who I could leave a key with to check on the animals. It wasn’t bad, but there are trade-offs.
So when we moved again, this time for hopefully the last time, we did decide to get back into a neighborhood. I knew all of the potential downfalls, but acknowledged that there were some potential benefits as well. And now, after almost a year, I wanted to report how it was working out.
So far, so good. We do have neighbors, but none of them are all that close, meaning that the majority of them aren’t just over a fence and aren’t peeking over it. Of course, there are some big lots up here, your house isn’t directly on the street, people have to walk in to get to your front door. I only have one neighbor that I share a fence with and my fences are 7 feet tall in the back yard. You’d need a ladder to look over.
Now I really consider myself to have 4 neighbors. Since our house is on a corner, three of them are across a street. When we moved in, our actual adjoining neighbor was a nice black family with a bunch of kids that had “parties” once in a while, but they weren’t loud or obnoxious and always happened on a Friday night when we didn’t have to get to bed early so it wasn’t a problem. I think I talked to them a half-dozen times before they moved out less than a month ago.
Across the street is a nice old white couple that I see sitting out on their back porch all the time and we wave, but I don’t think I’ve talked to them more than once or twice. They seem friendly enough though. Note, I’m only mentioning race because some people care about that kind of thing. I don’t. I couldn’t care less. It’s just a generic neighborhood with a mix of different people. I just wanted to point out that I’m not living in some kind of Nazi white surburbia, like some people think all conservatives do.
On the other side and across the street, we had a Hispanic family that used to live there, but they sold their house and a black family moved in and, although I haven’t talked to them a lot, they seem really nice and I could see myself making friends with the father. He’s a handyman who seems to enjoy making stuff in his garage workshop, which might be something we have in common. We haven’t interacted a ton since they’ve been there, with the exception of a couple of weeks ago when something happened, so we’ll see what goes on in the future.
So what happened? I was out working in the front yard when I heard a crash and saw a car had smashed through my neighbor’s fence. This was my last neighbor who is kitty-corner across the intersection from me. The car dragged 50 feet of chain link fence across the street and stopped. I went to see if anyone was hurt, when the car started moving and I figured that this was a runner. Sure enough, right after I took a couple of pictures of their license plate, the lady driving the car took off, dragging half the fence down the street with her. So I called the cops, provided the photos and filed a report. It’s just not fair for someone to cause all of that damage and not have to suffer the costs to replace the fence. My neighbor also saw the incident and also provided a report, that’s where we really started talking.
Why did I do it? It wasn’t my fence after all. My neighbors with the fence, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen, I just know they leave for work early and come home late, it doesn’t harm me if their fence is demolished, right? But it’s still wrong. I want to help people. I am a really helpful guy, even if my online presence might suggest otherwise. So I helped out my neighbors because it was the right thing to do. Now I see they’re replacing the fence so hopefully, the cops got the hit-and-run driver to pay for it. I’m not going to go running over there to introduce myself if I don’t see them out working on it, but I have no interest in getting any thanks. They didn’t deserve what happened to them, I helped as much as I could. I hope they got the restitution they deserve.
And they’re not the only one. My next door neighbors, the ones that moved, I’ve helped them out too. We had a ton of rain this year and that resulted in a lot of plant growth. I don’t have a lot to mow down in the front yard, but my neighbor has a huge front yard and he works, or worked, a lot and everything grew out of control. So while I was out mowing my front yard one day, his looked terrible, so I just went and mowed his too. I didn’t look for thanks, although he came and thanked me anyhow, I did it because he needed help and I was available to help him. I’ve also fixed the post that both of our mailboxes are on, which leaned horribly when we moved in. It needed doing, it helped someone else as well, I’m happy to do it.
I think I’ve got just the right balance here in the neighborhood. People aren’t too close to be a pain and not too far away to be a hindrance. Sure, I get some people who occasionally play music too loud. Sure, I occasionally have to go out and clean up after someone else. But I’m sure that having neighbors might eventually become useful too. Granted, no one has done anything for me, but I generally don’t need help. Who knows what the future will bring?
Late Addition: While I never went and talked to my neighbors who got their fence destroyed, a couple of weeks later, they showed up at my door, I guess the police gave them my name, and thanked me for all I had done for them. They’re really nice people and we’ve become friends. Helping people is just something you do when you can. I was happy to help them and I’m sure they’d do the same for me if they ever had the chance.