It might be a flat-out refusal to play nice, but in all likelihood, most people probably don’t set out to be bad neighbors. Maybe they don’t know any better. Or maybe they’re depressed. On the other hand, we’ve all seen the willful, neglectful neighbors who irk the rest of us, often in multiple ways. They figure they can do what they want with their own property, and they’re going to prove it. You have to wonder if someone should slip a what-
not-do primer in their mailbox.
If you fail to spay and neuter your critters, the neighbors can enjoy the operatic arias of your cat in heat. And the acrobatics, too—dogs climbing on top of one another is always amusing. Also, let your dog run loose. After all, you love your dog—why wouldn’t everyone else? Those steamy muffins make good fertilizer, and everyone loves a good foot race—when they win. Do you know that German Shepherds can sprint at speeds of up to 30
In the right light and artfully arranged, faded toys the kids never play with, unregistered cars, and bits of trash that float from flooding trash bins have a certain avant-garde beauty. And they have their place, too, but your neighbors will probably like you better if you agree that their place is not on your lawn. Plus, if you clean up the yard, you can mow it, too.
Surely everyone shares your taste in music. And while you’re at it, one howling, barking dog who manages to sound like an entire choir of dogs can fill in the gaps when your sound system is off. Then when you leave for work at 5 AM, rev that engine. Sound the clarion—after all, you paid good money for that super-sonic muffler. Now imagine yourself as your neighbor, trying to put the baby to sleep. Or trying to get some sleep.
Well, maybe not. Not this way anyway. Flirting with a neighbor’s beloved significant other is not a good way to become popular, no matter how crazy-gorgeous the object of your desire may be. It is, however, a good way to promote unhappiness and become the object of gossip.
On the other hand, maybe love is not your thing. Try the other direction. Never say hello. Glower a lot. If someone says hello, pretend you didn’t hear. The guy who’s out raking his yard and looking in your direction so he can give you a nod? Ignore him. When a new neighbor introduces herself, adapt an aloof posture and act startled. Or eye the new neighbor suspiciously. Make her feel welcome and safe. When someone’s little dog gets
out and poops on your lawn, get out your 22 rifle and go hunting.
Chit-chat on the street is a good way to get to know your neighbors. But if you’re the reclusive type and want to avoid people, complain like crazy every time you have a chance to talk to someone in the neighborhood. It’s too hot, too dry, too rainy and too cold, and don’t you hate the new siding on that house over there? Furrow your brow a lot while you talk. The economy stinks, after all. Then complain that you wish people around here were
Let your house go to wrack and ruin. That way every other house nearby will go down in value. Peeling paint, warped siding, fragmenting fences, and curly shingles all contribute to that lived-in feeling, but not the cozy kind. OK—home maintenance is expensive, and sometimes you have to put off a repair. But when temporarily deferred maintenance starts looking more like plain-old run-down, face it: it’s time to start making repairs.
Happily Ever After
In the end, neighborliness is all about decency and thoughtfulness. Fortunately, most people try to cultivate those traits. It’s not that hard. They also just want to mind their own business, get along, and maybe show up if someone needs a hand, maybe even for the irksome and quarrelsome among us. That’s something worth thinking about.