The Neighbor Résumé


By Sherri Caldwell

Someday, I'll write an article about neighbors: good, bad and...other. Life with the current neighbors (tree issues, among other things)--that in itself could fill a book, but it's not the time for that yet.

My husband assures me there will always be someone in any neighborhood--every neighborhood--who is crazy. Their job in the cosmic order of the universe (my words, he doesn't say "cosmic" or "universe" like that) is to make life interesting. "To give you something to write about," he says. I think he might be thinking "obsess over" and "bitch about" too, but he says "write about," which is nice of him.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the one. Is it me? Does everybody else manage to get along with their neighbors in perfect harmony--and I'm the crazy one? I'm fairly easygoing, and I'm always happy to help anyone, anytime; but I also have the temper of a redhead. I can be difficult if provoked. I think it's something in my Star Chart (Scorpio) that makes "forgive and forget" nearly impossible, but only after "three strikes--you're out!." Not that I am vindictive or mean. I don't believe in revenge or hold a grudge. I just tend to...well, I give people the benefit of the doubt, but when they are just plain difficult time and time again...I pretend they don't exist. It's easier to get along that way.

In general, I play well with others. I don't gossip or spread rumors--I'm very straightforward. At least if I think someone is crazy, I'll let them know. There are people who live and do things differently than I do, and that's okay. They don't have to like me, and I don't have to like them. It would just be nice if we had some way of knowing upfront if a neighbor is going to be good, bad or other. Some type of neighbor résumé, with references, would be so helpful.

I got to thinking maybe there's a pattern in my past neighbor interactions, some indication that maybe I'm a bad neighbor. In fifteen years of marriage, my husband and I have moved nine times: Seattle to Bellingham, Washington to cross country/homeless types to North Carolina (briefly) to Florida to Atlanta to...hopefully somewhere else. With a beach. Soon.

In our previous neighborhood in Atlanta, we had excellent neighbor relations. Well, we ended up in court with one psycho neighbor, but that was only to testify in the defense of the neighbor on one side from the crazy bad neighbor on the other side. We were simply caught in the middle in that situation. Other than that, it was parties on the driveways and kids running around between the lawns--easy, nice, fun.

Almost four years out of the old neighborhood, we spend more time with our old neighbors than our "new" neighbors. (Not the psycho guy--he ended up moving out of the neighborhood and renting out the house to revolving groups of college students, four or more at a time, who all had their own cars (four) and girlfriends with cars (four more) and friends with cars (many more) that stayed over all the time and parked all over the street and the front yard, too. Note: that is not very good neighbor etiquette. But I digress--)

In our new neighborhood, everybody is nice enough, for the most part. There are exceptions. But the houses are farther apart and the driveways longer, so we don't see each other much. Some people say fences make good neighbors; maybe we just need a higher, longer fence.

In Florida, we had a house in a cluster subdivision (also called "zero lot line", which means the homes were right next to each other). The backyards were all fenced and it was very much a "closed garage" neighborhood: everybody worked, the tiny little front yard areas were landscaped by the homeowner's association, the driveways were right next to each other, but we all drove into our garages every evening, closed the door and mostly kept to ourselves. It was kind of strange. We saw our next-door neighbor only one time, when he brought back our little Data Dog, who had tunneled under the fence into his yard. He was not too happy, but we never saw him again after that. (I didn't even have to pretend.)

In that same house, we had a wonderful relationship with the two older couples that lived behind us on the next street. They were very social on their back screened-in porches. We used to climb over the fence once a week or so and have ice cream with the gang. We were only in our twenties at the time, and they were all in their seventies, so we had our own little Senior Citizens Group. We learned a lot about senior healthcare, Medicaid and all the prescription drugs for various illnesses, aches and complaints. Even so, they were a fun group. Maybe it was the fence that made them so easy to get along with.

That's pretty much my neighbor resume to this point--nothing too incriminating or bad. I've never had policeman show up at my door...well, actually, there was one time...but he was looking for my daughter, and that's a whole 'nother article...

© 2003 Sherri L. Caldwell and The Rebel Housewife, LLC.
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