I’m a pretty quiet and unassuming neighbor. Always have been. Business took me out of town for long stretches of time when I worked and even at home I was never one for loud parties or cranking the television up. In fact, for years I didn’t even know my neighbors in any of the places I lived. Decades, even.
I like my privacy and my peace and quiet. Always have.
And I like fences, both literal and figurative, because I believe they do make good neighbors. But what happens when even a good fence isn’t enough?
Almost four years ago we moved into a quiet residential neighborhood with neat, manicured lawns. There were a few young families, but our block was populated mostly by folks 50 and older. The area struck me as a bit bland, vanilla, but in a pleasant sort of way.
So when the neighbors across the back fence moved and rented their house to seven 20-something men, mostly tech professionals, (what were they thinking??) I had a feeling that things were going to change and right away they did.
Their driveway wasn’t big enough for all the cars; most days there were at least seven parked on the street and if they had company, far more than that.
We found the stray beer bottle or two in our yard, some snack litter, nothing we couldn’t manage. It wasn’t as bad as, say, the beautiful Mediterranean home I rented once in Tampa that was next door to a motel that hookers worked out of. Johns and pimps often dropped working girls off right in front of my house and once a man even got out of his car, whipped out his penis and peed by my mailbox. In plain sight.
Or the condo I owned on the Monterey peninsula which also housed some of the few purely evil people I’ve ever encountered. They tormented me and tormented my renter in all sorts of nefarious ways. Mean and nasty. Oh, so mean and nasty. And for no reason.
Well, ok, for a reason. They felt it was “their” condo complex and they only wanted neighbors they could control. I’m not kidding.
M and I took a gigantic loss on the place just to get away from them.
These boys were nothing compared to that.
But when spring hit, the backyard pool was open for business –and the weekend parties began. Super-loud booming music all day and into the evening virtually every single weekend drove us indoors with windows and doors tightly sealed. Even that couldn’t drown out the booming bass. The dogs were on edge, especially our older one.
“We partied when we were young, too,” we told ourselves, as we cranked our own TV up to drown out the noise.
But we didn’t want to watch TV. We wanted to take the dogs out into the yard, sit on our patio and read. Peacefully.
After a few weekends like this, I baked a banana bread and we brought it over to welcome the boys to the neighborhood.
“I hope we aren’t too loud,” the young man who opened the door said.
“Well, glad you mentioned that,” we said, and gave them our thoughts. He promised they’d be more considerate in the future and for a while they were. Summer turned to fall and then winter brought everyone indoors.
I’d heard via the rumor mill that the owners were planning to sell and the renters’ lease wouldn’t be renewed in January. I suspected the owners were in for a surprise when they returned to see the condition of the property–from the start I’d questioned the wisdom of renting to a large group of young men. What were they thinking?
January came and went. So did February and no FOR SALE sign appeared.
And then, on a recent sunny Saturday, the pool opened for business. Cars began arriving and a big, noisy party began around noon. It was a beautiful day, just made for sitting on the patio with a good book. Instead, we hunkered down in our house with doors and windows closed. By 7pm the booming bass was cranked all the way up and my phone rang.
A neighbor two doors down was beside herself. She and her husband had also been hiding out in their house and even through the double-paned glass they could hear the music. And they were almost a block away. Her husband, recently treated for cancer, could get no rest. He had gone over to talk to the renters to no avail.
“Come get me and you and I will go,” I offered. She’s no pushover, and neither am I. We walked next door and rang the bell. No answer, because they couldn’t hear it. She pounded loudly on the door. Two fairly shitfaced young men answered. From the way my neighbor beat on the door I’m sure they thought we were the police.
When she saw the young men, she went off like a bottle rocket. It was one of the few times that I was the more reasonable person. I enjoyed my new role.
We explained how the constant noise was inconsiderate and preventing us from enjoying our own yards. They were apologetic.
“It’s a moving out party,” they told us. “We’re leaving soon!”
“How soon?” I asked. (Why beat around the bush?) As soon as they could find a place, they told me, but they had to be out in six weeks. The end of April.
Of course one never knows who might appear next; it could be an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire scenario. That pool is certainly a big party feature. But my point is this:
Someone commented recently that she believed we’ve lost our gentility, and I think maybe she’s right. At least some of it, gone with the wind.
Now, 20-something young men have never been the most genteel, but courtesy and consideration know no age. Neither does lack of it. Look no further than the 70+ year olds at the condo complex in which I used to live.
I don’t much like this kind of self-centered behavior. It’s mystifying. We’re all in this world together and have to find ways to peacefully co-exist. Why is this so hard, I wonder?