Monday, February 11, 2008

Slacker Neighbors

Are you guys friends with your neighbors? And here I'm meaning, did you BECOME friends with them based on their proximity to you (if you were already friends, it doesn't count.) Do you chat casually when you walk your dogs, or are you so close that you maybe even hang out socially or babysit each other's kids? I've been trying to figure out why it is that despite the reasons why I should reach out to my neighbors (they are around our age, they have kids, BECAUSE IT IS CRAPPY NOT TO) I have yet to make even the slightest gesture beyond waving when I pass them.
I think these days it just doesn't seem necessary to be anything more than cordial to one's neighbors. We all have cars, we all (hopefully) (more or less) get out and do things with our friends, and of course we're all busy. There's no real need to make friends out of the people over the fence like there was in the fifties, when housewives usually didn't even have access to cars during the day, and once they had dusted and vacuumed (in their high heels and apron) and sent Johnny and Susan off to school, they had nothing to do but head over to each other's kitchens for the afternoon and discuss their mutual discontent and boredom over Irish coffee. (Geez, Sarah, traffic in ridiculous stereotypes much?)
Now, I don't necessarily think there's anything WRONG with this evolution of social relationship, per se, but it does seem like it would be NICE to at least be on a first name basis with the people living around us. The ones next door have at least one small kid, because I see her coming and going with an infant carseat. Yet they moved in about three months ago and I have yet to go over and introduce myself. I'm pretty sure she's a stay at home mom, too, so I could THEORETICALLY do this during the day. The neighbors across the street have a daughter about five and a son about Addy's age. She's a teacher and he's a fireman, or at least a volunteer fireman. Aside from his annoying habit of backing into his (very short) driveway and swinging his headlights directly into our front window every night, they both seem very nice. We have talked to them a few times, when out trick-or-treating mostly.
Jim was out on Saturday canvassing the neighborhood for his presidential candidate of choice (yes, that's right, we are ACTIVISTS!) and his last stop was their house. He was talking to the husband, Matt, and found out that he had recently been injured when a local business had a gas leak and exploded. We had heard about the explosion (the business belonged to an acquaintance of ours) and I'm pretty sure I even got an email telling me that our neighbor had been injured. But I promptly forgot about it, and then promptly felt TERRIBLE when Jim told me about our neighbor's injuries. I mean geez, I couldn't have sent a CARD? Brought over some COOKIES? Offered to watch the kids so she could go to the hospital in the evening? SOMETHING?
Yuck. There are some things not worth feeling guilty over, but this I do feel genuinely bad about, particularly as someone who espouses Christian ideals (i.e. love your NEIGHBOR!)
So is it too little, too late to go over with some Get Well Soon baked good? Or would that just be weird? Maybe just let this situation pass and then try to, I don't know, watch in a hovery way out the front window until I see one of them come outside with the kids, then dart outdoors and wave frantically, "Hi, neighbors!"?

19 comments:

Julie said...

I think it is never too late to bring a neighbor cookies. Especially if you make a double batch so there are some for you to eat too!

jess said...

It's never too late!

We have the occasional chat with the neighbors across the street and diagonal from us. They are very nice and I have actually had to go voer there at times when locked out of the house or something embarassing like that happens. The neighbors next to us (I call him Colonel Sanders), seem to run whenever we get close to them. I was picking tomatoes in the garden one day whil ehe was in his yard only 10 feet from me. I had too many for us to eat, so I walked towards him with my tomatoes to offer him some and he started running towards his garage. Am I that scary?

desperate housewife said...

See, this is what I'm talking about! People see neighborly overtures as THREATENING, that's how weird this whole neighbor business has gotten!

Saly said...

We know the majority of our neighbors because Hub grew up in our house. We are friendly with all of them but don't hang out or anything like that, be we're not "sit on the porch with a beer" kind of people.

Jana said...

The state of neighbor relations in our corner of the world isn't so great, either. We know the names of the ones on either side of us and exchange Christmas goodies with them, but that's about it. Sad, really.

Your neighbors would probably love some "get well" cookies. You can always claim that you didn't know until your husband told you.

d e v a n said...

I don't know my neighbors on one side, they haven't moved in yet. I don't have any on the other side.
In my old neighborhood I didn't know any of them at all.

I don't think it's too late, besides, you didn't know. Don't beat yourself up. :)

Jess said...

It is never too late to be friendly with your neighbors! We ignored ours for over a year and then met them in the hall one night. Turned out they were great. And the neighbor on the other side helped us carry a couch when Torsten moved in. But they're the only ones we know in the whole building.

Banana said...

It's never too late! but I understand why you think it might be. I get like that - if something doesn't get done in the appropriate time-line (set by me and only me of course), it feels wrong or something.

We have lived in our house for about 9 months, and my husband was the first to meet most of them; if you knew TM you would be laughing right now. Also, most of our neighbors are much older than us. There is a young couple about 4 houses down that I keep wanting to introduce myself to, but I'm too much of a whimp.

LoriD said...

We live in a neighbourhood with a strange mix of people. We are friendly with the couple next door (we went to their wedding, they come to our backyard for a beer a couple of times each summer). We will chat to the guy on the other side (a divorced guy who is meticulous about his house and property), but I doubt he even knows our names. We know the only other family on the street with kids, but we don't get together; we just stop and chat if we're both out at the same time.

You should send some cookies over. They have no way of knowing that you knew about the accident before and it would be a really nice gesture!

A Margarita said...

Lol, I see your predicament. Enough time has passed that it would be weird to make the nice gesture so long after the fact, but you still want to make it and that counts for something. I would probably hover too and dart outside to say hello, while acting naturally of course. I think people always appreciate it when you make the first move.

jen said...

never too late. I had a similar apathetic relationship with my neighbor and then they abruptly moved out without ever telling us! Well I guess if they've already moved out, its too late hehe.. but if I could do it again I'd have been more proactive.

Pickles & Dimes said...

I don't think it's too late to come over with some goodies; I bet they'd appreciate it.

We were on a first-name basis with our two closest neighbors, only I think the husband next door passed away. We don't see him around anymore, but it'd be weird going over there asking about him because he was the only one we'd talk to.

On the other side was a lovely family from Chile. Then one day an entirely new family moved in. We thought maybe they were house-sitting because the old family was pregnant and we thought they might've gone back to Chile to visit with family, but it's been 5 months now.

Anyway, we don't like this new family because they don't take care of their yard, and their kids are always in our yard. But there was never a For Sale sign up and the old kid's toys are still in the yard...and Jason is convinced they killed the old family and have taken over the house, which is ridiculous...and yet...

Shelly Overlook said...

We're the quiet, wave and say hi but mind our own business neighbors. We're on a first name basis with one side, enough that if I had an emergency while Hubby was gone, I feel comfortable calling them. But it doesn't go beyond that.

Our best friends live in a neighborhood where everyone is extremely close. It's good in the times ice takes your tree down and you have lots of help to clean up. It's bad in the times you just want to be at home, alone, hanging out, esp outside b/c they KNOW you're home and they won't go away. Often, for them, there is too much neighborly togetherness.

Swistle said...

For me, it's an issue of not wanting to end up trapped: if I get to know them and don't LIKE them, I'm RIGHT THERE, unable to escape, feeling awkward every time I DO see them, pulling down my shades so they don't see me. I'd rather make friends a little farther from home.

Mommy Daisy said...

We know the neighbors on both sides of us pretty well. And we're friendly with a few neighbors across the street or further down the road. It's mostly just a friendly smile and wave for them though. But the neighbors to our north we talk to a lot. They have kids, so we see them outside especially in the summer. We'll stand and chat with them for a long time. They are just a little older than us, and their youngest son is the same age as ours. But their oldest is in high school now. So sometimes I can chat with the kids when they're out playing too. They're all so nice. Then the neighbor on the other side of us is a single lady that's between my mom and grandma's age. She's lived here for years. She is really sweet and we help her out once in a while. I take care of her cat when she takes vacations, and Matt's helped her cut tree branches and move things in the house. Just little stuff, but she's friendly and we'll stand and chat when we bump into each other. It's much easier when the weather is nice.

I think taking cookies to the neighbors is a great way to break the ice. It's easiest when they first move in or at Christmas, but cookies are good any time of the year.

I love that Jim's taking politics to the streets. It's great.

Penny said...

It's never too late. I am hoping to know my new neighbors when I move there, in May. It's a young neighborhood, so everyone's pretty open.

TheMusingMommy said...

I think your view on what neighbors are hits it ride on the head for these modern times. Why talk to neighbors when you can blog, right?

Although, I do think one should get to know their neighbors and be on friendly terms, hopefully. So go on over there and see if they need anything. I'm sure they would enjoy the cookies.

Flibberty said...

I wish our neighbors would stop for a chit chat, but they seem to want to keep to themselves, which makes me sad. I think for safety and for peace of mind, I would like to be friendly with our neighbors. Growing up I had to depend on our neighbors on more than one occasion, like when I got locked out of the house at 11, or when a tornado hit while our parents were out for the night . . . I just think it's nice to know the folks around you and I sure wish my neighbors felt the same.

Mairzy said...

Obviously, for those who want to know your neighbors and can't, your problem is that you ALL LIVE NEAR SWISTLE and she won't talk to you.

When we moved in, I had a one-year-old and was pregnant. I walked that neighborhood many, many times every day. It got so that if I saw somebody outside, I stopped and introduced myself and talked. Not all of them met me halfway. I think you should at least walk over, knock on your neighbors' door, and introduce yourself. Cookies would make you even more attractive. :)

Our neighbors to our left? We've lived here five years, and the only time they've EVER spoken to us is to ask August not to park where their daughter's new car needed to go. I thought I might make the effort to speak to them, but every time they come outside, they're either getting into a vehicle, on the phone, or mowing the lawn. (NOT all three, as a friend suggested.) Whatever.