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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Won't You be my Neighbor? *

I am about to blog about something I never realized was an issue for me.  Well, never until this week, that is.  You see, I never get to know my neighbors.  What’s the point? We are apartment dwellers, bouncing from one place to the next year after year, and chances are that our neighbors are as well.  Why go through the effort of really getting to know someone and be comfortable with them if you’re just going to lose track of them in a few months anyway?
It always seemed that our neighbors felt the same.  Sure, I make an effort right after someone moves in.  I try to catch them as they are coming or going (and I am coming or going) and give them a friendly smile and wave and hope for the best. I’ve always gotten the same reaction-an awkward smile as they look down at their feet and shuffle past to get into their apartment as fast as possible lest I try and start a conversation about the weather.  I just don’t get it. 
See, the thing is, I used to love being friendly with my neighbors! That’s what drew me to apartment living.  When I was 18, I moved into my cousin’s townhouse with her.  She was newly single and needed someone to help her split the rent, and I needed a place to sleep that wasn’t under my mother’s nose.  I had grown too used to freedom to be thrust back into her house and under her rule for any extend of time.  So, I packed my bags (again) and moved in with my cousin.  She was a very friendly and outgoing sort of person that made friends with everyone, so the work was already done for me.  Just show up outside on Friday afternoons with some food to share and BAM insta-friends.
Eventually, my cousin and her ex-boyfriend made up and he moved back in.  I couldn’t handle being the third wheel in the house so I found a new place to stay.  It was a garage apartment with only one neighbor.  He was a friendly guy, but his wife hated me for some reason that I never learned so we never hung out.  I guess that’s what broke the chain of friendly neighbors because from there on, I’ve never been friends with my neighbors.  I’ve always hoped to, but I just figured that that’s not really how apartment dwellers operated and that the one experience I had with friendly neighbors and afternoon barbecues was sadly not the norm.
I have contentedly set aside the notion that I will ever be friends with my neighbors again, living my life between a series of awkward nods and timing my departures to avoid that moment all together.  It has worked out well.  I don’t get my hopes up, and I don’t exhaust myself trying to make new friends every few months.  That is…it worked out well until this past week.  Like I said, I always assumed that my one friendly experience with neighbors was out of the norm, but after a conversation with our office manager, I wonder if this is really the case.
See, while discussing what to do about the flooding incident, I made a comment about “the joys of apartment living,” and she sounded surprised.  She told me that she just moved into her first house and her and her son felt very lonely and missed living in an apartment.  This confused me since I don’t feel any sense of community living here or any other complex recently. When I said so she said “Well, now you get to meet new neighbors and maybe you will have more in common with them,” to which I replied, “We haven’t even met the neighbors we’ve lived side by side with for almost a year, so I doubt we’ll get extra chummy with the neighbors we’re sharing walls with for four days.” Do you know she actually acted surprised that we hadn’t met our neighbors? Here I was thinking we were completely normal, I mean it’s not like we’re rude to our neighbors-we try to be friendly, it’s just that no one seems to reciprocate.  Now I’m beginning to wonder…
Is it us??


*Sorry for the Mr. Rogers flashback. Just couldn't help it while thinking of this post, originally titled "Getting to Know Your Neighbors"...see? Just not as catchy :)


  1. I wouldn't say that we really made "friends" with the neighbors but we were nice and smiled and said Hi if they happened to be in the same place at the same time.

    However here, I feel like we are the only family for miles and miles. We never see the neighbors except for the son who uses our backyard to do yardwork for the people behind us... I have always wished that there were more places where you could get to know all of your neighbors but I think now most people just stick to themselves. I wonder why she was so surprised....

  2. I would say that it is true. I have lived in my share of apartments, and have always got to know my neighbors.

    They were always so close so I could just go down or over or across to visit! If I needed a place to stay when I was much younger (if I left my key) I would just knock on one of my neighbors doors and they would let me come in. We were always really close, even with those in other buildings!

    But, now we stay in a house and it is much more "formal" no one really seems to say high or anything, they do the wave from their respective yards as you pass...meh...I don't like it very much. It makes me wonder why people like houses so much.

    But I suppose it also depends on what type of person you are, and who you are surrounded by :)

  3. Maybe townhouse/condo dwellers are more willing to be friendly because they are more permanent than apartment dwellers? Maybe in your apartment complex the cliques are different ages/interest than your own? Maybe it needs to be the right fit.

    I could relate with this post because I am still friends with some of my apartment neighbors, some 12 years later. Some of us are married, some living in Denver, some living in Seattle. We all still stay in touch.

  4. When we lived in our house in a subdivision we didn't know our neighbors. Everyone would smile and wave, but we never actually hung out with any of them. We are now in an apartment (thank God - home ownership wasn't for us) and it's somewhat the same except for the people right above us. They are the nicest couple you'll ever meet. We haven't hung out yet but we've chatted quite a few times standing outside and such. There is one thing that I always remember my mom saying when I was younger - Don't become all buddy buddy with your neighbors because if things take a bad turn you're stuck with them until one of you moves. This did happen to us once when we were renting a house right after Mike and I moved in together. A woman and her 5 kids (she was prego with #6) moved into the house across the street (another rental). We were outside at the same time one day and chatted it up a bit. She said they hadn't gotten a chance to get their phone hooked up and asked if her kids could use ours to call their Grandma. I figured it would be no problem. That was my first mistake. Everyday for a couple weeks those kids would come over to use the phone (not because they wanted to but because their mom was having them call people). Finally I told the kids they wouldn't be able to use the phone (politely) after a certain date. The mom went ballistic. Every time I'd see her outside she'd scream at me and call me all sorts of names. She eventually got evicted, but it was horrible living like that for those few months. So, needless to say, I am polite to neighbors, but don't go out of my way to make friends...for fear of THAT happening again. Eep!