I would never just walk into someone's house. Even if I'd known them for years. I do not take an open or unlocked door as an invitation to enter without permission. But that's not the case for many – especially in Oklahoma. To counter this, I keep my doors locked – all the time. I'd lock the gates to my backyard if I could, but with no alley, meter readers etc, need access.
My house sits on a long narrow lot, surrounded by smaller square lots. Which means instead of one house on my left, one to my right, and one behind me – I have two on my right, two on my left, and one way, way out back. In other words - I'm surrounded by lots of people.
To counter the feeling that anytime I step outside someone is watching, I've planted shrubs and trees and other thick foliage along the four foot chain-link fence that borders my backyard. You'd think this would be enough to ensure my privacy. But it seems like whenever I'm mowing, weeding, or doing anything outside, I have company. Kids who want to sell me candy or magazine subscriptions for their latest school fund raising project, strangers wanting to use the phone, strangers wanting me to pay them to mow my yard, strangers inviting me to their church, and neighbors just wanting to chat as I lug in my groceries.
I'm not a person who likes to chat. I don't want to know everyone's business. I'd probably be very happy living in the country with no neighbors playing loud music late on Sunday nights (what reasonable person parties on Sunday nights anyway?); no neighbors using power equipment outside at 8 am on Saturdays; and no neighbors having abusive midnight conversations with their soon to be ex-spouses as they make their way from slamming front door to slamming car door (note: if you're leaving forever, for heaven's sake just do it and shut up about it.)
My day job requires me to talk to all kinds of people all day long. Sometimes I spend most of the day on the telephone dealing with problems. I've done this for more than 25 years. I only have so much goodwill to give each day. When I come home, I want to do the Greta Garbo thing – I want to be alone.
I treasure my privacy. I want to come home, roll up the drawbridge, and keep the world out. To achieve this, I try not to engage my neighbors in idle conversation. I wave from a distance and hope they do the same. Usually it works, but not always. I had one senior citizen neighbor who insisted on getting my mail out of my mailbox and holding it for me when I was travelling. Sometimes he did it when I was just late getting home from work for the day. This necessitated me checking with him whenever I returned to see if he had any of my mail. I finally got a locking mailbox and that solved one problem.
Now the neighbor to the right of me has moved out. He was one of my favorite neighbors. In twenty years, we'd only had three or four conversations: once when he broke my bathroom window with a rock from his riding lawn mover; once when he cut a tree down and it landed on my fence; once when I found a dying kitten in my backyard (since he had cats, I thought it was one of his. It wasn't but he took it anyway) and once when he let me know he was moving. Even with the accidents, he was my idea of a good neighbor.
New people are in the process of moving in. If I was a better person, I'd bake some cookies and take them over, but I wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea. Best to start the way I want to go on.
I'll smile and wave at them as I fill my moat and feed the alligators. Hopefully, they'll get the message.
Robert Frost had it right. Good fences make good neighbors.
Any neighbor stories you want to share?