Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On My Mind: Do You Know Your Neighbors?

Maybe it's because I live in a rental, or because I live in a high rise building where you don't get to bump into your neighbors in the stairwell on a regular basis, or because this is NYC and people come and go, but the fact is I don't know any of my neighbors. I'm a friendly person. I don't have trouble talking to most people. In fact, when I first moved here from LA, I realized some New Yorkers would get suspicious when you smiled and said hello for no reason. Either that, or they took your friendliness as an invitation to stalk you.

I've lived in three different buildings in the city since moving here, and in not one of them did I know the names of the people who lived on either side or across the hall from me. The other day, I'd just come home and put the key in the lock when I noticed the door to the next-door apartment open up, and I swear, someone stuck their head out and seeing me, popped right back in like a mole in a hole. That's my quiet neighbor. I imagine he's the one who's listening in when City Guy and I have our little spats.

I don't fault him or her. I've had a similar skittishness about seeing my neighbors. It would have been okay had we introduced ourselves when we first moved in, but now, I know too much about them. The walls are thin here. To the east is the quiet, skittish neighbor who snores so loudly I have to wear earplugs to sleep. To the west is the loud couple who fights when they come home drunk at 3 pm. I feel like I know them--the guy's got a southern accent and is always yelling from across the apartment for his girlfriend- "Honey!!"--just once, couldn't he just get up and go to her? He's so g-d loud! If it's not yelling at his gf, he's shaking the walls yelling f-bombs at the TV or screaming into the phone at god knows who. You can understand why I don't go over and introduce myself.

I fantasize that when we move to a condo, we'll meet everyone on our floor, and our future kids will have play dates with kids down the hall and when I'm bored, I can just trot down the hall and call on Lucy or Ethel. Wouldn't that make this city feel more like home? Then again, does living in NYC mean the freedom of anonymity? Is neighborliness just a fantasy? Anyone experience this problem? Anyone have advice on how to solve it?

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