I certainly have a mixed-bag relationship with my neighbors. This article made me think about that relationship. Several of my neighbors are very pleasant people. Some are worthless – and I mean that in the nicest possible way. The trick, when living in a townhouse community like I do, is to coexist with a minimum of headaches. Here are ten reasons I struggle to coexist with my neighbors:
1. Da kids. My son has a lot of good friends his age around our neighborhood. In the normal course of events, I might not have crossed paths with his friends’ parents, but for his sake I hang around with them – and eventually it has paid off as I got to know them.
2. Zen housing. It’s just easier to live your life if you don’t give your neighbors a hard time – primarily because they won’t give YOU a hard time.
3. Speak no evil. If you do something, well, semi-illegal like having a bar-b-q in an area where technically bar-b-q’s are, well, semi-illegal, it’s nice to be on good enough terms with the neighbors not to worry about tattle tales.
4. Lookouts. If you go on vacation, you’re going to want someone to watch your place. I’m wouldn’t expect anyone to be a hero, but just stopping someone from backing up a truck by calling 9-1-1 would be nice.
5. Saving money. You can save money borrowing a rake if you’re on good terms with your neighbor.
6. Being able to pick on the little things. If you’re on good terms with your neighbors, it’s a lot easier to ask them not to shovel snow in your driveway than if you’re barely on speaking terms.
7. Built in socializing. If you work at a job with late hours or long commutes (or both) it’s nice to have someone 100 feet away who you can socialize with, rather than needing to hop in the car and drive halfway across town with kids in tow to meet someone for dinner.
8. Networking. Oddly enough, since I live in a neighborhood full of people who commute to lower Manhattan I’ve discovered that I have a lot of networking possibilities from people who I know due to the accident of living in the same neighborhood.
9. Advice. If your neighbor’s been in the area longer, you’re going to appreciate getting to know them all the better when they can recommend the best neighborhood plumber or dentist.
10. Longer life. Most studies of happiness show that most people’s happiness relies on a few basic factors. A healthy relationship with your community increases your happiness, decreases your stress and thereby lengthens your life.
Everyone realizes that life is easier if you have a good relationship – or at least a neutral one – with your neighbors. The problem is that unless you have kids (or dogs, I guess) who sortof force you into socializing situations you’re often going to have a tough time forming a connection unless you’re the naturally gregarious type. The benefits are there, though, so just remember that the next time you see the neighbor you don’t know so well out on the street – say hi and walk a while together.
And just in passing, I was saddened to see that David Foster Wallace (apparently) committed suicide. I was not a huge fan, but having read a few of his books and nonfiction works I was struck by how terrible it is to see another talented artist giving in to his demons. His writing was amazing. A shame, a shame, a shame.