Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?

Last weekend my neighbor Bob had a brunch to which I was invited. It was quite a party. I don't know how many of us were there, but we nicely filled up his backyard. The funny thing is that I met more of my neighbors there in an hour than I had in four years of owning my house!

I think it is harder to meet your neighbors these days, everyone is so busy and works such odd hours. On top of that, my neighborhood doesn't have many kids, so we aren't meeting that way - and we do have a lot of renters, so people tend to come and go. Before last weekend I only knew two neighbors, the guy next door and Bob across the street. I can't even say that I knew either of them really well or anything. Both had been to my summer garage sales and I chatted over the fence Home Improvement style with the next door neighbor on occasion, but that was about it.

That's not the only reason I haven't met many - as I have admitted here a few times, I tend to be a bit of a hermit. Although I am good in social situations, I am a fairly private person. Small talk just doesn't appeal much to me. Nonetheless, I decided to go...

For one thing, I was rather flattered that Bob should ask me. I appreciated the invitation and figured the least I could do is walk over with a bowl of pasta salad. But the real reason I went was that a few weeks before Bob and a few guys from the neighborhood were out riding their bikes and ended up stopping in my driveway to chat while I was out planting flowers. It was just one of those little coincidence things that happen, but within 15 minutes or so of our casual conversation, I found out all sorts of things about the neighborhood. I'm not talking about Peyton Place "who sleeps with whom" stuff, I am talking about important things - like incidents of pretty crime. Things I don't really want to hear, but am glad to know about.

It made me realize that getting to know some of the "old timers" who owned homes near mine would be a really smart thing to do. So, last Sunday I whipped up my salad and moseyed on over to Bob's brunch. Sure enough, it wasn't long before I was meeting all sorts of folks (unlike me, Bob is the social sort and knows everyone) many of whom lived in my neighborhood. They even helped clear up a little mystery about my own house!

One of the many odd little quirks of my house is that there is a section in the living room where the hardwood floor has a slight bump and it is uneven. That isn't too unusual - the whole house is uneven, what can you expect from a home built in the late 1800s? Anyway... this is an odd spot that I have wondered about in the past, but chalked up to the house settling. Nope.

My husband I bought the house from a young couple who didn't have it for very long. The owners before that were two guys and apparently before that was an older woman who had had the home for years and years. Anyway, the guys are the ones that did most of the remodeling in the home (whereas the couple are the ones that did the horrible exterior paint job I am having to repair.) They were pretty popular and known for having big parties. One of my neighbors told me about one New Year's Eve when he and the guys were both throwing parties. All the sudden my neighbor looked up to see people from guys' party streaming towards his house. When he asked what happened, it turned out that they were using the living room as a dance floor and there were so many people dancing.... that it caved in.

Okay, "caved in" is a bit strong, but the whole thing tilted in on an angle. The guys had to re level the floor and put in new joists and beams in the basement, hence the bump in my living room! Personally, I find the whole thing hilarious! And no, I won't be having any dance parties in my living room.

Despite my standoffish nature, it seems to me that there are some good financial reasons to get to know your neighbors, even if it is just a bit beyond a wave in the driveway. One is to learn stories like that - if you bought your house from someone else, you might be surprised on what your neighbors might know. Another is safety. Bob is not only someone who knows everyone in the neighborhood, he also knows everything that is going on in it. I like knowing he is at the end of the block, keeping an eye out. I'm also more willing to watch out for other people's houses, now that I know them. Then there is just being able to ask for a helping hand. Remember last Christmas when I got stuck in my driveway? How nice would it have been if I felt comfortable knocking on a neighbor's door, even if it was midnight on Christmas Eve.

The brunch was nice. It cost me very little, just some time and some pasta, and I am definitely glad I decided to go. Bob was talking about having another party this summer. I hope I get invited, after all who knows what else I might learn?

Photo by: StevenM_61


Frugalchick said...

I am also a bit of a hermit, so I definitely understand where you're coming from. I've been blessed over the years with some friends who like to keep in touch and plan things, so I get drawn in and am very appreciative of that.

I agree that it is soo hard to meet neighbors these days. And I find not having children to be a stumbling block in this area--once couples who do have kids find out we don't, they aren't really interested in us anymore. I moved to this area almost 3 years ago, and it is still hard to meet people/make new friends.

Louise said...

When we first moved in to our house, the area was filled with newly built homes and there were no fences up. All our neighbours were in similar states of building and most had kids so we really got to know them well and helped each other out with the yard and building jobs. It was great fun!

Over the years they've moved away and even though I know the neighbours to wave to, I don't really know a lot of them like I used to and your post made me realise how much we miss out on these days compared to then.

SavingDiva said...

I bought a new condo about a month ago...and I've met two of my neighbors...maybe I'll have to make an effort to meet a few more :)

Dawn said...

Frugalchick - Exactly!! I am fortunate in that way too, by the way. I have great friends. But not having kids does seem like a barrier. I was really grateful for this opportunity to meet folks all in one place at one time!

Louise - I am just beginning to realize how nice it could be know my neighbors. I've always kept more to myself, but there is a sense of safety that I feel knowing a few more people on the block, that I didn't have before.

SavingDiva - I would say go for it! It is worth it!

Dawn said...

SavingDiva - I would recommend it. You don't have to hang out with them, but knowing you can ask someone to get the mail while you are on vacation or someone who will keep an eye on your place is a pretty nice feeling.