I don’t think my neighbor wants cake

I pour cold creamer into my second cup of coffee and set it in the microwave to heat, pushing in my usual 45 seconds. The beeps seem loud in the early morning quiet and I wonder if my neighbor can hear them through the windows that will stay open well into the fall. Next Door

I’m a respectable neighbor, but I won’t drink luke warm coffee for anyone.  And at this time of year, I’m not closing my windows to keep our sounds of life from annoying a crank next door.  I will try to muffle the sharp clacking my extra bold Italian Roast coffee beans make in the grinder, though.  That’s not a pleasant sound at any time of the day, but at 6:30am, it’s something I wouldn’t appreciate — especially if I worked late each night.

If you were to walk down our street, you would notice that, like many other neighborhoods today, the houses look exactly like one another.  Some are attached, others aren’t, and although they are reasonably sized, they’re lined up right next to one another.  It’s quiet except for when the morning and evening commute begins, and other than an occasional dog walker, or nanny strolling a baby, it can seem as if no one lives here.  Rarely do children play outside, or neighbors stand to talk between the perfectly manicured strips of lawn.  Windows are shuttered in most homes.  When a car passes to enter a driveway, the garage door glides open, allowing the car to pull in, and then closes behind it like it was never there.

Blinds In the six years we’ve lived here, the monotony of who does what and when is only rarely interrupted.  We’ve learned most of our cul-de-sac neighbors’ names, and may hold up a hand in a salute of, “Hey,” and a single nod before heading for the mailbox, or pulling in the trash cans.  But that isn’t the case with everyone. 

There’s the older man who walks intently from one end of the community to the other, back and forth, quickly, one foot slightly scraping the surface of the asphalt, never acknowledging anyone.  There’s the woman at the end of the cul-de-sac with the dark grey Mercedes who drives too fast, and doesn’t brake at the speed bumps, her small body comically bouncing upward each time she hits one.  And the tiny woman who walks with her much larger friend, eyes darting from one open garage, or window to the next, watching, and listening.  Always aware.

A year after we bought our home, a couple moved into the unit directly across the street and began renovations.   Although they were never friendly to begin with, we were doomed after the woman knocked on our door one day to ask whether we’d sign a petition to prevent our homes from being painted.  The MoH and I had taken the time to preview the proposed color scheme and liked the new rich tones which were quite an improvement over the pink we then tolerated.  Yes, I said pink. Picture a flamingo, and you’d have the correct image. So, no, we wouldn’t be signing the petition.  Since others in our area of the complex were against the new color scheme, evidently, there must have been quite a bit of gossip about those of us who wouldn’t help stall the work.

I can begrudgingly admit it’s impressive that after working each day, the man has come home for four years to work on that house.  It must be beautiful inside.  But considering that a kitchen and bath contractor took care of that aspect of his renovations, I wonder exactly what took four years.  They seem to be very precise, so perhaps there has been a lot of detail work. Bird's Eye View

Each Sunday morning after I drag my ugly self out of bed, I can hear the couple already outside for their weekly car washing session.  Same time.  Same day.  Every week.  I don’t have to worry about going out to scrounge for our newspaper in my hag state, because after all these years, I know they won’t look at me. I could don my son’s Arnold Schwartzenegger mask and they wouldn’t acknowledge my existence.  Instead, they remain bent over their task, rubbing intently at some microscopic mark on a window.  I’ve been tempted to yell a chipper, “Good Morning,” to their backsides, and flippantly inquire about whether they’d be interested in wiping the week-old seagull crap off my windshield while they have the Windex out, but know the humor would be lost on them.

It’s funny what you learn about people you see regularly but never talk to.  My dog barks when she hears the UPS man stop outside their house almost daily.  That they spray the lids of their trashcans with Windex and wipe them more frequently than I clean my fridge.  That in the five years they’ve lived here, only once have I ever seen anyone visit them.  Or that the one time the woman actually spoke to me, it was to question why the gardeners had killed the grass in front of our house, and when I explained it to her, then ask what bermuda was, anyway?  That she doesn’t like the color of the house next door to her because when the sun hits it, the reflection distorts the color of the inside of her house.  That she stays up late at night to read our community by-laws. That you can, on more than one occasion, look directly at the man and say, “Hello,” and he does not respond.

Close I’ve thought more than once that somehow, this must be my fault, and that I might share a cake or some bread with them.  That I’ve done something wrong or that I’m not friendly enough.  That my dog leaves yellow spots on the grass where she pees even though I try to rinse it with water.  That our cars aren’t as shiny as theirs.  But at some point, I know that some people are just not capable of being friendly to those who don’t share their opinions — even if it’s about something as inane as paint.






8 responses to “I don’t think my neighbor wants cake”

  1. Beth

    I find it interesting that we have the same neighborhood. The two friendliest neighbors have just lost their house to foreclosure. I guess I will be less friendly – I don’t want to lose the house….

  2. When our neighbors bought their house, attached to ours, they knew there were kids next door, kids who played and drew with chalk all over the driveway, who played hockey over the entire thing (it is shared), and rode their bikes. The previous owners told them, and they could see it every time they came to the house, both for viewings and the inspections. Yet they bought the house anyways and seemed surprised by the children there.
    Worse, they have come out of their garage, while the kids were drawing paths all over the driveway, and stood there with a hose and hosed off their side of the driveway. For safety, she told the children, as she destroyed what took them hours to do. She never spoke to me about safety concerns, she just stood there with her hose.
    So my neighbor gets no cake either.

  3. We’ve lived in our neighborhood for 14 years and barely know our next door neighbors. There are plenty of people who walk the road, but few of them look up. We have an invisible fence for our 2 dogs. They go wild when someone is taking a walk. I used to call them in, but if it is someone who doesn’t even smile, I don’t bother anymore.

    And that is so sad about the chalk. Geez oh man. I would have cried.

    * I’m having a CONTEST! Have you entered yet? *

  4. One of the reasons I love where I currently live SO MUCH is because there is a real live sense of community.

    The kids play in the street, the mothers call out to them to come home when the lights come on in the summertime.

    yes…there is gossip and wagging tongues over fences, and yes all of the houses do look the same, but my neighborhood shares cake, an coffee and BBQ with each other.

    I feel perfectly at ease when my son is outside riding his bike or playing with his friends, and if something did happen to my son, one of my neighbors would be ON it right away.

    I guess I am lucky.

    One of the reasons I wont move OUT of my little corner of the world. My son has security and safety…and so do I.

  5. Melissa

    You have a beautiful neighborhood. I’m sorry that the residents are so unfriendly…maybe they need more fiber in their diet!..
    We have some friendly and some unfriendly neighbors.. I have keys to 3 of my closest neighbors and always get their mail and newspaper when they are out of town… The ones that have animals we feed, walk and clean up after.. and they do the same for us.

  6. I remember visiting a new subdivision for the first time and being a bit freaked out about the ‘monochromatic’ streets (no offense for those of you living there…) and thinking “This is like an alien town”. 🙂 We don’t really have these in Germany. Once I learned more about neighborhood assoc. from my friend, I knew I could NEVER live there as I would be the subject of fines and petitions on a regular basis :). We bought a small house in a rather eclectic neighborhood of old people, and most people are friendly. I went into my neighbors house for the first time last year, and they have never been in mine in 11 years. But we did share a backyard for 3 months when our fence blew down…and we (especially my dog) kind of got used to it.

  7. Wow, that is really a dismal picture you painted, however common it is .

    I am lucky that although I live in a cookie cutter neighborhood, I know many of my neighbors well, and we definitely have real community.

  8. Hey Beth, that’s a drag. It’s nice when there’s someone right there to have fun with. Maybe the newbies will be even better…

    Jenny, I told the MoH this story and he just shook his head. We had a couple of kids make chalk drawings in our cul-de-sac, and the same thing happened. But the chalk-hater had the kids dump water on it themselves. RUDE.

    Hey Lynn — I can just picture your dogs scaring the crap out of a grouchy passerby. Maybe there is some substance to that saying about “killing with kindness.” I’ll check out the contest…

    meleah — you are lucky in that reguard. I’ve gotten the sense of what you describe from all your photos and it’s great! Definitely something to hang on to.

    Hahahahah Melissa — Maybe a loaf of whole wheat heavy on the bran! I have two friends who are a 5 minute drive from here who always offer to help with the house/pets when we’re away, but not right next door. It’s nice that you have that.

    Hi Goddess! Thanks for stopping by. I can imagine that you don’t have subdivisions like we do in Germany. I love the idea of an eclectic neighborhood and have one planned for the future, but that’s a few years away. I know I’d love it.

    Heidi, thanks for the visit, and count yourself lucky. I know people who moved into their cookie-cutter neighborhood when it was new, so everyone knew each other, and kids grew up at the same time. I always thought that would be great!+

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