My wife and I recently hit the road for what we hope was the last time this year, and depended once again on our next-door neighbors to keep an eye on our home while we were away. Check on the cat. Visit the dog. Do our job, basically.
One of the key points to consider when moving into a new home is “What are the neighbors like?” The answer to that question can spell the difference between living in a happy home and living in a fort.
As a renter for two decades, I had many neighbors — upstairs and downstairs, next door and occasionally just out the bedroom window. My memories are vivid. They’re probably similar to yours.
You probably had an upstairs family that sounded like the road company of “Riverdance,” and a downstairs neighbor you were sure was one of America’s Most Wanted. You had a couple next door whose idea of marriage was 15 three-minute rounds every night, and another whose idea of music was to crank up the bass until your spice rack fell down.
And there was another guy who used to drink beer and pound a piano late at night, the same song over and over, endlessly. I guess I can tell you now, that was me. I used to love to do that when I’d had a few. Sorry.
But those neighbors, you’ll recall, all had one positive quality we were renters, and renters tend to move. No matter how insupportable we were to each other, one of us was always likely to pull up stakes inside of a year.
When you move into a house, however, you’re looking at longer-term proximity — maybe lifelong. If there’s something about your neighbor you don’t care for, you’ve really only got three choices:
1. Ignore it. Just lie there in bed and stare at the ceiling while he operates his riding mower at 8 o’clock every Saturday morning for the rest of your life.
2. Discuss it like two adults. This often results in …
3. Open warfare, or the Hatfield-McCoy model.
Nobody likes to live under siege, wondering whose turn it is to retaliate. To have a shot at a happy life, you need good neighbors — at least as good as you are.
When we scouted our present house 11 years ago we didn’t ask about the folks on either side. We just hoped we’d be lucky, and we were. We got the Marcuses and the Rieses.
And they got us. I bet they feel lucky too, especially at midnight on Tuesdays when I finally remember to take the garbage out to the street.
SHERWOOD KIRALY is a Laguna Beach resident. He has written four novels, three of which were critically acclaimed.