Friday, July 23, 2010

"Hello, Utah - Good Bye, Privacy!"

Or: Confessions of a Bad Neighbor
Warning: offensive to most "good" neighbors

“Hello, all. My name is Alina and I am a bad neighbor”.

No, not “bad” in the sense that I would throw my trash into your yard, or blow my leaves there, for that matter, not “bad” in the sense that I will let my dog (if I had it) or my cats (if they were ever outside) pee on your landscape, nor my kids (if I had them) scream and shoot hoops in the driveway till 2 AM , but “bad” in the “not so friendly” sense of the word.

I do not want to share my life’s story with you, as a neighbor, nor am I interested in hearing about yours. I have friends and family, thank you very much. I just live here! It’s just chance that you and I share a fence, or a street, not a cause to celebrate! As much as I will be able to make it possible, I will try to live so that you can see and hear as little of me as possible.

I have never been really good friends with neighbors, anywhere I lived. I have not invited them over for bbq’s, nor offered to baby sit their kids or pets. And as convenient as I admit this might have been to do, sometimes, I don’t ask them any favors either. I won’t knock on the door to ask you if you have an extra egg, and I will not ask you to look after my house when I am on vacation. I am definitely never going to ask you to buy anything that I might be selling. And I would appreciate if you reciprocate!

I know I am the freak here, though, because everywhere I have lived, neighbors want to know my business and want to share theirs with me. Mind you: other than “hello” and “good bye” when they make eye contact, I am not interested in chatting with them at all! But they ask me everything: anything from where I am from, am I married, do I have kids, what I am doing this weekend, or if I want to buy cookies from their kids. Once, one of them asked me to drive her and her toddler girl to the ER at 9 PM, another one asked me to sit their cat over the Christmas holiday (I evidently had no life!), and one even gave me money and a shopping list to do her shopping at Wal-Mart, when her car died.

And whereas I did come half way on all these requests, and I did all of them as asked, I did so begrudgedly, and hoping I am just trying not to p…o… Karma! But you have to be really lucky to get me while I am between my car and my door to ask me to do any of these, because I have been known to not open the door if you ring or knock. Unless you’re ridiculously persistent. That is, unless you were ridiculously persistent, because that changed when I moved to UT. Here, my dear neighbors, I am tempted to not ever answer the door even if I smell smoke on the other side of it!

Let me explain. When I moved here, my husband (also a “bad neighbor”) reminded me that we live in a (large) family kind of neighborhood, in the middle of super Mormon country (aka Utah County), with an LDS church in the middle of the carefully planned out, cookie-cutter kind of community (yeah, some people have a community pool, a tennis court or a club house in the middle of their suburban neighborhood, we have a church!). As a result, he said, we will get knocks on the door frequently from people to ask us to buy things their (many) kids sell at school (like cookies, chocolate, wrapping paper, what have you), or from people to “kindly” invite us to church, or give us cookies to welcome us to the neighborhood AND invite us to church.

I figured “well, how bad could it be?!”. Well, I am here to tell you, dear people, that it’s BAD!
Every day, rain or shine (who am I kidding?? We live in the desert. There is NO rain here!), someone knocks on the door. They don’t do it on Sundays (they are hermits out here on Sundays, as I’ve said before), and Saturdays, we’re usually out doing something, but every single weekday, I get at least one knock on the door, or sometimes up to three or four in the same day! Every single day! I am not kidding, nor exaggerating!

It started with just unanswered knocks and they’d plainly leave. Then, they began leaving all sorts of stuff at the door. Sure, I have gotten your regular pizza or Chinese special flyer before in other places I have lived, but this is very different.

Anything from pieces of paper to announce their “cause” or social event to bags asking us to fill them with stuff for the needy; from plain colored pieces of paper (if we have a natural disaster, we’re supposed to put a plain red piece of paper in the front window if we need help, but a green one if we’re OK! – no, I am not making this up) to FOOD! Yes, you read it correctly: food. One day, we found a paper bag full of what looked like leftovers from a family: used, beat-up containers of sour cream and butter filled with “taco fixings”, we think. We just chalked that up to someone having the wrong address for meals-on-wheels, but seriously: if someone you know needs food because they can’t go to the grocery store is not answering, either call 911 or check your address!

Since our yard is only partially fenced in, we get many visits from other “folks” in the neighborhood as well: like dogs who seem to have made our yard their home – there is a small one across the (very busy!) street in the back of our house that crosses the street with all the crazy traffic on it JUST to come to our yard to pee. And then he crosses it right back! Another big black dog tracked across our yard the other night. Kids throw their ball over the fence between our houses and then just prance in the yard, and pick it up just like it’s theirs or like the fence were a volleyball net or something (we did keep one ball, but ... they have more than one!). Some days I just feel like we’re all living on a compound and we just share our yard and our front porch with the entire community! Not very cool, nor funny!

So, Aa. and I are trying to think what kind of sign we could put in the yard to keep at least humans away! The one to four knocks on the front door, the bags and loads of papers to clean up need to stop! We don’t need cookies, we’re on a diet. We have our gods, so we’re looking for none of those. We don’t need “savings cards to local stores” (one of the solicitors offered that for sale one day when I was working in the yard), we would pick them up at the very stores, if you should need them! We don’t need to help other people’s causes, because we have our own causes to support, and it’s a recession, people, there is only so much spare cash to go around!

So, what kind of sign can be friendly enough (we don’t want our house burned down next time we travel!) but clear enough to keep those folks away?! Sitting out there with a rifle in our hand is not an option, either! So, we are both at a loss – and yes, we’re taking ideas! We’re willing to make it “nice” and maybe like a “decoration piece”, but we do need to send the message loud and clear, that they all need to move right along. Or maybe we should make our own "Beware of (bad) neighbor" or "Bad neighbor" since we don't have a dog. How many people would get it?!

And no, the fact that we never answer the door although our cars are visibly there, and they hear us talking on the other side of the door does not stop the knocking! Not at all. Since May, when I moved here, the knocking has not ceased!

I guess, in a way, I should stop bitching, as it’s all a very “democratic” affair: they have the right to knock on people’s doors whenever they so please, I have the right to not respond. Everyone’s happy. But there are business in town with “no solicitation” signs in the window, so why would those signs be frowned upon when on a private property?! Not to mention that the littering needs to stop!

Welcome home: three of the neighborhood "offerings" left behind one day this week.


Jeff said...

Better to have a piece of paper left on your doorstep than a piece of crap...
And it could be worse - I'd rather have people being friendly than breaking in and trying to steal things.
After all, it's not like they're gypsies... ;)

A.W. said...

True, true! No gypsies, and no ... other foul stuff ... But privacy would be nice, too. I know: I have gotten spoiled! :-)

Hana Carlton said... may go away on its own...after some time of no response at may casually drop the hint about yours gods ...i do not think you are bad neighbor....i am the same in a way...