When Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Part of the all-American, white picket fence dream involves having neighbors with whom we can bond and build friendships. We picture a sweet Mayberry-like neighborhood, with people sharing extra vegetables from their garden, stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar, and staying for coffee and a chat. These wonderful people will offer to keep an eye on your house when you take a vacation and welcome you home with baked goods and a smile.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have neighbors like Mr. Rogers. Unless you live quite far from society in general, most homes will come with a community, and you have no idea what members of this group are like until you settle in. I guarantee that at least once in your life, you will have a neighbor with whom you would never willingly choose to associate. In fact, it is somewhat inevitable that this person will attempt to drain your happiness and take away any desire you may have to walk outside of your door.

Personally, I have experienced some strange happenings with neighbors. Years ago, I was enjoying a relaxing evening at home when a loud boom erupted, shaking the floors and dislodging pictures from the walls. It was so deafening and alarming that I truly thought a plane must have crashed behind my house. Rushing outside, I noticed an enormous plume of smoke behind some trees. It turns out that someone nearby decided to burn debris and included paint cans in the fire! Thankfully, no one was hurt although I am sure an incredible lesson in fire safety was learned.

While residing in a condominium, a couple lived above me. They were incredibly friendly, and I enjoyed both their company and their care of their home. You must imagine my shock when, one night, the sound of gunfire…yes, gunfire…erupted. It turns out that the man had too much to drink and went into a rage against himself and apparently, his bed. He shot a couple of rounds into his mattress, and one of those bullets crashed through his floor, through my ceiling, and ended up on my bed. Thank goodness we weren’t sleeping at the time! The following involve horror stories that will make you appreciate even your slightly annoying neighbors.

  • Superstorm Sandy affected countless people’s homes. One gentleman was already under duress by having a heroin dealer as a neighbor. He put up many security options, as the dealer’s customers were bad about meandering onto his property and taking whatever they wanted. Unfortunately, the storm negated his security, even so far as to be unable to fully close his front door, due to the swelling of the wood from the water. He came home to find his place cleared out! They stole almost everything…from the television to the pipes in the wall; they had a heyday in his home. They took his guitars, video games, coin collection, oven, sink, furnace, and water heater!
  • One gentleman decided to put a pool in his backyard. His neighbor did not want a pool so close to his home, but had no say in the issue. Once the pool was in place, this angry man called the police every time someone used the pool, claiming that the splashing was too loud. This very same neighbor walked along the street every trash day, adding his garbage to other people’s cans.
  • One woman checked on a neighbor she had not seen in a while. She discovered that he was dead and, instead of reporting this tragic event, she helped herself to his credit cards, household items, bank account, and even his car for weeks before she was discovered.
  • While still living on the ground floor of a condominium, a couple experienced a rainfall of urine on their front porch. The neighbor on the third floor allowed her dogs out onto her balcony whenever they needed to relieve themselves. Their liquid void dripped through the slats of the porch onto the second floor and then to the porches below. Another neighbor across the road from this couple would step out in his underwear and dance provocatively against the railings of his own porch, despite any children nearby.

We live in a transient society where moving away from family and friends happens quite often. The hope is that our neighbors will assume these roles of extended family and close friends. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and you must choose your battles. Whether you speak to them face to face over an issue or ultimately have to involve a homeowner’s association – or even the police – maintaining the peace becomes a delicate balance of what you will and will not accept. There is a reason for