he Challenges of Being a Good Neighbor

It’s interesting to note (at least to me) that if there is a scale of priorities when moving to a new city or place, the neighbors you get is, well, rather a crapshoot and pretty much down on the list.  

You no doubt first consider the town you have chosen (if that is going to be new), the general ambiance of the neighborhood, and particulars such as proximity to work and shopping amenities etc.

Now if you have friendly neighbors, all the better.  Well, maybe not TOO friendly if over time all they want to do is borrow things from you and lack what you feel is adequate reciprocation. Such as neighbors who can keep an eye out on your place (at least casually) when you are gone, say, on a trip.  That is certainly a big plus.

Now we have (or, rather had) a friendly neighbor who offered to water some plants we had on a deck from time to time, and being fairly close she could easily see what was going on near her. Since we have run a small home based bed and breakfast with various cars parking in our driveway or along the front portion of our property, it has been rather unavoidable that a parking lot feel would arise from time to time.

As a single woman who’d lived in Cambria for longer than we have (we ourselves are going on 20 plus years) we figured, who we’ll call Carol, would be a predictable constant.  To reciprocate her favors we often brought her my wife’s home baked chocolate chip cookies (yummy!).  At one point we offered to take her out to lunch or dinner, and I confess this never happened for whatever reasons.  I think it may have partially been to avoid getting to know her TOO well, although in casual conversations we learned she had a very big family of sisters who didn”t live locally–but that’s about it.  In retrospect I wish we’d been a little chumier.  

To understand how fragile a neighborhood liaison can be, however, this is what happened with us and Carol.  We knew she didn’t like vehicles, especially trucks, parking on the south side of her residence along a vacant lot because they often blocked her view of vehicles traveling north on our street — and traveling way too fast. This posed a safety issue for her in backing her own vehicle out onto the street.

Now sometimes our b&b customers, or contractors, needed extra parking so they would park along that side Carol was concerned about. It must have been stressful juggling the parking situation one day but when she objected to what was going on, my wife, uncharacteristically, shouted at her to, in effect, “cool it.”  I knew that wasn’t going to go over very well, and it definitely didn’t.

The next time I climbed up her steps (with cookies in hand, a possible truce offer) she simply refused them and said to me, “I am done with both of you.”

That hurt and still does. I have never thought of myself as anything but a good neighbor wherever I have lived but I guess I will have to simply live with this permanent rejection of my/our neighbor cred.

William Seavey


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