A Guide to Neighbors You Don’t Want

(Originally appeared in the Beach Reporter on 11/7/91)

My apples will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him/ He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” (Robert Frost, 1914)

You can choose your friends, but more often than not you can’t choose your neighbors. Before you purchase a home, you can walk up and down the block and take note of any obvious problems that might signal neighbors who might not be compatible with your lifestyle.

For example, if there is a teenage heavy metal band practicing in the garage next door and you work the swing shift, you might want to consider a home on the next block. Or if you’re a young urban professional and you notice by peeking over the fence that there are several roosters, a pig, and a Snap-On Tool truck parked in the driveway, you might want to reconsider.

Usually it is the house we fall in love with, or the price or location, so we don’t always think about incidentals like neighbors. But after living in a variety of neighborhoods over the years, I find there are certain types of neighbors you might not want, no matter how carefree and flexible a personality you have:People who have garage sales every weekend: Every Saturday morning, starting about 7:00 a.m., you will hear the screech of brakes and the whine of husbands who are there against their will. People may also drift over to your garage or yard and ask if you have anything for sale, or if they can use your bathroom.
People who collect old cars or any other large vehicles: There is nothing like a rusting old Chevy with fins to greet you every morning when you go out to get your paper. That’s just on their lawn. In the garage, which is always open, are two other rusty relics, several motorcycles, and a speedboat with a naked woman painted on the side. Not to mention the ancient Winnebago parked out front.
People who do unusual things to fix up their house: These neighbors have real waterfalls, miniature Dutch houses with working windmills, statues, and bushes cut in the shape of forest animals.
Dog and cat lovers who can’t say no: If you love cats and dogs also, this won’t be a problem, since 12 of their 14 cats will sleep on your car hood, and the dogs will spend a lot of time in your garden.
Musicians: See above teenagers with guitars and drums.
People who get up really early: This neighbor is up at 5:30 every morning mowing his lawn or using his leaf blower or starting a new construction project.
The guy who has a workshop in his garage: Usually the same as the guy above. The constant drone of power tools and buzz of jigsaws as he builds his custom furniture and other projects.
People who stay up really late: Just as you are about to fall asleep (it’s 11:00 p.m.) your night-owl neighbors cruise into their driveway with their car radio blaring ready to party with 20 of their closest friends.
People who really want to live on a farm: They invariably have a rooster, several chickens, and God knows what else. If the noise doesn’t get to you, the smell will.
Neighbors who should be divorced: When you see things being thrown out of windows, and the husband is outside yelling to get in because she changed the locks that day… Not fun.
People who have home day care centers: This will only be a problem if you don’t love small children, and none of us would ever admit to that…

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