08 June 2010

Love your neighbour

It’s the one reason I continue to buy lottery tickets – so I never have to have neighbours again. Not ones I can hear or see, anyway.

It’s the one reason I continue to buy lottery tickets – so I never have to have neighbours again. Not ones I can hear or see, anyway.

The instruction to love thy neighbour was a tall order indeed. Tolerate, refrain from assaulting, leaving alone – but ‘love’? It’s not for nothing that it was close to the section on turning the other cheek.

Who could love a neighbour who is a karaoke enthusiast? Or who revvs his car, or shouts incessantly at the children, or who has a barking dog, or who sells drugs? Or who chooses Sunday mornings to chop down those tiresome branches? Not me. Not by a long shot.

The scourge of vibracrete
We are nothing, if not territorial beings. You only have to look at how popular vibracrete fencing is in the suburbs. And it certainly is not erected for aesthetic purposes. A vibracrete fence is the suburban way of saying ‘Good fences make good neighbours’.

In other words – stay on your side and no one gets hurt. Oh yes, and keep your kids and your branches and your dogs and your guests on that side too. Sounds good to me.

Sound travels
But sounds travel: couples fighting; teenagers trying out a new sound system or a bugle; kids chasing each other around screaming; a party that has got out of hand.

So what now? Do you become the screaming banshee that hurls obscenities across the fence when all else has failed? Do you suffer in silence? Do you send anonymous semi-threatening letters? Do you enlist the help of a neighbourhood thug or two to just hang around and look intimidating?

I have tried the first three – and they don’t work. I lie there late at night, seething with resentment and planning revenge.

Time for action
Loud opera music at 6 a.m. should do it – especially if your neighbours were still hitting the bottle at 3 a.m. It’s known to work – it certainly gets rid of the stragglers who passed out on the front lawn. Maria Callas at full volume is more effective than a garden hose.

But then, there is this basic law of nature: people who are noisy, don’t mind noise themselves. After all, they choose to surround themselves with it all day. Nothing you could do, could irritate them anywhere near as much as they are getting to you. If they don’t hear their own barking dog in the middle of the night – yours is not going to bother them.

And then, of course there was the morning that I managed to lock myself out of the house while only wearing pajamas. The extra loud neighbour from across the road was the one who came to my rescue - and I was grateful. But now I feel I can't complain about his thumping music. A Catch-22 situation indeed.

Remedies – if any
It may be time for earplugs, or Rescue remedy, or a new house. Or just making peace with the fact that there are some things over which I have no control. Keeping my neighbours quiet would be like trying to stop a tsunami with my bare hands. I know when I am defeated.

So, to a new house, where all seems well. Until the ‘For Sale’ board comes up six months later and the first thing the Flintstones unpack is something that looks suspiciously like their very own karaoke machine.

“Make that a R100 Quickpick, please.”

Susan Erasmus, Health24, Novermber 2007


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