Is It Just Me?

We live on a wonderful block on a great street, surrounded by a mix of retirees and families, neighbors for whom we have baby-sat, dog-sat, and pool-sat. We exchange house keys; share food, drinks, and news; and pick up each other’s packages. One of them took me to the ER when I showed up at her front door bleeding, and another left lasagna and sunflowers on our porch when I was recuperating from surgery. These are good people to have close by.

Because we like things exactly as they are, any new For Sale sign is cause for anxiety. So, when the longtime owner of a house across the street passed away, we were on alert. The house sold, but the new owner decided to rent it. On a block filled with owners. Uh oh. 

First was a quiet couple who came and went before we could get to know them. Then three, single, twenty-something young men arrived. I had worried visions of noisy revelry, but when Aram and his girlfriend brought us cookies to introduce themselves, I relaxed. He explained that he and two friends were going to start an air conditioning repair business, which we thought identified them as go-getter worker bees rather than party boys. 

The guys were gone every weekday and did nothing to make us worry when they were home. We wondered why their lights were often on all night, but hey … we were young once. We thought it was odd that they placed their gym equipment on the front porch, but they probably hadn’t ever paid attention to traditional residential porch décor. To their credit, they added chairs and a plant, so two of them could sit and share a beer while the other did pull-ups. 

Things went well until the appearance of three white vans sporting their company name along with huge cartoon portraits of themselves on the side.  It was very clever marketing, but it was disconcerting to be greeted by those larger-than-life young faces when you looked out the window. Adding the three vans to their personal vehicles on the street started to get under the skin of our next-door-neighbor, Lou, because it felt like we were living in a commercial parking zone. Lou and Katie had also spied large bags of seeds that made them suspect a pot farm was taking shape behind the guys’ fence. On our block! In Old Northeast!

Plant-wise, John and I took the tack of, “If it’s true, it could be so much worse.” But the vans did bother us. Even when they disappeared over the weekend, they were back on Monday. But one week they disappeared and stayed gone. And then Lou emailed us.

“After last weekend when the vans were gone for a couple of days, Katie sent them a thank you note for not parking there and told them how nice it was to not have the vans in front of our houses.” All it took was a touch of social graces for the millennial renters to change their ways; and we couldn’t wait to see if and how Katie was going to use the same tactic regarding the supposed pot. But the guys left before she got a chance. Darn it.

The owner finally decided to sell, and the street has gained an engaging, normal, work-at-home professional couple with a teenage daughter. We’ve extended a warm welcome to the block and chatted enough to know they’ll be a great addition. And in case this column makes them feel like they’ve been under a microscope, I hope they understand that our neighborly nosiness is for the good of us all.  

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