I returned to the suburbs fifty miles south of San Francisco yesterday to visit a friend at her home. That’s twice in one week. Each time I go I’m confronted with two discordant sets of emotions. On the one hand her home is spacious, clean, attractive, and very comfortable. She has a lovely back garden with a hot tub. Her newly remodeled kitchen is large enough to land a helicopter. She has a formal dining room and a guest bedroom – all things I would very much like to have at my place back in the city. I’m content when I’m there. Mostly. But then there’s that other set of emotions.
When I arrived I parked across the street. My friend came out, not so much to greet me, but to tell me I needed to move the car. “The neighbors don’t like people parking in front of their house.” I looked around. It was a Saturday – a time when most people are home and parking should be limited, but there were empty spaces all up and down the street. I asked if the neighbors were elderly or handicapped? “No.” Are they having guests today and they want the house to be extra visible? “No.” Are they part of the Mafia and need a clear shot from all the windows?
My friend raised her hands and gave me a look that effectively communicated the nature of the situation. I know. It’s picayune. Just humor me. I have to live near these people. “They leave little notes on the windshield whenever anyone parks in front of their house, then watch to see which house the people go in to and leave little notes in the mailbox and tape little notes on the door. They just don’t like anyone parking in front of their house.” It took thirty seconds for me to move the car.
My friend has lived there for two years and she doesn’t know any of the neighbors beyond the “little note” level of engagement. It may seem superficial, but I can’t live in a place like that.