Friday, October 24, 2008


What percentage of your neighbors do you know by name?
10% or less 40%
Maybe 25% 17%
About half, 50% 14%
Almost all of them, about 75% 15%
All of them -- 100% 7%
None of them 6%
I don't have any neighbors 1%

These numbers really don't surprise me.
In her book "Encounters with the Invisible", Dorothy Wall observes "In that odd way of urban life, where a street can be an invisible barrier, she and I have barely exchanged a few words, though we've lived across from each other for almost fifteen years."
And this is, in fact, a big problem for a lot of CFS patients.  People are more transient than they used to be, so you don't know your neighbors as well as when you (and they) have lived your whole lives in the same town.  They don't care about you, they don't even really know you.  In a metropolitan area of 1,500,000 people, I know fewer people by name than I did in a high school of 1500.
I've moved around California quite a bit in 3 decades of living here, and there were many neighborhoods where the neighbors were completely anti-social; I'd say "hello" and they'd pretend not to even see me – all I'd said was hello, nothing potentially offensive, nothing to make them think I was a crazy person or a moocher to be avoided.  I lived in one apartment complex for 3 years, and (other than the manager) knew only one other tenant by name; she was not a native Californian, and acted like she was still in her small Southern town where everyone talked to everyone.  I lived in another complex for almost 5 years and never even saw the tenant on the other side of the patio fence – as soon as she heard me come out onto my patio, she would go back inside and close the door, she was that fanatic about maintaining her privacy by hiding from the neighbors.
In the last apartment building I lived in, I finally got the explanation for this behavior: I was seen talking to a lonely old widow and was warned "don't talk to her, she's a terrible gossip".  Apparently, what they meant was that she asked "what's your name and what do you do for work?", which they considered prying.  In all the years that we've talked, the only time she's said anything about anyone other than her, me, and a medical update on her son, was to one day tell me that while I was at work, the ambulance came to take away the woman across the hall from me; neither of us knew the woman's name, she didn't know what was wrong with the woman, just an observation that I'd missed some excitement, and a request that if I saw the woman had come home from the hospital, to let her know so she could deliver some tea and sympathy.
Hardly what I consider to be "gossiping", but people nowadays are much more private than they were when I was growing up and you knew everything about everyone on your block.  Now, they'd be perfectly happy for no one to even know their name.
The only reason I know the names of the people on my block, after 11 years of living here, is that shortly after she moved in, one neighbor organized a progressive Christmas party.  We were all curious to see how the other houses had been remodeled, but once we'd satisfied our curiosity, no one was interested in doing it again the next Christmas.  That is, in fact, the only time most of us have been in any of the neighbors' houses.
The only one of my neighbors who even realizes that I'm sick doesn't care enough to get the name of the ailment right.  She remembers something about a C and an S and keeps thinking that it's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  So, needless to say, there's no help for me from the neighbors; I'm left to fend for myself.
If it happens to you, too, don't blame yourself.  Blame the current state of society, where everyone is too wrapped up in themselves to care about the neighbors.

1 comment:

KMC528 said...

I must share this morning's letter to the editor from a couple from a neighboring state:

My wife and I are spending four days in your beautiful city. The city is beautiful but the people have proved themselves to be rude, pushy and self-centered.

Exactly the observations I have about the city after living here for nearly 20 years. Everyone thinks that they are super-important and that this means they don't need to bother with anyone else. They expect you to do for them, but don't ever ask them to do anything for you.