The neighborly thing to do

Kevin Cowherd

November 14, 1990|By Kevin Cowherd

A FEW MONTHS ago we moved into a new home, and one of our top priorities is to get along with the neighbors.

As far as we can tell, the neighbors are all wonderful people, although of course I would say this (and certainly write it in the newspaper) even if it weren't true. Which it is, don't get me wrong.

The fact is, our new neighbors have very few annoying habits that we can detect. Thus far there have been no incidents of anyone asking us to keep an eye on their house while they go on vacation (what am I, Wells Fargo?) or asking for help with any project that involves heavy lifting. And thankfully no one has rung our doorbell requesting -- boy, I hate this one -- to borrow a cup of sugar.

There have also been no loud parties at which grown men drink beer out of cowboy boots, women use pepper shakers as imitation microphones to lip-sync "Blue Bayou" and all manner of sexual shenanigans (I love that word) take place.

Which is just my luck. Just once I'd like to have some cool neighbors who throw those sorts of parties. I'd even settle for a shindig (there's another neat word) where everyone dresses in an Australian outback motif and they roast a wild boar on a spit in the living room.

But no-o-o. Maybe it's the recession or whatever, but it seems people just can't have a good time these days.

The only trouble we've had (if you want to call it trouble) occurred with the neighbor who asked to use our phone about a week ago.

This was during a thunderstorm, and he knocked on our door and said his phone wasn't working. Then he asked if he could use ours to call the phone company.

Well. Just when you think you've heard every lame excuse to gain access to a house for the purpose of ransacking it, they come up with a new one. I don't know what it is with these people, how they come up with these scams.

Anyway, I wasn't about to fall for the old "my-phone's-not-working" routine.

"Forget it, Buster," I told him. "As soon as my back's turned, you'll go through the house looking for money."

Well, you talk about thin-skinned. Right away the guy took exception to what I said. And the next thing you know he's storming away in a huff, muttering something about never having been so humiliated in his life.

So we sort of got off on the wrong foot, this neighbor and me. I apologized a few days later, explaining that it was nothing

personal, that he simply had the beady eyes and weak chin (blame it on genetics) of someone who's untrustworthy.

But here's the kicker: the guy still wouldn't shake my hand. Can you believe it? Then he and his wife had the nerve to throw a party (although a sedate one; not one patrol car rolled up the block) and not invite us. So much for getting to know the new neighbors.

The rest of our neighbors have been fine, though, especially Janet and Rich next door, who, while they have this thing about roasting wild boars on a spit anywhere in their house (never mind the living room) are real sweethearts.

I knew I liked Rich right away when he said I could borrow his tools any time, except he really didn't have any tools.

(That reminds me of a conversation I once had with my brother that went:

("Hand me a screwdriver."

("You got it. Here you go."

("Not a regular screwdriver. The other kind."

("The kind you drink?"

("No, what do you call it? A Phipps-head?"

("A what-head?"

("Forget it. Hand me a wrench.")

("A regular wrench?")

Getting back to Rich, though, I thought we were going to have problems when we first met and he said: "If there's anything you need, let me know."

I said I needed a couple hundred bucks and maybe his running shoes, providing they were the right size.

Rich said he was thinking more along the lines of a hedge clipper. Which is what they all say. Wait until he asks to use my phone.

Still, that's one thing about neighbors I could never figure out. How come they only borrow tools or eggs or things of that nature off each other?

As the new guy in the neighborhood, I'd be more interested in borrowing someone's car, as I have some old paint and varnish cans to take to the dump and don't wish to mar the interior of my Toyota.

Not that I expect something for nothing.

I'm willing to trade a cup of sugar.

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