I remember when I was about 8 or 9 my brother and I used to climb up on the block wall in our back yard and walk along it. It was about 5 or 6 feet tall and about 10 inches wide, so it was not hard to balance on, but it was high enough off the ground so we could get a good view of our neighbors yards and houses and what not. It was especially cool because several of the houses on our block had the same type of wall, so my brother and I could explore our neighbor hood and get a behind the scenes tour. I thought it was so much fun, but at some point our parents told us we weren't allowed to climb around on the walls anymore, I think that one of our neighbors had told my parents that they felt like we were violataing their privacy.
Anyway, I was reminded of my wall walking experience the other day when I was searching the internet to find houses for sale in other states. I noticed that in most every state that I looked at other than California, almost no houses had fences or walls around them and my first thought was "Oh my god, I could never live like that with no privacy or seclusion"... but then I started to think about it more and I was like, not having ffences actually could be pretty cool. You could get that birds eye view into the flower bed behind your neighbors' houses and not be made to feel like a dirty prying intruder.
Everything in those fenceless neighborhoods is out in the open, so kids can have a much bigger area to play than they would if all they had was teh fenced in quarter acre surrounding their house. Also neighbors can't help but see each other and say "hi" or keep an eye out if they notice that little Timmy just fell into a rose bush.
It seems like those fenceless neighborhoods are the sort of community where your neighbors would happily loan you a cup of sugar and you wouldn't feel awkward asking them for sugar. I actually have not known any of the neighbors that have lived by me since I graduated college. My parents used to be very friendly and outgoing, but even when I was still living at home with them, we only knew 3 or 4 of the families in any of the neighbohoods that we lived in. Most people were just not really open to getting to know the people that they lived around. That seems sad.
The people that you live around can have a tremendous effect on your life and if you have a relationship with them it is more likely that you will give each other the respect that is deserved than if you have never met them. I find that in my apartment complex everyone keeps to themselves to the point where it seems like we are all invisible to one another.
People are always squealing their tires late at night in cars with the radio cranked too high as if they don't realize that the 500 other people who live in our apartment complex can hear them. No one holds doors or asks you nicely to take your laundry out of the drier when it's done. If you are three minutes late for the drier everything you just washed will be stacked on top of a dusty machine by the time you get there to pull it out, and if you are carrying in a bag of heavy groceries no one who passes you in the hall is going to hold up for an extra few seconds to help you with the door.
I try to be an exception to the rule in regard to the laundry room and the door, but if someone knocked on my door with an empty measuring cup and had that "damn I forgot to buy sugar for my cookies" look on their face, I probably wouldn't answer. It just doesn't seem worth it to actually sacrafice somethign, even as small as sugar, for people whom I don't believe would ever do the same for me. Holding a door and not getting ancy in the laundry line doesn't cost me anything but patience, but if they actually want me to give them something, then they have to treat me with enough respect for me to feel like they deserve it... but then I guess that's just the problem, no one wants to be the one to take the first step.
I try not to hold things againts my neighbors though, after all I don't know them. I haven't taken the time or made the effort to get to know them. I don't say "hi" to people because if I do, I might not get a "hi" back which would hurt my feelings, or worse, I might get a lot more than a "Hi"; I might get bombarded with a conversations or friendly chit chat when all I really wanna do is get into the safe confines of my apartment and watch the world on TV from the safety and comfort of my couch. I know that is not a healthy attitude. It seems so heartless... and it really is, but I tell myself, "it's ok, I'm not the bad guy here" because hey, they didn't say hi to me either. But I bet that is totally a California thing.
Just looking at those houses in Washington state and North Carolina with no fences around them makes me want to say hi to the people there. It makes me feel like it wouldn't be a waste. Even if they did want to chat, it would be worth my time because they might become a friend. They might care if it bothers me that they play their music too loud at 3:00 am and they might loan me some sugar to bake a cake... hell ,I probably would bring them over a slice when I was done... California is just not set up to work tha way though and I think partly its just because there are too damn many people... and also because Californians love dogs... You gotta have a fence so you can have a yard for your dog and if you're living in a city with thousands and thousands of people you'd lose your voice by 10:00 am if you said hi to everyone that you passed... and pretty much california is one giant long continuous city from San Diego to San Francisco, there are some rural areas in between, but in a couple decades there probably won't be. There are just too many people to be polite and friendly to all of them or at least that sounds like a reasonable justification for not being friendly.
Everyone does need some alone time, I could be wrong, but I think that everyone everywhere needs a place to be alone for a while to maintain sanity and catch up with themselves, but that is what curtains are for. When you're out of your house and out in the world you should welcome it and welcome the people in it, so yeah, that is why i kinda want to get out of Cali. I wanna do my part to ease the over crowding in this state and cozy up to a place where people aren't packed in so tight that they don't have time for respect or comrodery, but in the mean time, I hope that I can summon up enough courage and compassion to knock down some of the walls in my own hood and give some sugar to my neighbors if they ever ask... at the very least I'm going to start trying to say "hi" to the folks I pass in the hallway.