I have learned a great truth over the years when it comes to how friendly a person should be with his neighbors.
I have lived in apartments where a person should never strike up a conversation with another person in the same building. My advice is to say nothing, keep your head turned away and pretend you didn’t see the stranger was someone who goes in and out of your same building.
On the other hand, in later life, I have lived entirely in a house separated from the neighbors, almost all of whom are open-minded people who know each other and have houses of their own. Except for a couple of wild ones, these neighbors are full of fun and friendship and are a pleasure to be around.
There’s a reason for the differences between the two kinds of lodging.
First, the people living in apartments are no better or worse than people who live in houses. About the only difference between the two kinds of neighbors is noise – screaming and shouting and playing loud music.
If you live in an apartment, the people on the other side of the wall you share with them will hear much of what you are doing. And vice versa.
Separate houses spare a person most of that if he is living in a home a few feet away from other houses on that block. For instance, on our street, I do not doubt that some among us occasionally shriek or shout if they hit their thumbs with a hammer, are filled with fear of a mouse or treat the neighborhood to a loud verbal demonstration of their wanton affection for the one they love.
But with few exceptions, the noises and the words they produce are safely contained inside their own outer walls of a solidly built house.
Apartments are a different matter. You also may be inclined to make a lot of potentially embarrassing noise. Even worse, the neighbors – your fellow apartment dwellers – will hear your performances, but let the chips fall where they may. You know they hear what you were doing, and they know you know.
But if nobody knows who you are, what does it matter to you?
It’s like my vacation shirts. When traveling I take along no more than a couple of shirts. Anyone who knows me well will see how poorly I am dressed and will say something like, “There he is again in that same stupid pink polo shirt.”
Other tourists not only don’t know me, but they don’t recognize me.
True, if you stay in one little town for too many days, the locals may start begging you to do something about that pink polo shirt. On the other hand, there is a better object lesson than my pink polo for coping with the problems of hiding your identity from other apartment occupants. That is the lettuce leaf defense.
Let’s say, for some reason, you find yourself standing naked out on a busy sidewalk. If that happens, I would hand you a large leaf of lettuce. The trick is in deciding where you should place the lettuce leaf when you have blundered accidentally nude into some a public setting.
So where does the lettuce leaf go?
The correct and most logical answer is to cover your face with it. Nobody will know you (except the occasional former pal who might recognize rare aspects of your body). The lettuce leaf will shield you from being recognized by anyone.
The best defense of all is to stay out of apartments.
If lettuce is out of season, wrap one of my pink polos around your face.
Contact Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.