On Wednesday lunchroom conversation at work turned to "no-one knows people in their neighbourhood anymore" and I opined that this might be more a factor of people moving a lot: whereas I've lived in my house for 12 years and, despite being pretty antisocial I'm now getting to know a good number of the neighbours.
(On reflection, other factors are probably that "the people who you meet when you're walking down the street" don't get met if instead of walking down the street you walk only to your car and then drive down the street; and that more and more both/all adults in a family have to work during the day so there's less opportunity for interaction.)
One of my neighbours I'm on pretty good terms with though I find her a bit judgemental. But in her efforts to destroy the ivy on her side of the fence, she also comes and sprays it on my side, so I reciprocate with bringing her extra fruit or pumpkin or whatever.
The neighbours in front of her (her son's tenants) have been nice when I've seen them but don't tend to come out much on the rare occasions I'm out. It's a big step up from the previous tenants who tended to the loud parties on school nights.
On the other side of me, in front is a guy who occasionally starts shouting furiously at no-one in particular. When I poked my head over the fence to check no cops needed calling he pleasantly explained he got a head injury a while back and has PTSD and bipolar (IIRC) and finds shouting to let out his frustrations is better than bottling them up. Other than this he's pretty quiet and keeps to himself. Last I heard he had a restraining order against the neighbours behind him.
Those guys. They're the ones who I'm most likely to mean if I just say "my neighbours". A het couple with three boys. And with physical and mental health issues and alcoholism and dependant on Work&Income. They were in "temporary housing" in Nelson, read a motel, from which they were kicked out when it was needed for tourists during the rugby season and they were sent to Christchurch in one of those "If you want to keep getting government money you have to move, you've got a week, and oh yeah your new house doesn't accept pets." The RSPCA couldn't take the dog and no other option could be found with that short notice than to put it down.
So occasionally I give K extra produce from the garden, or she comes over to ask to borrow $20. (Even more occasionally she pays it back, or brings me something from her freezer.)
And occasionally they get into a noisy verbal fight. Twice one of them's asked me to call the cops. (One of these times I suggested she stay the night.) Twice I couldn't be bothered going through that (waiting for the cops for a verbal domestic takes forever) so just waded on in and got/kept them in separate rooms to calm down. (One of these times I managed to get her to call the Are You OK
helpline and went to keep her partner talking while she was at it. He was all "Everyone always thinks the woman's the victim" but when I offered him the phone number he blew me off, which could be a) toxic male socialisation or b) a pathetic attempt at gaslighting.)
And the fifth time, a few days ago, I was cooking and watching Star Trek Discovery and turned the volume up. Which was possibly a mistake because then I got woken at midnight by the police knocking on my door asking if K could stay over again. (The police made it very clear if I said no they'd tell her they couldn't wake me up. But when I asked (hoping the alternative would be for them to issue the protection order on her partner for a change) they also said the alternative was to take her to a detox cell. So.)
Also on the street, aside from the aforementioned three boys, are a pile of other kids. At least two families' worth. They all play together which is great. Occasionally they break one of my fence posts, but you can break one of the fence posts by breathing on it so I don't much care. However some of them in particular... don't seem to get boundaries, and occasionally wander around others' properties or riffle through mailboxes (this may actually have been the incident that precipitated the restraining order).
One of these is Deaf. I've occasionally attempted to sign with her, hampered by the minor detail that despite taking two NZSL courses I retain a very small handful of signs plus most of the fingerspelling alphabet. Also that one time I was giving peaches away to every neighbour I could find and made the mistake of piling her arms full first, asking questions second, not my cleverest moment.
Then there's a whole lot of other people who I only occasionally interact with if eg I've heard someone scream and go wandering to try and identify whether it was a murder or just an annoyed child.
Wednesday afternoon, after the long-aforementioned lunchroom discussion, I come home and the boy who appears to be the Deaf girl's younger brother greets me with "This is from your mailbox." Holding up a bag with a notebook and pen in it that I keep in my mailbox for the noting of messages in case of emergency. I said, "...Yes, yes it is," and put it back and went into my house.
Ten minutes later I'm grabbing a zucchini and some silverbeet from the garden when K comes over to give me a lovely gift set of nice sauces. My guess is that it came from someone's well-intentioned contribution to a food parcel, because she immediately asked if she could borrow some money. I happened to have the $20 she paid me back last time so gave her that.
Ten minutes later I'm chopping up vegetables for my dinner when the Deaf girl knocks on my door and shows me her broken scooter. I poke ineffectually at it for a while with various tools, then decide it really needs the nuts taken off which I can't do. So I'm halfway to next door to see if they have what it takes when I hear the distinctive sound of power tools. Immediately changing direction I find someone with an entire car-yard in his driveway. Once I've explained the situation he immediately agrees to fix it: "Anything for the neighbourhood kids."
Which I feel is a lovely end to the day.
But then as I'm cooking my dinner the Deaf girl comes back to ask my name. It takes her three goes before I understand but then we spend some time fingerspelling and then I confirm with paper just to be sure. (I'll call her H.) She takes this opportunity to wander through my entire house touching everything at which point I'm... what is going on here. I explain I'm eating and show her to the door.
Halfway through dinner she's back. I explain again that I'm eating. At some point this turns into a tour of the garden (it's now after dark). I start wondering if I've given her the impression that I'm going to give her something to eat, so grab a bunch of grapes off the vine for her and send her on her way.
Today I go to several neighbours both on this street and the street behind us to ask if anyone's seen my missing cat. (The majority of them ask "The black and white one?" Sadly no, but I know the one they mean.) When I'm back, K comes over to ask if she can borrow more money; I say I don't have any cash. (This is not strictly true to the extent that I do in fact have cash, but I also have limits. Poorly defined limits, but limits.)
As she goes, H comes and wants to hang out. Or something. I try to explain I can't and she seems to go away. For about five minutes. At some point I go and hide in one the spare bedroom to attempt to ignore the knocking on the door; it doesn't help much. I'd have gone to the library except it was closed for Anzac Day. I did take the opportunity to teach myself some NZSL online; unfortunately what I taught myself was "I'm busy doing stuff, sorry, go home."
On the bright side she does clearly understand when I sign this to her! Yay communication! She goes away and I breathe a sigh of relief. On the downside, she comes back again, and again, and again. (She knocked on the door again
while I was writing the above paragraph.) I get the impression of a) some degree of intellectual disability, hard to be sure given my lack of NZSL but OMG boundaries, plus b) a bunch of loneliness such that being able to talk with someone who knows like six words including "go home" is really exciting.
I should go talk to her family and say actually I'd love to practice my pathetic NZSL with her, but, like, once a week max at a predetermined time. Or at least just on the footpath. It's just, I've already talked to more humans in the last 24 hours than I ideally prefer, and could happily go another month without any more interaction with any of my neighbours at all.