After 15 months of regularly occurring neighborhood activities – bike rides, walks, catch, kick, chase, sidewalk chalk – we have ceased to be a contributor to the neighborhood noise. For 11 days my kids have neither been seen nor heard, and only 4 households along our paths know what’s behind the sudden silence.
All but a few are occupied, most are owned or have long-term tenants, and several of us cherish chirping birds, blowing breezes, and somebody’s fresh-cut grass.
There’s the old man who walks with old radio headphones, the 30-something father and his bi-weekly 8-year-old daughter, the old lady who lost her husband years ago and the old lady who lost her husband last year, the NoLa couple transplanted after Katrina swallowed their home, the family with the 12-year-old avid cyclist, the Boo Radley couple who really do put suitcases in their van at night but don’t leave town, the young couple with the scraggly mutt, the young couple with 4 kids living next door to grandma and grandpa, and the others out here and there to pick up the newspaper, check the mail, rake the leaves, take out the trash, or bring in the recycling bin.
Now, that being said, would I have enjoyed a police officer knocking on my door? No. Would explaining the situation be painful? Yes. Am I desperate to have someone notice the injustice, to say something, to speak out for me because I have been silenced so completely?
It seems our interactive neighborhood is blind as well. We know who’s home and who’s not, or when someone has a party or out-of-town guests – or goes out of town themselves. We know when someone stops walking with their dog, or starts driving a new car. We know who has teenagers and who drives too fast. We know the school traffic pattern, and the professional commuters. Early risers know other early risers, and when late risers rise early.
It’s the epidemic of Family Matters (not that family actually matters), the you-never-know-what-goes-on-behind-closed-doors excuse we all employ because we don’t want to upset anyone, make them think we think ill of them, butt into their business, or let someone know we’ve noticed. It’s take notice, not action.
We are all content to pretend we peer from behind blinds and don’t actually know what we know.
It begs the question, though, would I notice or act if I noticed something amis? Is this simply a bystander effect – too many neighbors noticed and the collective questioning quells action? Or, am I just too nosey and intrusive and need to mind my own business more and stop watching traffic, vehicular and foot.