A couple of respondents to the recent column on our late neighbor Betty Smith commented that neighbors aren’t as friendly as they once were. Some neighbors stay strangers from the day they move in.
Reader Fred Rosenbaum blames the estrangement in great part on garage-door openers.
“Thirty years ago I knew my neighbors on both sides,” he wrote. “We were really good friends. Now I don't know either beyond just saying ‘Hi.’
“Bigger lots may have something to do with it, but I think it has more to do with garage door openers. We used to have to get out of the car, open the garage, put the car away then close the door. That was a lot of work, so many times the car just stayed in the driveway.
“Now I can push a button and be gone without ever venturing outside the house. No outside time means no chance to interact with the neighbors, so we don't become friendly. Kill the garage door openers and we'll have friendlier neighbors.”
I’m not going into the stereotypical friendly Southerners vs. stand-offish Yankees theory. I’ve had my ears pinned back enough for that.
In my opinion, children are the primary factor in creating close neighbors. In and out of their friends’ houses, they cement relationships between parents.
There are, of course, other causes for mental fences between neighbors. One is a desire for privacy after interacting with others all day in a culture that has become fast moving, hectic and diversified. By day’s end, many are ready to lock the door against the world.
Tree rodent mystery
A mysterious phenomenon prevails at our place. Almost two weeks have passed during which I spotted only one squirrel under my bird feeders where normally four to six hang out.
“They’re up in the trees making mad love and planning a new crop of pesky offspring,” explained a friend who during the past two years has spent almost $25,000 trying to squirrel-proof her home.
That sounded plausible until I learned that squirrels mate in December and January and then again in June and July.
FYI: Reader Sally Wenda passes on an anti-squirrel home remedy. Hanging inflated balloons near bird feeders will cause squirrels to keep their distance.
The way we are
Most of us who love the English language have favorite words. One of mine is “epiphany.”
My late friend, the Rev. W.W. Finlator, sometimes shared epiphanies with me.
In the Bible, epiphany refers to a manifestation of God to man. It’s the sensible sign by which the presence of God is apparent.
I mention this after re-reading an anecdote related by Neil Simon, one of America’s leading playwrights, in his autobiography, “Neil Simon Rewrites.”
Simon was walking his dog in the wee hours of the opening night on Broadway of “The Odd Couple.” The reviews in the early editions were all raves.
“What I was thinking about was how did all this happen to me?” Simon wrote. “I had the most wonderful wife a man could want, two incredible children, the perfect dog, my health and a sonic boom of a hit that would eventually reverberate around the world.
“As I looked up at the heavens, I whispered to a nameless God whose existence I still had trouble accepting: ‘If this is all the good and happiness I ever receive for the rest of my life, it will have been enough.’”
But upon returning to his apartment, Simon looked up at the sky again and whispered, “I'm not saying you should stop giving it to me. I just want you to know I appreciate it.”
What better caricature of the way we are than this?
In recent years, you’ve heard and read so much about philandering politicians you’re probably ready to believe that Washington is just a hot bed of hot beds.
But history is replete with accounts of public officials hopping from bed to bed.
One of the best remembered is Congressman Wayne Hayes’ 1976 affair with his secretary, who told a reporter, “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”
Hayes was forced to resign after 27 years in Congress.
Columnist George Will once wrote of him, “Nature did not design him as a gentleman, and he respected nature’s sense of limits.”