Myself, Uncategorized
Comments 31

Where will all the crazy go?

I’m going to break the rules today.

It’s Monday, the official rule-breaking day, after all. The day we break our diets and our savings plans, the day we break our promises to ourselves that ‘this week is going to be a better week!’ I’ve broken about six of my weekly goals already, and it’s only 3 pm.

So what’s one more. This blog is a blog about books, I know. About books that other people write, not me. But today I’m breaking that rule, with the help of a daily prompt by the Daily Post.

(I never do Daily Prompts on this blog – another rule broken.)

The prompt is called, poetically, Island of Misfit Posts. It is blatantly encouraging bad behaviour: We all have something we’d like to write about, but that doesn’t really “fit” our blog. Write it anyway.

You asked for it.

Here I go.

Human’s should not live in close proximity to each other – a piece of creative non-fiction.

Not long ago, I had a very interesting conversation with my little brother. He is twenty-one, that remarkable age where you know absolutely everything there is to know about the universe and everyone in it. It will take me the rest of my life to understand everything that I knew for a fact when I was twenty-one.

Anyway, he is studying Environmental Science at university. We were out walking together one day, and I began whinging to him like an old woman about the frightening trend emerging in our suburb. People are knocking down houses left right and centre, and squeezing into their place identikit rows of cardboard units. My brother rudely interrupted my tirade, telling me just how wrong I was. (Side note: my little brother is the only person in the world who could interrupt me, AND contradict me, and still be in possession of all of his body parts.)

“You’re totally wrong,” he said. “This is how we are supposed to be living. Australian’s take up way too much space as it is; we have the lowest percentage of people per square metre in the world. They have done studies. We could fit way more people in Australia with way less impact on the environment if we all lived in high-rises. Look at China and India.”

That may not be exactly right, I can’t remember it word for word, but I’m certain it was something along those lines. This is the shit they teach you in Enviro-Sci?

I strolled on quietly as he extolled the virtues of close quarters living, citing studies and graphs and surveys and other such crap. I rudely interrupted him as he was achieving maximum altitude, (insert evil laugh) to ask,

‘Did any of these surveys look at people’s mental health?’

I firmly believe that cramming humans into such close quarters is what’s wrong with the world. I was at my mother’s the other day, peacefully visiting the bathroom, when I heard at my left ear, ‘Could you grab me some TOILET PAPER?’ I damn near handed it to the neighbour through the bathroom window.

We can’t even pee in private! I guarantee you that if you live in an apartment, your most cherished moment of the morning is being listened to, albeit reluctantly, by a host of next door, upstairs and downstairs neighbours. And what about those moments at night, when you’re peacefully drifting of to sleep, only to be startled awake by the horrifying symphony of a complete strangers night-time activities. If that’s not bad for your mental health, then I don’t know what is.

Take me, for example. I lived on a farm until I was fifteen. Bliss. Complete and utter happiness. Not a sound to be heard but the lowing of cows, the baaing of sheep, the twittering of birds, and the constant dull roar of traffic on the highway that passed right by our house. Still, no other humans for miles around.

Boarding school. I was rudely crammed into a room the size of a closet with a complete stranger, forced to share a bathroom and kitchen with eight other teenage girls. If you think this makes for a lot of gossiping, painting nails and pillow fights, you are sadly mistaken. But I was young. I was more flexible back then. I made it through.

College. I had my own room, which was a plus. The walls were paper thin, which was not. Listening to the nightly activities of my supposedly devoutly religious neighbour sent me running for the hills, or more precisely, the bars. I drank too much and failed my first attempt at university. I blame communal living.

My first share house. My best friend and I rented a cute little crumbling unit in Perth, one of eight in an adorably quaint complex. We loved it, the independence, the freedom, the lack of rules…until we met our neighbour. Who we promptly christened, and forevermore referred to as: Creepy Neighbour. I’m sure he had a name, not that we cared. Anyway, we struggled through a year of constant skirmishes with Creepy Neighbour, the best of which included:

  1. Him appearing at our door at 6am wrapped in nothing but a towel, screaming at us to turn our music down.
  2. Enduring the creepy ‘sculptures’ he made which littered the communal backyard, and included a brilliant life-size mould of a man’s naked torso. There was a constant debate amongst us as to whether or not it was a self-portrait.
  3. His constant complaints about us to our landlord, about everything from having friends over to parking in the wrong spot. He was clearly driven mad by close quarters living.
  4. Him wildly and furiously accusing me of scratching the front of his car with mine (which I did, though adamantly denied), which led to a highly amusing argument between us via letter. I drew upon everything I had learned in my failed Law degree, used the word ‘allegedly’ a lot, and won. Obviously.
  5. The pièce de résistance, and the reason we finally moved out, was an ill-fated Australia Day party. We hosted it in the communal backyard, complete with blow up pool and skimpy bikinis. We were flummoxed by the fact that there was sight nor sound (nor complaint) from him, until one of my friends realised he was taking photographs through his window. Rapid exit.

Since then I have struggled through various attempts at close quarters living, which have made me less and less tolerant of my fellow human beings. Even now, I live in a large house on a large inner city block, separated from my closest neighbour by several meters and a rickety fence. Yet the sound of their toddler screeching is enough to make me clench up in rage, maddened once more by my inability to find one quiet place in this world to read.

Take note, Environmental Science professors. Human beings should not live in close proximity to one another. Our homes should be our havens away from the world, a place of quiet and solitude in which we can freely do those things which we would never otherwise do. We can make noises that would embarrass Mick Jagger, we can shout and sing and rap and pee and make love with wild abandon. Our home is our space where we can let out all our crazy, uninhibited and unrepressed by the polite constraints of society. The minute we hear a complete stranger peeing, farting, or getting down not two feet from us through a cardboard wall, our place of solitude and sanctuary is gone forever.

Then where will all the crazy go? Environmental Scientists should do a study on that.

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31 Comments

  1. erickeys says

    I totally get your point. I definitely do not miss living in an apartment building. One of the great joys of moving down south has been the ability to – albeit briefly – forget I have neighbors.

    • I wish I could forget that I had neighbours 🙂 I am dreaming of the day when I can move back to a farm somewhere, and listen to the birds instead.

  2. I live in an apartment building, thankfully with very thick brick walls. Still, my next-door neighbour has this gift of talking so loudly in her living room that I can hear it in mine. That, and her cigarette smoke wafting into my flat during summer when she smokes on the communal porch, and visitors thinking it’s okay to block my parking spot instead of parking neatly behind the person they’re visiting all drive me round the bend. And don’t get me started on the endless conversations with elderly residents while I’m on the way up the stairs laden down with shopping bags.

    So, I’m with you – best place to live is on a farm, island or a mountain or somewhere. You shouldn’t be able to reach it without mountain climbing gear, a chopper or a boat.

    • Yes! Love it 🙂 I can relate to absolutely everything you say…do you still sing at the top of your lungs or stomp around the flat for no reason at all? I do those things sometimes, even though I KNOW my neighbours can hear me.

      • We live on the top-floor, so thankfully we have no noise from above, and our floors are concrete (when we build something in SA it lasts forever – the building has already weathered two floods that I know of) so I have to be pretty loud for my downstairs neighbour to hear me. Don’t think I’ll make it in a building made of mostly drywall.

    • Lucky you 🙂 Trust me, a week with ‘interesting’ neighbours and you will be straight back to the quiet condo! Thanks for popping by Rusha 🙂

  3. Oh my gosh! I so understand this issue. I’m so thankful we are back on the man that I love’s estate. We only have to deal with the nuisance of country dogs barking (but rarely at night).

    • Dogs barking in the country is not so bad, dogs barking because they are cooped up in ridiculously small city backyards makes me sad. I’m very jealous of your country estate, sounds marvellous!

  4. Funny, funny, Jayde… understand the environmental argument. Once lived in a condo but was blessed with two little old senior citizen ladies who never made a peep after 9 pm and rarely before that. Traveled for 4 years in a 22 foot van. Sometimes ended up in noisy campgrounds with screaming children and drunks– don’t know which was worst. Now live on five acres with a million acres of wilderness out my back door. No question about which I prefer. 🙂

    • That is my dream Curt! We are really hoping to be able to buy something on about five acres, someday. (fingers crossed, keep buying lotto tickets). Lucky you, enjoy your solitude 🙂

  5. As much as environmentalists may scream, it is bad for people’s mental and physical health to be live in close quarters. Interrupted sleep patterns, stress, raised blood pressure, and pollutants (look at air quality in densely populated areas vs. sparsely populated ones) . I also wonder how much of freshman dropouts in college are due to dorm style living. I have a daughter in college and one about to begin. My oldest had a really rough time freshman year due to roommate issues. – roommates refusing to sleep at night, keeping tv on all night and talking loudly on the phone all night long, etc. She is hoping for a better year. It is really a stress you really don’t need on top of starting university..

    • So true, I struggled so much in my first year of college that I did drop out 😦 I hope your daughters fair much better than I did! I agree, it adds such an unnecessary stress, the colleges should really look into a way of making it easier on students. Hopefully there is a nice quiet park where they can find a bit of privacy and solitude amongst the madness, that would have helped me a lot 🙂

      • I understand that some colleges now are employing a “match.com” type service to attempt to match students better. Also, a couple colleges we visited actually had singles as an option for freshman as standard housing (no additional cost). It really does add to first year stress.

      • Well I really hope they get through it ok! Tell them to make sure they keep reading 🙂 That is one place of solitude that cannot be taken from you, and it’s all too easy to forget about when your busy with university.

  6. Oh how I associate with this. Hong Kong is a place where the bulk of the people live in high rise apartments. Small ones at that. Think 400-800 square feet, gross, maybe 70% useable area. The wealthier ones live in bigger apartments, over 2,000 square feet is luxury. Houses on HK Island are rare and crazy prices. Where we live, in the New Territories, houses are more common and prices more reasonable. But it is all relative. So the concepts of privacy and solitude are not well recognised here. I tried living in an apartment. Convenient yes but mentally destructive. I now live in a detached house with a very small garden and a beautiful view of the sea. I can breath air that is less polluted than the poor folks on HK Island. When I was younger I dreamed of retiring to a large place in the country, setting up my own mini wildlife reserve and pursuing my photography in private bliss. That simply won’t happen in HK but I guess I have the next best thing. The day after we moved into this house my wife woke up and asked me: did you hear it? I hadn’t heard anything. Exactly! she said. The most we hear are barking dogs. The worst intruder has been a wild boar in the communal garden. I need space, silence and a sense of freedom. By living here in HK I recognise that as we get older we will have to trade in these “luxuries” for a flat. When we can’t manage the stairs, or don’t want to drive. We have bought an apartment that we rent out now and that will be our bolt hole when we come to downsize. Not even 2000 square feet but enough for an elderly couple. The biggest curse of these apartments is that they do not allow pets – Lulu could not go with us. So we think the move is at least 12 years away – we shall be close to 70 and maybe ready to make that hard choice. I am not looking forward to it. The stress will kill me, I know. I am not designed for living in close proximity to others. Please don’t taunt me with 5 acres 😦

    • Well it sounds like you have a little haven there Andrew! It’s really interesting to hear about life/living in Hong Kong, it’s so far removed from my little city in south-west Western Australia! I’m glad you have your solitude now, and I’m glad you agree with me about just how mentally destructive a lack of privacy can be!
      Fingers crossed for your future move, I hope it will be better than you think it will. Who knows what will change in the next 12 years, they might figure out a way of soundproofing that we haven’t even dreamed of yet!
      Like you, I am NOT designed for living in close proximity to others, and I find the older I get the worse I become. Hence the need for our dream five acres!! 🙂

  7. Ha! Love this. As someone who will be moving from a single-family home to the middle floor of an apartment complex in coming months, I’m already bracing myself for “close quarters living.” Visiting and staying with my fiance from time to time is not the same as truly having all my junk in a two-bedroom place with folks above, around and basically breathing on us night and day . . . eek. Will be good for a few years, then it’s time to move on up!

    • Thanks Meg! Best of luck with the move, I hope it goes better than expected! At least it will give you the motivation to work towards moving up 🙂

  8. lol. I definitely deviated food wise today, glad to hear it’s sanctioned on Mondays! (I’m pretending it’s not Tuesday…)

    • It’s ok, I think Tuesday is a day of grace before you have to attempt to pick yourself back up and get back on course for the rest of the week…not including the weekend, obviously!

  9. Gladly I live in a relatively quiet neighbourhood, most people are old and educated, right now Im only hearing birds.
    If I had to live in a noisy place, I either spend money to create a bunker isolating myself, and if not possible just go completely crazy and evil.
    Cats are good to live with, theyre cute and sleep most of the day.
    That number 5.

    • Haha I love this! Cats are good to live with, they aren’t needy and they leave you alone 🙂 dogs, on the other hand…

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