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:
- Him appearing at our door at 6am wrapped in nothing but a towel, screaming at us to turn our music down.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.