I’ve just finished re-reading Anneli Rufus’ book, Party of One. In part it’s an exploration of the word “loner”, and particularly the media’s use of the word very freely in relation to disturbed killers.
She points out how often the perpetrator of a crime is headlined as “loner”, and how neighbours will always report that “he kept to herself”.
I took a look around at my neighbours. Not that I think any of them are deranged, but it occurred to me that what is said about the perpetrator by the neighbours after an event is utterly irrelevant because we’d all say the same thing about our neighbours and they’d say the same thing about us.
I live in a small dead-end street, and I live at the bottom of it so I see almost all the residents walking or driving past. And almost everyone goes past alone. This is not because they are all single but because they leave for work at different times.
Sometimes people will smile as they pass if they see me on my porch. If I were to report in a neighbourly way on these people, what would I say about them, and they about me? “She seemed ordinary, not unfriendly but kept to herself”. Indeed.
So either I live in a street filled with potential psychopaths, or that’s just how people in my part of the world normally behave.
Actually it occurs to me I may be living in the ideal neighbourhood for me. I have a semi retired architect who works next door but doesn’t live there. He’s been pretty unfriendly but recently we chatted a bit and yesterday he offered me a couple of spare plants. He’s there on his own during the day and I never see him with anyone else, clients or family. Across the road is a couple who I’ve spoken with a few times. Their family is well grown up and they have grandchildren although the grandkids don’t come to stay. There are a couple of singles further up the street who I don’t know but I see them walking past.
The reason this is ideal? I know by sight the people in the street, I know a couple enough to say hello to, but I’m not expected to be in and out of their homes. In an earthquake we’d know enough to know if someone was missing.
That’s neighbourly enough for me.