Bad neighbours

A parody of the American Gothic painting showing them as nice, smiling neighbours with a bouquet of red roses, and as mask-wearing, zap-signing jerks.
Apologies to Mr Wood for bastardisation of his famous artwork

Life’s not like a box of chocolates, it’s more like Russian roulette, especially when you move into a new neighbourhood. You fall in love with a house or apartment, but the infestation of bad neighbours only surfaces with the first loud party until 4am on a Sunday morning. And it’s only funny in movies starring Zac, Seth and Rose, unfunny when you’ve invested in a place that comes with pests you’re not allowed to kill.

As an adult with an intense dislike of thoughtlessness, EVERYTHING is loud to me or just plain rude. It’s nobody’s fault that I’m hypersensitive to noise, because you’re either born not wanting to draw attention to yourself or you go out of your way to be noticed. 

It’s also second nature for me to question my behaviour: is my trolley blocking the aisle, is my car wheel over the barrier line, is my music/talking/chewing/child/car/dog/laughter/outfit too loud? Am I spitting when I speak, giving genuine likes on Insta, saving enough water, recycling enough, wasting food? If this all sounds like too much effort, it is.

Luckily, being considerate and having good manners eventually becomes a habit, like yawning with your mouth covered or saying pardon when you burp, even when you’re alone. But it’s a blessing and a curse, leading to daily disappointment when other humans behave like amoebas.

Since I don’t foresee myself devolving into a bad neighbour sometime soon, indulge me while I shine a nitpicking spotlight on some of the noisy, self-centred, knuckle-dragging ways I’ve experienced while living in a few places throughout the years.

How to drive like a bad neighbour:

  1. Hoot to say hello/goodbye and to show irritation/happiness, no matter what time of day or night.
  2. Rev in your driveway, in front of your house, and while driving.
  3. Idle, rev and take at least 6 minutes to exit your 3m-long driveway before you leave in the morning. Make sure you have the LOUDEST engine. Repeat when you get back home.
  4. Drag race down the street. Any street.
  5. Bang your car door at least six times, even though you only have four doors and are the only one going out.
  6. Park in front of your neighbour’s house on the pavement, even though you have space in front of your own house, a garage, and a driveway. Encourage visitors to do the same.
  7. Use your neighbour’s driveway when swopping cars around.
  8. Park directly in front of your driveway so that your neighbour has trouble reversing out of theirs.
  9. If there’s a corner shop, make sure you park on the busiest part of the street or on the corner, blocking oncoming traffic.
  10. Park illegally and inconsiderately, especially during funerals, parties, church and school functions.
  11. If you drive anything with a diesel engine, always leave it running while you have a chat or check messages.
  12. Park on a pedestrian crossing to pick up anyone (your child from school, passengers), but never stop for people trying to cross the road.

How to own a cat like a bad neighbour:

  1. Make sure your cat is not neutered.
  2. Ensure they run on your neighbour’s roof at any time, making all dogs within a 1km radius, bark.
  3. Make sure your cat uses the neighbour’s lawn and driveway as a toilet for #2s and their garage for #1s
  4. Bad neighbours enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep while their crappy cat explores the neighbour’s front garden, traipsing through their shrubbery, vomiting on their front stoep, fighting with other cats, and making those godforsaken feline-from-hell noises.

How to listen to music like a bad neighbour:

  1. Loudly and ‘generously’ share your music with everyone during parties, when driving, parked outside your kid’s school, church, wherever, whenever – and make sure your karaoke machine is fully operational. Please whistle or sing along tunelessly. 
  2. Make sure your speakers are bass and loud enough to drown out gunshots.
  3. When walking through a sleepy suburb, play music loudly on your phone.
  4. Set your car radio to full volume so that when you get home at night you’re blasting down the street, and in the morning when you start your car again.

How to do privacy like a bad neighbour:

  1. Make sure you peep over the wall when the neighbour’s hanging up washing or chilling on their patio.
  2. When you clean/fix your roof or gutters, make sure you fully investigate the neighbour’s back yard and his wife or daughter outside.
  3. If you have security cameras, make sure they track everything your neighbour’s doing too.

How to own a dog like a bad neighbour:

  1. Make sure you never take your dog for a walk or play with it so that it howls, whines and barks all day.
  2. Allow your dog to bark all day and night, unchecked.
  3. Never pick up your dog’s turds to ensure the stench reaches pedestrians.
  4. Let your dog loose outside to use the pavements as a toilet.

How to garden like a bad neighbour:

  1. Make sure you have the tallest, most invasive trees. Trees are good for the environment, but not when they encroach on your neighbour’s property, spilling berries and leaves all over their driveway, blocking drains and gutters or pushing through walls and foundations. 
  2. Bad neighbours are ironically houseproud and mow the lawn almost every weekend and use the weed whacker before 8am.
  3. Sweep grass cuttings/leaves/dirt into the street or drains so that they’re blocked with the first heavy rains.

How to do water restrictions like a bad neighbour:

  1. Use a hose to water your garden.
  2. Fill your swimming pool.
  3. Hose down your pavement, driveway, stoep or truck. 
  4. Wash your car often with a hose, not buckets.
  5. Buy a large inflatable pool and fill it to the brim.
  6. Don’t invest in water tanks, a borehole or catch rainwater in buckets/drums. 
  7. Take long hot showers/baths (at home, school, and gym).
  8. Wash your pet and baby every day.
  9. Never use grey water for flushing. 
  10. Install a water feature.

How to renovate like a bad neighbour:

  1. Ensure that delivery trucks block the street and deliver before 7am on a weekend.
  2. Leave rubble/bricks/building materials outside your house for months.
  3. Don’t get permission from your neighbours for DIY walls, carports, extensions or any renovations.
  4. Block the neighbour’s view/sunlight with your double-storey extension – ensure that windows face directly over the neighbour’s back yard.
  5. Don’t allow enough budget for building so that renovations extend beyond two years.
  6. Refuse to pay for half of raising a shared wall.
  7. When you replaster a wall, don’t warn the neighbours of the possible mess on their lawn or damage to their car or property.
  8. Before building, don’t factor in height restrictions, suitable architecture, waterwise/recycled building materials, noise pollution, colour of the facade, safety or health regulations.

How to parent like a bad neighbour:

  1. When your kids play in the yard make sure they scream and shout as if they’re being skinned alive.
  2. If another kid’s ball or toy goes into your yard, keep it. 
  3. Allow your kids to jump over the neighbour’s gate/wall when their stuff goes over without asking for permission.
  4. Make sure your kids roller-skate, skateboard, and play outside in noisy gangs in the street far away from your house.
  5. Teach your kids to litter, play loud music and be inconsiderate just like you.

How to talk like a bad neighbour:

  1. When on a call, make sure you speak loudly in your back yard.
  2. During social gatherings, swear, cackle and ALWAYS USE YOUR OUTSIDE VOICE.
  3. Always shout long goodbyes to your visitors.
  4. Have long, loud, conversations in your driveway or on the pavement, ruining the sleep of your neighbours and their school-going kids or babies (some people’s bedrooms are in the front of their house, not at the back).
  5. Walk down a street before 7am playing music, chatting loudly, and swearing. Extra points if you’re pushing a pram, trolley or walking a pet to get all the dogs barking.

How to litter like a bad neighbour:

  1. Flick cigarette butts anywhere you like, especially from your car.
  2. Eat, drink, and lick whatever you’ve bought at the corner shop or takeaway down the road, then throw used packaging in the street.
  3. Never recycle anything – come Bin Day, make sure your overflowing bin is a smorgasbord for the homeless, resulting in rotten food on the pavement and dirt blowing all over the neighbourhood.
  4. Dump your discarded toilet, bath, couch, appliances, clothing, nappies, and builder’s/garden waste near a park, open field, parking lot, school, church or pavement instead of designated areas. Drive to another neighbourhood if you have to.
  5. While out walking, loudly hack as if you have a hairball the size of a baby in your throat, then cough it up onto the pavement.
  6. Throw cigarette butts, used condoms, orange peels, and chicken bones over your garden wall.

How to do general douche-baggery like a bad neighbour:

  1. When your car alarm goes off in the street be the last to hear it.
  2. Go away for the weekend and have your faulty house alarm go off every 15 minutes all day until you come back home. Never fix it.
  3. Click your high-pitched car alarm at least five times when going out. Repeat when returning.
  4. Drill, sand, chop or practice a musical instrument with your choir/band, day or night. 
  5. Never gently close your front door, make sure you BANG it at least 10 times a day.
  6. When getting a new front gate, make sure it’s louder than the gates of hell.
  7. Swear loudly at your cat, dog, spouse or child outside.
  8. Set automated stadium-worthy lights outside to shine directly into your neighbour’s bedroom or lounge.
  9. Never cook indoors, only braai outside or burn wood fires and bonfires so that the neighbours get constant smoke-filled laundry, house, lungs and back yard.
  10. Read, reseal or destroy your neighbour’s snail mail when you mistakenly get it.
  11. Drag your dirt bin outside before 6am or after 10pm.
  12. Pick fruit or flowers and take cuttings from the neighbour’s garden without asking.
  13. Bad neighbours always own an old vehicle and tinker on it day and night, revving loudly, making as much smoke as possible.
  14. Have sex with windows, curtains, and your partner’s ear-piercing pie hole WIDE open.
  15. Play loud music during a church service.

There’s a reason why noisy, thoughtless people die first in horror movies (Alien, A Quiet Place, Hush, The Silence, Don’t Breathe) – they’re low down on the food chain, paving the way for survival of the evolved. So excuse me while I just sit here quietly, waiting for the zombie apocalypse, and not giving a hoot about bad neighbours and the rest of the idiocracy.

Bad neighbours notwithstanding, sometimes you just need ONE good neighbour – lucky for us she lives right next door…