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Neighboring during COVID-19




“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine?

Could you be mine?… I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you…Please, won’t you be my neighbor.” Lyrics by TV show host Fred Rogers.

There are many ways in which our neighbors can annoy us. And many ways we can annoy them. But the stay-at-home mandate has taken neighborhood togetherness to a different level. People packed into apartments and busy cities like sardines probably want less neighboring.

How do we solve neighborhood problems with civility and respectful words and actions? What if the problem keeps going on and on like the Energizer Bunny? When do we speak-up and when do we shut-up?

One neighbor’s big dog visits the yards of others (including mine) and leaves an unwanted gift. And you can’t regift dog poop. How long has this poo-fest been happening? Being at home during the pandemic allows us to be more observant. Options: Take a picture of the dog using your yard as a toilet and show the neighbor to prove it is not a stray dog. Or stay quiet to keep the peace. How would you react?

Cat urine is distinctly smelly. What do you do when neighborhood cats pee on your porch? Standing watch 24 hours a day is a tiresome option, even if you’re quarantined at home.

And it’s not the fault of the animals—it’s inconsiderate pet owners.

In a 2010 article in Psychology Today, Jacinta Francis Ph.D. wrote “Unwanted noise is the complaint I’ve encountered most during discussions with friends and colleagues. Noise can come from loud music and conversation, machinery, traffic, screaming children and barking dogs.”

I’ll admit that my dog is territorial and barks when anyone, friend or foe, comes near our fenced yard. However, she is not allowed to bark incessantly. And her bedtime is 10 pm.

Hearing the neighborhood children laughing and playing is delightful. However, loud teen music that glories violence and profanity is inappropriate and irritating.

Partying neighbors that get tipsy on their patio during the summer months and sing the Doobie Brother’s greatest hits at the top of their lungs at midnight is humorous. Even if they can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

What boils my beans is listening to a parent scream at her/his kids. I would like to give her/him a copy of Screamfree Parenting, a program to help parents chill before they spill.

What should you do if your neighbor flies a drone over your property? Smile and wave to the hidden camera. Some drones are equipped with cameras and telephoto lenses. Do you ignore the hovering spy or chat with the person for a solution?

What should you do if a neighbor’s guest smashes into your mailbox a with a truck? Then he speeds away. But you caught it on camera.

What if a resident in the neighborhood is stealing tomatoes from your garden? Do you accuse them of trespassing or offer to give them tomatoes if they ask?

The IKO Community Management website lists the most common reasons behind neighbor disputes: noise, pets, children, physical appearance of your home, property boundaries, suspected criminal behavior, health or building code violations, and parking. Visit

“Some of us are lucky to have neighbors like the late Mr. Rogers. But for many, neighbors range from nuisance to nightmare. What can you do about it? Many neighbor disputes end up in court because of poor communication. If something’s happening that’s dangerous or illegal, the cops are the obvious answer. But if problems arise that are a bit more gray, communication is the best way to save money and hassle,” says Brandon Ballenger in a 2019 article for Reader’s Digest.

“It’s social distancing time in the neighborhood. Would you please stay six feet away from me and wave at me? We’ll be neighbors from afar. Won’t you be my neighbor? But only if you wear a mask.” New lyrics for a quarantined neighborhood.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in southern Ohio.

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