Yesterday as I was coming home from work I met two of my neighbors for the first time. We all just happened to be entering the building at the same time and they stopped to introduce themselves. I actually had a vague idea as to who they were, as I saw them when they moved in; I remember this because it was pretty clear that they were college students and I did a silent prayer that they wouldn’t be too noisy. I’m officially old. We had the following exchange:
Guy: What apartment do you live in?
I point to my apartment (it’s a small building).
Guy (face lights up): OH! You are the one that owns the awesome cat! He’s always in the window so we stop to say hello.
So there you have it – my cat is some kind of celebrity and apparently knows more people in the building than I do. And now I have some insight into what he does all day when I’m gone – lounge in the windows and look for attention. That actually sounds about right.
This encounter got me thinking about neighbors and the people that I have lived amongst over the years. I have a pretty laissez faire attitude toward my neighbors; I’ll always smile or nod my head, but I leave them to their own business unless they engage me in conversation. I generally let them dictate the nature of the relationship and if they want to chat about the weather or sports, I’m more than willing to do so (though I’m also happy to let them do their own thing). While I know most of the people living in my building on sight, I don’t really know any of their names or what they do. So in my head, they are known as “attractive guy who drives a BMW” and “attractive woman who unfortunately lives with the attractive guy with the BMW.” There are children that live in the building, but I don’t think that I’ve ever actually seen their parents so for all I know there is some sort Neverland up on the third floor.
My previous neighborhood had a completely different vibe: it was residential and I was one of only a few rentals on the block. Those people were way too attentive to what was going on in my life; shortly after I moved in I ran out to my car in the rain and suddenly one of the neighbors was knocking on my car window and handing me an umbrella. It was a nice gesture, but made me very aware that people were paying attention. I generally interpreted it as people watching out for the woman living alone (it was an OK neighborhood, but sketchy neighborhood adjacent), which I appreciated, but it still weirded me out a little. They knew who was coming to visit me and were very perplexed by my relationship status (I was actually a little unclear on that too at the time). I guess there just wasn’t much else going on around our little street in Albany. I was the entertainment (other than our neighbor who drove home drunk and smashed into half the cars on the street – THAT was some excitement!).
This of course got me thinking about the great (and not so great) neighbors in pop culture. Sitcoms particularly are a haven for the wacky neighbor that pops in long enough to get a big laugh and recede into the background of the story, though there are the occasional neighbors that are main characters. Some of these people would be awesome to live near, but others would be super annoying – fine in 22 minute increments once a week, but no good as a part of daily life. Helpful or a hindrance, these are the pop culture neighbors that stick out in my mind:
Cosmo Kramer (Seinfeld)
Kramer is of course one of the key characters on Seinfeld, but while I love the character I am not sure how much I would love living across the hall from him. He clearly had some boundary issues and his exploits brought people angrily knocking on his door on more than one occasion. I don’t know that I need that kind of chaos in my life. Still, for all his faults he also brings a lot of excitement and adventure to the table and he always seems willing to go out and do stuff (something that is sadly lacking in my life right now). He’s also loyal and pretty funny – plus he has occasional run-ins with celebrities.
Verdict – Despite some reservations, I’d like him as my neighbor. It would never be boring
Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)
Poor Ned has the patience of a saint, living next to Homer and his clan. While I can’t imagine that I would be any bother, it’s good to know that he’s a pretty tolerant guy on the off chance that I yelled too loudly at the TV during Yankee games. He’s way more religious than I would normally prefer, but he generally doesn’t seem too annoying about it; if I let him live his life, he’d probably let me live mine (while praying for my soul). I could trust him to take care of my cat, a major bonus, and his kids are well behaved.
Verdict – Definitely desirable neighbor material.
Wilson (Home Improvement)
We don’t know much about Wilson – heck, we’ve never even seen his face. There were hints that he had lived a very interesting life, but his main purpose was to give sage advice to members of the Taylor family through the picket fence. He is a bit of a mystery, which could go either way, but I could use some counsel now and again. Plus he always seemed to be raking or doing other maintenance, so at least the curb value of my home wouldn’t deteriorate with him next door.
Verdict – A wise neighbor choice.
Newman was always trying to ruin Jerry’s life, which doesn’t speak well to his character. He was a sneaky guy and the checkered history of postal workers may make him a ticking time bomb. While I kind of think that having a nemesis would be fun, I don’t know that I’d want one who was living so close to me and who could gather a lot of Intel on me easily. Plus I wouldn’t want him messing with my packages from Amazon being delivered.
Verdict – Too risky
Dr. Drew Baird (30 Rock)
Umm…..look at him. If I get to see this face on a regular basis, I’m sold. I don’t care that he is a moron.
Verdict– How quickly can this happen?
Steve Urkel (Family Matters)
Nope – way too annoying. That voice alone is reason enough to veto and I can’t tolerate a lifetime of “Did I do that?”
Verdict – Hell no
Who are your favorite/least favorite pop culture neighbors? Sound off in the comments below.