Technology and the New Neighborly
The Old Neighborhood Is Changing
Recently, I visited with my father at the house he bought in the 1960's. It is not a rare thing. I visit fairly often since the last time he went into the hospital. He is no longer driving, and the visits are a brief opportunity for him to get out and about.
He has a young lady staying with him, young enough to be his granddaughter. It is an extended stay. Their story is that they help each other out.
Dad used to have cats – lots of cats. The last of the cats died less than a year ago, and the only animal in the house now is a dog. The dog belongs to the young lady. It is the second dog she has had in the house. The first dog had a habit of escaping the house, and one day it got into the neighbors yard and scared their rabbit to death. Of course this caused some angst with the neighbors.
It is sad, because Dad used to help out the neighbors too. Everyone used to get along fine. If not fine, then they shared a reasonably peaceful coexistence. It is still that way, at least as far as I can tell with my regular visits.
Keeping an Eye On The Old Man?
The Technological Eye
But things have changed. During one of the first visits after I visited, the folks at dads’ house were talking about the video cameras that had been mounted on the neighbors’ house. The folks in Dads’ house thought the cameras were deliberately being pointed at Dads house. They think they are being watched because the rabbit died. The local police were asked about it. The police were called because the rabbit died too. In the end, the rabbit and the dog got the worst of it. Old friends are not talking anymore, and the new neighborly way means spending dollars to buy cameras, and spending tax dollars to call the police. People don’t talk to each other anymore, but they are ready at the drop of a hat to talk about other people. The one thing they have in common is that they ALL complain about taxes.
The technology is cheap though.
A New Neighborhood with Windows
My house is in a busy neighborhood. Depending on the day and the occasion, anywhere between 1000 and 10000 people walk by the house. It is one of those places lots of people like to visit, and some of us even live here.
When I first moved in one of the neighbors came over, and said ‘Jim? You really should get curtains for your kitchen window. Anybody who is walking by can see in your house.’
I thought about that for a second, and said ‘So? It doesn’t bother me if someone wants to watch me cook or wash dishes.’
She replied ‘But they can see what you have in your house!’
After some discussion, it turned out she was worried about people looking in the house, seeing something they want, then figuring out a way to steal the stuff. Not a big worry for me. “Nothing to see here.” Did I mention that somewhere between 1000 and 10000 people go by each day? It is one of those places lots of people like to use for going from point to point, including the police.
There have been many occasions where people walking by will look up at the house, see an open window, and then quickly look away when they see someone there. There have been many other occasions where a friend will walk by, see me there, and wave at the house. The reactions of people nearby is sometimes laughable. One guy nearly fell off his skateboard.
I routinely leave windows uncovered, even at night. If I intend to be in a room at night (other than the kitchen) I’ll draw the blinds. When I leave, they are opened right back up again. To me, the purpose of blinds and curtains is to control when sunlight can get into the house. There is nothing like natural sunlight in the winter to help heat a house. There is nothing like blinds (and shade) in the summer to help keep a house cool. It makes sense, but, nowadays, people prefer technology.
Visiting Dad makes for a long day, with more hours on the road than I prefer anymore. When I was younger, 20 hours straight of driving was do-able without too much loss of energy. Now, driving three hours, running errands, and then driving three more hours might mean I get home with a head-ache. Such was the case on the last trip.
A few months ago a neighbor moved out, and on my last return visit a new neighbor was moving in. I visited real quick, told them I was the neighbor and we exchanged names, and then took my headache back home.
The New Neighborly At Night
A few days later, I went into a room at night, one next to a neighbor’s house. They were outside. I closed the blinds, to protect both our privacy. When I was done, I opened the blinds back up, turned out the light and left the room, closing the door behind. They were still outside. All was routine.
I woke up in the middle of the night. Waking in the middle of the night happens often when you get older, and happens often when you sleep lightly. People walk by at night too. I checked the door, and noted a camera (video?) and tripod set up on the neighbors back porch. I went back to sleep. In the morning, I opened the door back up and the camera and tripod was still there. I took a picture, since the camera sort of looked like it was pointed right in my open window.
New Neighborly in the Daylight
I went to work. In the evening, when I got home, the tripod was still there. Such a new thing, so, I took another picture.
I thought "In this new age, maybe this is the new neighborly."
And then I thought "that would make a good title for an article".
Police and Cameras
In this neighborhood, as far as I know, we don’t call the police on each other. We still go talk to each other, and rarely have concerns. We talk to each other about what we have seen. But out in the real world, it is still a fact of life that we approach with caution people that we do not know.
You may have heard there is a move on to outfit police nationwide with body cameras and with vehicle cameras. And people are using their cameras to watch police. Video cameras are everywhere. They watch our daily lives. People have cameras for protection. People have cameras to take pictures of the birds, or the river, or the stars, or fireworks. Will the internet soon be used to allow these cameras to talk to each other about what they have seen.
And so I must ask the following question ...