Monday, March 07, 2016

Nosy Neighbours

One of the big differences between city living and country living is the concept of "nosiness".
In the city, you keep to yourself, you don't get involved, you mind your own business. It's a form of NIMBY-ism: If it's not happening in my back yard, I'm going to pretend it's not happening.
This is how people can lie dead in their apartments for days, even weeks, without anyone knowing until someone notices an unpleasant smell.
In the country, however, knowing your neighbours' business isn't just acceptable, it's expected.
If you see someone's backdoor light still shining at ten o'clock in the morning, you phone the house to make sure everything is okay.
I've struggled with the nosiness of rural folk far more than I struggled with the anonymity of the city. Raised in a small town (small relative to Toronto, not small relative to Halifax), I hated being told that because my father owned a business in town, my behaviour and activity reflected on him; I was expected to avoid a poor reflection. Fortunately, I wasn't inclined towards bad behaviour so it was more a personal reaction to being told whose house not to park in front of. When I lived in Vancouver, however, I relished that I could walk down the street and no one knew me. At the same time, no one cared about me, either.
Despite living in the country for almost nine years, I still balk at the constant barrage of "Who-What-When-Where" questions that fill the days of people living in an underpopulated area. Yet I know why the questions are asked, know my recoiling from them is more about me than it is about the people who ask them. The questions are a way of life; who am I to question the questions?
Just don't expect me to answer them. 
Interesting, then, the conversation at supper the other night. I mentioned that it appears the house sitter for friends of ours hadn't made an appearance four days after they left town, and I thought I should email them and let them know.
My city-born-and-raised mother said, "You don't want to be a tattle tale."
My country-born-and-raised husband, on the other hand, "I'd tell them."
Maybe I'll just start taking the long way home so I don't have to drive past their house for the next month.

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