A few months ago, we moved from a house into an apartment. It was a bit of an adjustment learning to live with seeing neighbor’s lives so up close and personal. The sounds that distracted me at first are now so familiar that I can just tune them out and keep working. All in all, it’s worked out well.
But there is still an area that bothers me. Privacy. At first, I felt like I was eavesdropping on everyone.
I Am Not Intentionally Eavesdropping
What is it called when I can hear all you say, but I’m trying not to listen in?
I never went out of my way to hear people, but it still felt kind of sleazy.
I figured, for my own peace of mind, I better set some ground rules. What I decided was that if it was happening in a public place, like the courtyard or the parking lot, it was fair game. If it was happening in an apartment it was not.
My desk is next to our front window and, when I’m not working, I sometimes have the blinds open. When that is the case, if I see something going on downstairs, I may stop to watch.
What I will not do is look inside other people’s apartments. When I walk the corridors, it does not matter if they have their door open or their blinds open, I do not look inside. For me, that is just common courtesy. Their home should be private and they don’t need some stranger, which is what I am to most of them, looking in. I stare straight ahead until I get to the hallways leading outside.
I wish they showed the same respect. I don’t open the blinds as much as I would like because some of them will slow all the way down and inch past our window to stare inside. The lady across the courtyard goes outside to smoke and more than once I’ve looked up from my computer to find her staring at me. Okay, the spot she stands in is quite a bit away and she may just be staring off into space, but it feels like she is staring at me.
Maybe I am being hypocritical. I don’t look inside other’s apartments, but I still sometimes discuss them. This month a family moved out who had been a problem. I don’t know if they were evicted or chose to leave. The father was abusive. Okay, I don’t have proof he hurt the woman or the kids, but not long after we moved in, they had a fight that culminated with him throwing her laptop out into the courtyard. And the cops were there for a long time one night last month after they had yet another fight.
Their apartment is just across the courtyard from us, but downstairs and I have a clear view of their door. A few days after they moved out the landlord went inside with his camera and was there a long time documenting the damage. I told my son that I bet the guy had punched doors and walls. Sure enough, two days later a repair crew was here and they had to take every interior door out. They all had holes. One of the holes was huge. Looked like he smashed a head into it. His own or someone else's.
It was disturbing to see, but I also felt like I was invading their privacy. Even though everything that I saw was in the public courtyard. I did not go cozy up to the manager for details. I did not go peek in the windows.
It still felt sleazy. I guess I still need to figure out the privacy boundaries that I can live with here on As the Courtyard Turns.