Neighbours. You either love them or can’t stand the sight of them. There’s really no in-between. Okay, perhaps I’m being too extremist here, because there are some decent neighbours out there, I must admit. The unfortunate truth, however, is that they are few and far between. Based on the fact that this speck in the Mediterranean is so densely populated, you’re bound to experience an encounter or two with a not-so-nice neighbour. So unless you live in a remote and serene area of Malta, I’m quite certain that you live in a town or a village where you can’t help but feel like you’re automatically being stripped of your privacy, and simply don’t feel any sudden urge to mingle with your not-so-lovable neighbours.
The Nosey Parker
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being cordial and sociable. I actually like having a good relationship with my neighbours – the kind you go knocking on their door for an extra couple of eggs for an omelette or a few tomatoes for your salad. But let’s face it, everyone has encountered a neighbour they’d rather avoid due to their odd behaviour or because they think they have some god-given right to pry into your personal life. You know, the type who asks random nosey questions you’re not bothered to answer because, well, it’s not their damn business! Granted, I’m sounding a bit cynical, but truthfully, I’m a person who likes having my personal space, and at times, when this space is being invaded by inquisitive people, it annoys me. It annoys me a real lot.
So what to do in this situation? Well, I opt for two possible options:
Feign a smile – no matter how forced and fake it may be, and exchange some clichéd pleasantries:
Neighbour: Aw hi, orrajt, kif aħna? (Hello, all right? How are you?)
Me: Hi… Sorry, qas rajtek, kont ghajjiena, ta’. (Hi, sorry I didn’t see you, I was miles away.)
N: Għaddejjin, għaddejjin… (Getting by, getting by.)
M: Heh, il-ħajja, ux!’ (Heh, life eh?)
N: Issa daqt se jibda l-eżamijiet Klienvin, xeba spejjes ta’ kotba, kontijiet ta privatijiet bla waqfien u x’naf jien… spejjes biss kull m’huma dat-tfal, nsomma! (Kleinvin will soon be starting exams, lots of school and private lesson fees to pay and what not… Kids are just one long expense!)
M: Imma xi trid tagħmel?! (Ah well, what can you do?)
N: U int, għadek ġejja mix-xogħol? X’tagħmel allura? Minn jaf, hux? (And you, have you just returned from work? What do you do? I wonder!)
M: Is-soltu hux, xogħol u hekk… Insomma, ħa jkollni nħallik Rita, ħa mmur insajjar u naqla l-ħwejjeġ… (Oh usual, work and all. Anyway, I’d best be off Rita, I’m off to cook and do the washing.)
N: Ma nżommokx hi… (I won’t keep you, then.)
M: Ċaw, ħadt gost li rajtek! (Bye, lovely seeing you.)
When I’m lucky and I manage to dodge this bullet of awkwardness, I opt for another tactic and pull the classic rummage-through-my-handbag, acting as though I’m looking for my keys or phone. And by the time I catch their eye, I just smile and go for the classic nod, mouthing a polite goodbye and walk briskly like I’m on some mission. Indeed I am – it’s a mission to save myself from the never-ending agony of hearing another story from her mundane life. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a tried and tested technique that does work… sometimes.
The Passive-Aggressive, Self-Righteous B*tch
One mustn’t leave this one out. I guess it’s the aura she gives off. But doesn’t it ever happen to you, when you get that gut feeling that someone is simply snooty and stand-offish? Perhaps you might think I’m being a tad bit presumptuous to think such a thing. But allow me to illustrate some examples. She’s the gem of a neighbour who throws a hissy fit in front of your landlord because things don’t seem to go her way – just like a kid stamps their feet because they weren’t allowed to eat sweets before dinner. The one who leaves passive-aggressive notes instructing you how to park. But that’s okay, she has God in her life. So since she’s all square with the big guy upstairs, all’s well.
The one who didn’t care to smile or exchange a ‘pleased to meet you’ upon your initial meeting or the usual daily ‘good morning’, but thinks it’s A-okay to knock on your door that very same evening to ask for a favour, acting like the victim because she now needs your help, so suddenly you’re on speaking terms.
Moral of the story: Neighbours – there are the good, the bad and the ugly!