Gotta love your Key West neighbors because they’re only six inches away

Gotta love your Key West neighbors; they’re only six inches away

Ker-flush. Gurgle. Clunk.
Ah, the sound of the neighbor’s toilet.
Or, how about skritch-scratch-purrrrr? The neighbor’s cat snuggles into the outside cubbyhole beside your bedroom door — and taunts your kitties into hissing killers in the middle of the night.

If one doesn’t want to share the neighbors’ lives, one ought not move to Key West — or Manhattan, for that matter. It’s an adjustment for lovers of open spaces and five-acre zoning, this living cheek-by-jowl in a place where six inches might be all that separates one’s kitchen window from the neighbor’s gas grill.

One can choose one’s house; one can’t choose the neighbors. So being surrounded by good ones — defined loosely as they don’t overly meddle or play the music like a bar scene — is a gift. We’ve got good neighbors (just making that clear in case they’re reading this.)

There are 4,411.8 people packed into each of Key West’s 5.9 square miles, making it one of the nation’s most densely populated cities. Compared to the aforementioned Manhattan with its 69,467.5 folks per square mile Key West is positively lonesome.

Even Rockford, IL, my previous hometown, a for-real city outside Chicago can only muster up 2,500 per square mile.

Which is why I’m amused by the ceaseless fussing over dogs barking, roosters crowing and cats wandering that makes for Key West conversation. Oh, and let’s not forget the parking wars complete with trash cans, saw horses, plastic deck chairs and boat trailers.

I mean, surely you knew Key West was a tiny, people-packed island when you moved here, right?

Thousands of ordinances, from litter, noise and parking to paint colors, tree trimming and fence heights, attempt — futility, I might add — to quell the mini-battles between neighbors. There’s always someone delighted to rat out a neighbor’s barking dog or “illegal” fence post. And, out come the hurt feelings, the city enforcers and occasionally, the lawsuits.

The best neighbors color inside the lines — most of them anyway — maintain their fences and wear earplugs. An iPod does wonders.

My favorite neighbor to whom I had apologized about our noisy renovation put it this way: “If it gets too bad, I take out my hearing aids. Can’t hear a thing without ’em.”

Bless you, neighbor. I’ll wash your car when the dust settles.

And, that marauding, night-visiting cat? Give him a treat and send him on his way. After all, we knew when we moved here we’d be sharing 5.9 square miles with 25,000 people. At least we don’t have skyscrapers.

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