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Column - Those not nosey must be dead

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My brother-in-law recently said, "Anybody who claims they're not nosey must be dead."

I like to think there is a difference between the curiosity of a reporter, for example, and the nosiness of a back-fence gossip, but I'm not so sure these days. I know a married couple who fight over binoculars to be the first to see what their weird neighbors are up to.

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When I first checked this house-for-sale six years ago here in "Rockwood Estates," my brother-in-law and sister, who were with me, both remarked they could "feel" eyeballs peering from neighborhood houses and burning holes in their backs.

"Oh, don't be silly," I said. "Nobody's that nosey."

I was wrong. Weeks later, after I moved into the house, my good neighbors in at least three homes, once I'd gotten to know them, admitted they were glued to their windows that afternoon, peeking through blinds and curtains. They were wondering to one another, "Which one would be moving in? Just that old man? Or maybe that older couple? Maybe all three. Better not be druggies or noisy partiers. Hope whoever moves in keeps the yard clean."

A month later, I started moving my stuff in.

Later, neighbors admitted they were glued again to the windows.

"It's the old man! He's back with boxes. Boxes brimming with books. And more books. Is that all he does is read?"

Next-door-Marty told me later she had been convinced I was a professor on the verge of retirement, if not senility.

I burst out laughing.

"You people are such nosey busybodies," I told them all.

Living around here, they said, a person's got to be nosey. It's a form of self-protection. Through the years there had been some break-ins, vagrants wandering in the streets, hooligan vandals, merry pranksters and boozy trouble-makers passing out in yards. One day, years ago, Marty heard a commotion, peeked out her back window and saw a morning drunk arise from his sleep on the ground and then start urinating while standing, barely, on wobbly legs. I swear, that woman attracts trouble. Another time, a cop tackled a man on Marty's front lawn. (The man, who lived down the block, was wanted for slapping his girlfriend.)

"That's the kind of stuff you have to watch for," Marty said. "You never know what could happen. You'd be surprised what I can see through my bathroom window."

"Maybe I shouldn't have moved here," I said. "Sounds like nothing but trailer trash."

"Oh, don't worry," she said. "You'll fit right in."

Last spring, a truck groaning with boxes pulled up to the empty house down the way. A group of young people began to unload the truck like maniacs on pep pills.

Peering through my kitchen window, I thought, "I hope they're not all going to live there! Wouldn't doubt if they're all meth addicts. What a wild bunch! I suppose there'll be beer cans all over the lawn and hard-metal crap music blaring at all hours."

Suddenly, I realized I had turned into a nosey busybody. I spend entirely too much time staring out those windows, pondering, leery of any unfamiliar person or vehicle. That's probably a good thing, though, now that I think of it, considering there were two attempted abductions here in just the last two months. Several neighbors on this end enjoy doing snoop patrols up and down the streets while taking leisurely strolls or bike rides. They have eagle eyes and keen noses for anything new or freaky. Then they report back to the couch potatoes.

"Guess what?!" is commonly asked around here. "You're not gonna believe this!"

"Now what?!" someone always asks, eager for the latest scuttlebutt.

Ah, yes, things do get a little slow here at the "Park," or "The Estates," as the high-shelf hoity-toities call it. They're the ones with the newer, undented cars. When things get really slow, well, there's always a window to look out, something new to see, something to ponder and to buzz about.

It's no wonder so many people who live here have big noses. Some, in fact, are beginning to resemble Pinocchio.

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