Neighborhood watch

FI-Joe-PisaniI live on a nice, quiet street where nothing much happens except for an occasional code red when the cops roar up the block because the neighbors are getting out of control for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me and I don’t particularly want to know.

You see, I’m not one of those people who rushes out the front door and dashes to the scene of the crime under the pretense of wanting to help. Actually all I want is to learn why the cops ran in with their guns drawn.

I consider it unseemly to stand around on the corner, gossiping and wondering what the ruckus is about. I’d much rather do it from behind the shades with my special high-powered, night-vision binoculars that I bought at the Army surplus store.

You never know which neighbor is a miscreant, which neighbor is brewing moonshine — or worse —  has a crystal meth lab in the laundry room and which neighbor did hard time in prison for sexual misconduct in the C-suite.

I recently researched one of my neighbors because I wanted her to pick up the mail while we were away. I really only needed her phone number but I didn’t have much luck with the phone book because the type is so small these days that you can’t read it.

In the olden days, the only listings in the book were from your town. But now you have to plod through listings from the entire Eastern Seaboard and Mongolia and use a magnifying glass to search for the Tom Smith you’re looking for amongst the 1,391 listings for Tom Smith.

Now I can understand why everyone on my street leaves their new phone books in yellow plastic bags lying on the curb. They’re useless.

So to find my neighbor’s number, I decided to use the Internet. I’m tech savvy. I know what Google is. Although I don’t have a Facebook page or a LinkedIn profile because the less they know about me the better, especially when the black helicopters come in the middle of the night to get me.

When I looked for my neighbor’s phone number, I realized there’s too much information about us online — our age, our sex, our address, the number of people in our household, our dental records and the results of our last colonoscopy … among other things.

Even worse, there are special offers that give you access to a person’s police record, education history, GPA, salary history, their kids’ grades, their preschool discipline record, their vaccination history, the number of detentions in grammar school and their class ranking for ballet lessons and karate class.

All you have to do is give your credit card number to a very helpful service for this tantalizing information and a few other personal details that will probably end up on the Today Show.

Suddenly my imagination started working overtime. I’ve seen those movies where the next-door neighbor seems like a quiet and unassuming kindergarten teacher but turns out to be an international spy.

In the end, I never found my neighbor’s phone number and I abandoned my search. It was easier to get up and walk across the street and ring the doorbell. And I just want to add that my neighbors are decent, law-abiding citizens.

I hope you can say the same about your neighbors. Just don’t give anyone your credit card number to find out.

Binoculars are cheaper.


Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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