20 August 2005

Exhibitionist Homeowners

If you spend too much time in the echo chamber of the blogosphere you can be lulled into a sense of bonhomie, convinced that people are basically alike and basically like you. Then, something happens that stirs you out of your reverie and convinces you that there are whole other species of humans out there, whose psychological makeup in fundamentally different than you own, even though they look superficially similar. I had such a revelation tonight as I was on my evening stroll around the neighborhood.

As you walk around my neighborhood, maybe a quarter to a third of the house have their lights on in every living room, dining room, family room and guest room. There are no blinds or curtains in the windows. Everything is spotless. There isn't a stray magazine or newspaper on a coffee table, nor a jacket hanging over a chair. Most are unoccupied. Sometimes, there is even someone inside a lit bedroom or parlor, windows opened for the world to see in, watching television. Most of these homes aren't even for sale.

Who are these people, these exhibitionist homeowners? I can't imagine it. Sometimes I do open my curtains and blinds -- in the middle of the day when I want to let in light, or when I'm having a party and waiting for people to arrive. But, in the evening, when nothing particular is going on? Never. And I get chewed out for leaving the hallway light on half a minute after I've left it, even if I plan on turning around and going through it again in a few minutes. My home is not a museum. It is not lit for spectators. We live here and it is intended for the enjoyment of my family and our guests -- not the general public. We do not waste electricity showing off our living room when we aren't in it.

Apparently, however, there are weird people out there who think otherwise. People who must labor countless hours to keep these spaces spotless and uncluttered. People who so public spirited that they rank the casual person on an evening stroll higher in their priorities than the inconveniences they themselves must endure to maintain such a pristine display. People who have so little a sense of privacy, that they don't care if the whole world sees every piece of furniture in the common areas of their home and what they are watching on television. They exist. The empirical evidence is definitive. But, who they are, and why they act the way that they do remains a mystery too deep for humble souls like myself.

No comments: