How UGA Students Can Be Better Neighbors

So you’ve chosen to move off campus and into one of Athens’ beautiful neighborhoods. First, let me congratulate you on your independence and appreciation of living like a townie. Also, I’m proud of you for not moving into an apartment complex, what with their fancy gyms and infinity pools. Humbug! You’re getting a taste of the real world, baby, and that means you’ll have a jump on all your friends when it’s time to graduate.

But moving into a neighborhood also comes with certain responsibilities. Specifically, not pissing off your neighbors, who quite often have to be somewhere respectable tomorrow morning and may even have kids who need to get up even earlier. 

Which is why, as a resident of Athens’ neighborhoods for the past eight years (and someone who holds down a job and has a child), I’ve come up with a few handy tips before you set up shop on your porch and start strumming your guitar.

Watch the noise. Speaking of that guitar, neighborhoods around here take on a magical quality when you can open your windows on a cool evening and hear the rhythmic beats of a band practicing a few doors away. Just, if you’re going to be practicing past 11 p.m. on a school night, please give your neighbors a heads up. The same rule applies if you’re having a party on the weekend. You can invite us if you like (it’s a nice gesture), but please just let us know. And, as a rule of thumb, turn it down after midnight. We don’t want to call the cops, but we’re entirely within our rights to do it.

When I was seven months pregnant, we had a college-age neighbor who enjoyed coming home from the bars at 2 a.m. on Friday mornings and playing her bass so loud it woke me up from a dead sleep. This happened for weeks, one night forcing me to march next door and bang on it so hard it opened—with her dog now standing in the doorway. She still ignored me. I called the cops several times, but it didn’t change anything. And I shed no tears when she finally moved.

Respect the sidewalks. In my house, we learned early on what happens if you park with a tire over the curb: You get a hefty ticket. So keep your parking on the street, not the sidewalk. (Or the lawn, but you knew that, right?) Also, learn quickly which day is your trash day and prepare your cans accordingly. If you put them out a few days too soon or leave them out for days afterward, you’ll get a little note from the city, reminding you to be prompt. This can lead to a fine, so pick them up. And even though this third point is related, it’s so important I’m giving it its own heading…

Pick up your dog’s poop. Yes, I said poop. Giggle all you like. But I have zero understanding of how people can let their dogs relieve themselves all over the sidewalk and then just continue on their merry way. And just because your dog goes in the grass doesn’t mean you’re off the hook—that’s someone’s yard we’re talking about. And when they step in it, they curse your name. Don’t be that person.

Hook up. One joy of living in a house is the endless utility bills you’ll soon be getting. Sure, you want electricity and water. But then there’s trash pick-up—you can’t just toss it into a Dumpster—and wi-fi and natural gas and cable TV. All of these require deposits, too, so plan accordingly when you move in, and don’t stiff your roommates when you leave. (OK, so we, as your neighbors, don’t care about that last part, but still, don’t be a jerk.)

Enjoy the neighborhood. Walk around, check out the area shops or wave to the guy walking his dog. One of the joys of living in an Athens neighborhood is the ability to experience what’s outside your house. Expand your route beyond the bus stop and campus, and you’ll find people next door who are happy to answer your questions or let you borrow some milk when you run out. Heck, I’ve borrowed hot water from my college-student neighbors when my pipes froze, so trust me—it pays to be nice, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.

College students, know that we, as full-time Athens residents, don’t dislike you. It’s just that a few bad seeds planted in our neighborhoods have given you a bad rap. Which is why, if you treat your house and the area around it with respect, you’ll find you’re living in a great neighborhood full of people who will wave hi and chat and even give you a thumbs up when you mention you’re throwing a party.

Just don’t turn up the bass after midnight. Please.