Read The Room

A Field Guide To The People In Your New Suburban Neighborhood

Including the Lawn Dad (note: this term is gender-neutral) and the Block Party Curmudgeon.

by April Daniels Hussar
Alan Powdrill, Westend61, Glasshouse, Fotografia Inc., South_agency/Getty Images

I didn’t mean to move back to the ’burbs so soon after escaping my small hometown for the Big Apple post-college, but following a series of events involving an irresistible boy from New Jersey, there I found myself, with a little Jersey bun in the oven and a newfound thirst for Home Goods. Once I got over the shock (and learned how to always angle for the TJ Maxx gift cards at the yearly white elephant party thrown by fellow Chardonnay-swilling local moms), I settled happily into my new existence. There’s a lot to be said for the suburbs — I’ve made good friends, joined park cleanups (OK, that is a lie, but I intend to every year!), and know that in a true pinch, there’s always someone around who will help me break into my own house because I locked the keys inside again.

Whether you make your own move out of the city on purpose, or simply wake up one day to find yourself in possession of a Target Red Card and a ladder, it’s good to acquaint yourself with the different types of people you will find in every suburban neighborhood. The fun thing is figuring out which one you yourself will be!

The Man Who Is Always, Always Outside

How does he do it? No matter what time of day or night you pull in or out of your driveway or hop down your front porch steps, there he is, just finishing up a walk, just starting a small yard task, or just vaguely standing around for purposes unknown. He will wave, you will wave, and so it shall repeat as long as you live there, just as the oceans crumble the mountains into sand.

The Neighbor Who Knows Everything. (Every. Thing.)

This person lives on your street but not right next door, yet still somehow knows that you didn’t plant tomatoes this year, that the house on the other side of you is putting in a deck, and that the town is repaving your block in 2024. Do not fear this neighbor’s omniscience; simply accept it and use it to your advantage, knowing that the street is fairly safe from burglars as long as The Eye of Sauron is on the job.

The Dog Walker

There are people who walk their dogs, and then there are Dog Walkers. Owning a canine is their entire personality, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Generally they are jovial, happy for a chat, and will be loyal to you and your shade tree petition if you remember to address every third comment to their dog.

The Hot Dad

Every ’hood, thankfully, has at least one.

The Lawn Dad

(Note: Lawn Dad is a gender-neutral term.) Lawn Dad’s highest purpose in life is to maintain the small plot of land in front of their home to their absolute best ability. Nary a leaf shall drop without immediately being tweezed up, never does a blade of grass grow more than one-eighth an inch past optimal length. You will never, ever, ever, shovel snow off your sidewalk before Lawn Dad, and that is as it should be.

The College Kid Who Stayed Local

This kid may appear a bit glum in autumn, treading grimly past the ninth graders lugging enormous backpacks toward the high school he just graduated from, but in a few years, when half of his class has dropped out or graduated with $200,000 in debt, he’ll be pulling in half a mill a year from the house-painting business he started as a side gig. Oh, how the pep in his step will change!

The Long Talker

A close relative of the Man Who Is Always Outside, the Long Talker is very often lurking about, just waiting for you to catch their eye as you stumble blearily out to the curb in your pajamas, garbage can in tow. Once you hear, “Morning! How ya doing!” in a chipper, piercing tone, you know you’re toast.

The Block Party Enthusiast

Literally nothing is more thrilling to this kind soul than the thought of the entire street gathered in the street for eight to 10 fun-filled hours of grilling, drinking, and chatting while the usually helicopter-parented children of the block gleefully run feral. If your ’hood has one of these, it’s best to just go with it, succumb, bring a baked good, put on the wristband — do not resist, for resistance is futile!

The Block Party Curmudgeon

The natural enemy of the Block Party Enthusiast, the Block Party Curmudgeon has no interest in socializing with these (perfectly nice) people simply because they happen to live on the same strip of a rock called Earth. For this reason, the Block Party itself will usually be centered directly in front of the Block Party Curmudgeon’s home, so they are trapped into attendance.

The Leaf Blower Vigilante

Often a natural nemesis of Lawn Dad, the Leaf Blower Vigilante (who has been “working from home” since way before the pandemic) hates nothing more than a gas-guzzling, noise-polluting, true-sign-of-the-fall-of-civilization and harbinger of the apocalypse: the leaf blower. If you live in a town with rules about leaf blower usage, the LBV will not let 25 seconds pass before calling the authorities on an out-of-bounds blower. If you do not have rules, the LVB will dedicate his life (when he’s not “working on his novel”) to petitioning for such restrictions, preferably limiting the use of leaf blowers to one (1) Thursday afternoon in early November, between the hours of 1:18 p.m. and 3:12 p.m., with second infractions punishable by death.

The Person Who Always Puts Out Their Recycling First

While smug, this is one of the most useful inhabitants. You will never need to bother with attempting to remember whether mixed recycling is every first and third Wednesday (in even months) or every second and fourth Tuesday (unless in case of a full moon), or on what rotating Monday/Friday morning (taking into consideration daylight saving time) you’re allowed to put out the cardboard. You don’t even have to figure out if you’re on the “north side” of town or the west. All you have to do is wake up, peep an eye down the street toward the air of self-satisfaction, and see what the PWAPOTRF has done.

The Runner

How does she do it? A close relative of the Man Who Is Always Outside, the Runner can be spotted at least two of every three times you step foot outside your house, no matter the time of day but preferably when you are either hungover or have just sprained your ankle walking on a flat surface. Neither rain, nor shine, nor hordes of trick-or-treaters will keep her from her run, her glow of health emanating to the heavens, a wholesome reminder of the possibilities inherent in — and the endurance of — the human spirit. God, she’s annoying!