People Who Live in Glass Houses

Having lived in suburbs most of my life, I know one reason people live in such places. To get away from other people.

It can be a stunningly beautiful day, all’s right with the neighborhood, but if you take a drive, you’ll rarely see another person who isn’t in a car. If you take a walk, you might hear a child’s voice here or there, or see someone walking a dog, or bump into a jogger or two, but you’ll usually be the only person around. It’s as if you’re visiting a Potemkin village set up to advertise the beauty of suburban living.

There is something strange about living so close to people you can’t see. Which has sometimes made me wonder what it would be like if the walls of our houses or apartments were made of glass. Would we still ignore our neighbors? Would we lead better lives if we were always on display? What if the lights were always on? Maybe God was invented because our ancestors didn’t live in glass houses with 24-hour lighting.

Coincidentally, I recently got around to reading Lolita. Humbert Humbert had something to hide, so it’s understandable that his thoughts ran in this direction too:

“… all along our route countless motor courts proclaimed their vacancy in neon lights, ready to accommodate salesmen, escaped convicts, impotents, family groups, as well as the most corrupt and vigorous couples. Ah, gentle drivers, driving through summer’s black nights, what frolics, what twists of lust, you might see from your impeccable highways if Kumfy Kabins were suddenly drained of their pigments and became as transparent as boxes of glass!”

And later:

“I often felt that we lived in a lighted house of glass, and that any moment some thin-lipped parchment face would peer through a carelessly unshaded window and obtain a free glimpse of things that the most jaded voyeur would have paid a small fortune to watch.”

As the fortune cookie says, people who live in glass houses should put up lots of curtains. 

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