The vast majority of kids who come to the College of Charleston move from the wide open world of subdivisions to the cramped urban grid of downtown. The houses are old, drafty, crammed together, and definitely not soundproof. Neighbors can feel more like roommates, and downtown residents have been known to lose their cool when dealing with rowdy college kids. We checked in with Harleston Village resident and principal architect of Studio A, Whitney Powers, to see what advice she'd offer students who want to avoid Livability Court, which is where the cops will send you if they keep being alerted to your barking dogs, loud parties, and messy living conditions. Here's a rundown of what she had to say.
Be Neighborly (and relatively quiet). Make eye contact, say hello, exchange phone numbers, and help the little old lady next door change her light bulbs and drag her trash to the street. Being neighborly goes a long way when you throw an occasional party or have a rowdy late-night guest or two. Neighbors who are given fair warning, and maybe a pre-conciliatory bottle of wine, will be much more understanding if things get noisy. And if the noise gets out of hand, ask them to call you rather than the cops.
Put your trash in the can. Be smart about your refuse. Don't eat shrimp on a Tuesday and then put the shells in the garbage if your trash doesn't get picked up until the following Monday. That's smell pollution. (Solution: Freeze the shells and throw them out on the day of pickup after you've made a stock with them.) Some other easy rules to live by: put the trash in the can and not on the sidewalk and remove the cans from the sidewalk once they're emptied. Duh.
Borrow a weedeater if you don't have one. Once you've befriended the neighbors, don't be shy about borrowing their yard tools to keep your grass trimmed and tidy. They'd much rather share than have you completely neglect keeping up the property, which is an eyesore for the entire neighborhood.
Don't get a puppy. Yes, it can be lonely at school, far away from your family and close friends, but don't rush into pet ownership. Class schedules can be grueling, keeping you away from your home for long hours, and a puppy will be left to whimper and bark in your absence. Not only is it sad for the pooch, but it can be torturous for neighbors left to bear witness to the wailing and whining. In Charleston, college kids have gotten a bad rep for not only neglecting pets but then turning them loose in the streets when mom and dad won't let them bring the puppy home with them for the summer. Do yourself (and the rest of us) a favor and don't be that kid.
Learn to parallel park. The streets downtown are tight, and parking is at a premium. You'll have to know how to parallel park in very small spaces. If you're not good at it, spend some time practicing so you don't take up two spaces, scrape other cars, or generally embarrass yourself with your suburban parking skills. Here are some other obvious tips: don't drive drunk, don't text while driving, use your blinkers even if there are no other cars around (bicyclists and pedestrians would like to know your intentions too), and don't block someone's driveway. And get your residential parking pass so you can avoid racking up pricey fines.
Keep it down. Sound carries. If you're outside on the piazza at 2 a.m. drunk-dialing your high school sweetheart, your neighbors will hear every slurred word, and the next day they'll look at you in pity as you groggily head to class, wondering what it was you said in your oblivion.