Three Weird Interactions with My New Neighbors Thus Far

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I live in a small building, just four units plus a commercial office of indiscernible mixed use right below me. My landlord owns both my building & the building next door, & when I came to look at the place, she briefed me on all the neighbors - older lady who's lived here forever over there, young professional couple back there, etc.

I figured I'd see them a bit but that that would be it. In the last three places I lived - D.C., New Hampshire, & New Jersey - I knew almost none of my neighbors. In New Hampshire, there was Chet, the shoeless, guitar-playing Libertarian across the hall; in New Jersey, there was Barbara, the crotchety note-leaver downstairs; & in D.C., I only ever met one neighbor, one half of the middle-aged Indian couple next door whose cooking produced such fantastic scents that they regularly sent me into bouts of sadness about my own lack of culinary ability.

Less than five hours after moving into my new place in Cleveland, though, I was already meeting the neighbors. So far, my interactions have gone as follows:
  1. The Girl I Already Know: As my friends & family exited my place after helping me move in, a voice came from over my neighbors' balcony: "Hey, is that Joey?!" Indeed, the young couple who lives there recognized the voice of on of my - our - dear friends who helped me with the move... because we all went to high school together.

    Jackie & I used to work together at the local swimming pool, where I was the manager of the concession stand for a few summers in college. Now, she & her husband live right behind me; our apartments share a common landing area, & our doors are just steps apart. We haven't talked for years, but what are the odds that we now live a couple feet apart from one another in a relatively large city away from home?

  2. The Guy Who Terrified Me in the Middle of the Night: Pat was smoking a cigarette on the devil strip (alert: Akron terminology!) outside my building while I tried to unload my car one evening, lugging my foldable bed frame (remember that one?) with one hand while I balanced boxes in the other. "Hey, you're the new neighbor," he said, chatting me up while I fumbled & eventually offering his help. He was incredibly friendly, the kind of neighbor you're immediately glad to have nearby.

    This was confirmed last night at 2am, when I heard a rap on my door & groggily opened it, kitchen knife behind my back, to find Pat, possibly drunk but fully awake: "There's a light on in your car," he told me. "I just wanted to let you know so you don't wake up to a dead battery." Indeed, I stumbled outside, boyfriend in tow, to turn off my dome light, & today, my car was blessedly not dead. Thanks, Pat!

  3. The Woman Who Thinks I Can't Shake Hands: As I got out of my car this afternoon, I saw a little old woman puttering about in the common driveway between my building & the one next door. "Welcome to the neighborhood!" she greeted me as I made my way to the front door. I was balancing an armload of stray things I'd retrieved from my mom's house, but I stuck my hand out, anyway. "Oh, it's OK," she told me, "My hands are dirty."

    Indeed, she'd just been taking out the trash, so when she stuck a gloved hand out toward me, I wasn't sure I was supposed to shake it. Instead, I just sort of... fist-bumped her & patted her on the top of the hand, like an utter weirdo. She was very kind, & we made small talk about the events in the park down the street, but I left our interaction feeling like she must surely think I've never shaken a stranger's hand before.
So that's where I am so far: three very weird interactions with three very lovely individuals, all of whom I feel fortunate, so far, to call my neighbors. It's a nice neighborhood, but still sometimes an unsafe one, so it's reassuring to be surrounded by good people. And I'll practice my handshake for the next one.

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