Neighbors are strangers these days, well, since air conditioning anyway. It seems as though they live on small islands defined by stakes, a fence or a hedge, denoting where their island stops and someone else’s begins.
Our neighborhood is no exception and folks feel free to wander about in their front yard wearing very little on any given morning, because not a soul can be seen outside. The truth is they probably wouldn’t know each other if they were standing in their respective driveways.
People and their names come and go with the National Van Lines truck and so they’re not at all sure who’s next door or across the street. If it weren’t for the obviously cared for animals, or an occasional car in the drive way, one would think most of the houses were vacant.
Years ago, someone spotting a neighbor in a bathrobe or towel on their way to the mailbox would probably have said, “Hey John, breezy day, what?” But nowadays, seeing a “stranger” across the street, a 911 call would most certainly be made and it might sound like this:
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A woman dials 911.
“911, is this an emergency?”
“Uh, well, I’m not sure. There’s a man across the street walking around in his towel!”
“Well, he appears to be heading toward the street, where he can be seen by anyone!”
(911) “Is this man familiar to you?”
“Of course not! I’ve only been here a year and I’ve had no time to meet anyone. For all I know he could live over there!”
(911) “What is your address ma’am?”
“Really? You want to know my address? He’s the one walking around in a towel, and he’s just across the street.”
(911) “Ma’am, if we had your address, we’d know where he lives, if he’s across the street.”
“Well, I’m not sure of my address, Ralph handled all that and he passed away shortly after we moved here.”
(911) “Sorry for your loss. Address please?”
“Hold on, let me look. I haven’t been outside since Ralph stocked the freezer. Oh Lord, I hope whoever he is, he’s not looking this way. I haven’t been out of this bathrobe in weeks! Yes, it’s just as I remembered, number 16 Clairmont and my goodness, I think he waved!”
(911) “Could you describe the gentleman?”
“I didn’t see his face.”
(911) “What about your residence ma’am?”
“Well, it’s brick, with trees and grass all around and, oh yes, I just noticed we have a driveway out front.”
(911) “How do you get mail if you never go outside?”
“Oh, I do most of my shopping online. When I open the door, there it is!”
(911) “Not to get personal ma’am, but how do you take care of your yard, if you’re never in it?”
“Well, I have a yard service and as far as I know they’ve been coming. I get a bill online once a month. Besides, I’m putting this place on the market next week and moving to a condo where I don’t have to see anybody.”
(911) “A patrolman is on the way; please stay inside until he gets there.”
(911) “Officer, I think there’s a guy in a kimono checking his mail on Clairmont. Please check him out and watch out for the woman in the bathrobe.”
(Officer) “What’s her problem?”
(911) “Well, she’s lived there a year but hasn’t been out since Ralph stocked the freezer.”
Yes, today, when we need the fellowship of people more than ever, it’s possible to have a “Ralph” stock the freezer while you remain a stranger in your own neighborhood. Fall is the perfect time of year to get out and meet those with whom you share neighborhood space.
Take a walk, fully clothed, and find someone who lives nearby. It surely beats hanging out with dogs and cats all day, although that’s not a bad idea. As far as I know, the woman in the bathrobe moved a few months ago. Someone said they saw the National Van Lines truck parked in her driveway. Wonder who’ll move in next?
Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.