Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to meet my new upstairs neighbor after hearing his footsteps for about a week. Not that he’s especially loud, but I have 12-foot ceilings and even the slightest noise produces an echo.
As I unlocked my door after work, I heard someone coming down the stairs. Hoping it was the new neighbor, I tried to act casual by pretending to fumble with the keys, making our meeting inevitable. When he came into view, I feigned a double take. I had to act surprised to see him so maybe he would stop and we could introduce ourselves. It’s a small building. I just like to know people. Call me crazy or weird or whatever.
To my pleasure, he smiled and paused by my door. He intended to say hello. Excellent. I smiled back.
“Oh, hello,” he said in an accent. I can’t place the accent, so I’m not going to try. All I know is he’s about my height and dark complected.
“Hello,” I said. “Are you the new guy upstairs?”
“Yes, that is me,” he said, nodding. He held his hand out for me to shake. “My name is Rikhan.” *I have no idea if I spelled that correctly*
I took his hand in my frigid one that had just come from outside. “Sorry, my- Hi, I’m Monica. Sorry, my hands are cold. What is it?”
“Rikhan! Oh, okay. Cool.” Then, trying to quell the embarrassment of being the white girl who can’t pronounce this guy’s fairly simple ethnic name on the first try, “Well, welcome to the building. If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”
He smiled and shook his head. “No, I can’t think of anything. Thank you. Have a good night.”
And with that, I had successfully completed a millennial’s greeting of a new neighbor.
I don’t know about you guys, but my entire life I’ve had images and expectations in my head of what it would be like to be and to welcome a new neighbor. Casseroles, cookies and block parties come to mind. I grew up in one house, and no one really ever moved away from or to my neighborhood. But every movie and TV show I saw that featured a new resident included some kindly old woman baking her famous bundt cake and toddling across the street to the newcomer, or else an exuberant homeowners’ association president organizing a neighborhood cookout in honor of the new guy(s) or gal(s).
Not so, my friends. Unless you live in 1950s sound stage at the MGM backlot, nobody is going out of their way to spend any more than a few awkward moments on a lawn or in a hallway with the people who live within sight of them.
A thought-provoking article by the New York Times last year touched on this subject when the writer said that no one has parties anymore. Why throw a party, much less a welcome-to-the-neighborhood-or-apartment party, when 75 percent of your four guests could cancel via text or Facebook, and even if they all showed up, what if the new guy or gal is vegan and won’t eat the chips and dip you prepared? Not only that, but while we’re being honest (or I guess I am, since I’m the one writing this right now), isn’t it much easier to simply say hello to someone and retreat back into our apartments or houses and watch some Netflix than it is to actively schedule a time to get to know new people? Don’t we often think we have enough friends?
Or maybe we’ve just watched a lot of Criminal Minds and we know that even our next door neighbors could be abducting young girls in the area and hanging them in a makeshift meat freezer they designed in their basement. No? I’m the only one who jumps to that conclusion? Okay…
I have visions of being the exuberant cookout-organizer or sweet old lady, but I just don’t follow up. I made my fellow residents some candy at Christmastime, but that’s about it. Is that enough? Would more be too weird? Too unacceptable in our texting/tweeting/streaming society? And one time I tried to put together a house-warming party (for myself) to hang out with friends and break in the new place – even going so far as to embarrassingly, if not tongue-in-cheek, title the Facebook event “The Housewarming of the Century” – but the four out of 15 invitees who responded were either on the fence or said they couldn’t make it, except for one, who expressed genuine excitement. So I guess you could say I admitted defeat.
Perhaps it’s laziness and a fear of being annoying Miss Event Joiner And Organizer that keeps me from printing out fliers for movie nights and piling bow-topped gift baskets high with aromatic muffins and bagels for my neighbors every month. Maybe I’ll bite the bullet and just try it one month. Maybe…
And if I end up hanging in a makeshift meat freezer, then you’ll know not to try being nice to your neighbors.