In college, I remember being told the number one difference between living on- and off-campus is, you don’t know your neighbors off-campus. While in dorms you flit from room to room knowing every which person down to when they use the bathroom and who they may or may not be trying to hook up with this weekend, once you go off-campus you are abandoned in a cold, stark world where people don’t make eye contact on public transportations and do not speak in elevators. This carries over into neighborly interactions.
I vowed this would not be the case when I moved off-campus. I envisioned my roommates and I baking brownies and knocking on the doors above, below, and beside us (we lived in an apartment complex). This did not happen.
Our one somewhat successful attempt at contact was the night after we moved in. Our neighbor knocked on our door and told us they were having a party, so please don’t call the cops. They did not explicitly extend an invitation, but we decided to crash it anyway. It wasn’t fun. We never partied with them again.
For the next two years, if I came upon my door while a neighbor was at their door too, they or I rushed to get the key into the lock before the evil that is a neighbor pervaded us.
I hoped this un-neighborly disposition would change when I moved to Richmond. After all, I did have friends who became buddy-buddy with their neighbors, cohosting cookouts or playing volleyball on the Monument Avenue medians. I wanted a Kramer-Seinfeld sort of arrangement, too.
However, my new roommate in Richmond informed me that our upstairs neighbors were b*tches. I took her word, but thought, “Oh, I’ll work on them. Maybe I’ll do the brownie trick this time.”
Then, on the second month of living in Richmond, my mom visited me. We got ice cream, ate it on my front porch, and then dropped our trash into the recycling bin on the porch, which was our neighbors’ technically.
A week later – seven days – I come home to find a trash bag hanging on our front door. Inside are two used ice cream cups including the spoons. I don’t understand at first, then it hits me:
These are our ice cream cups and spoons. Da fuxx?!
Had our neighbors taken our ice cream trash out of their recycling bin and returned it to us? A week later? Which means they kept it a week because the recycling had been picked up last week? They couldn’t possibly have…but they had.
I think I was most creeped out that they had kept our ice cream remains for at least six days inside their apartment.
Fast forward three months later to New Year’s Eve. I’m hosting a party at my apartment and, merry from festivities, decided to invite my antisocial neighbors to the party. I rapped on their door. Only one came down. She stared at me. She was in sweats.
Me: “Hi, I’m having some people over, and you’re welcome to come over.”
Ice Cream Trash Giver: “…I’m watching House of Cards.”
Which is a respectable excuse on any day other than December 31 at 10:30 PM. Frank and Claire will wait.
Anyhow, those b*tches moved out at the end of the year and were replaced by some undergrad guys who did their own thing, including rushing to get their key in the lock when we were both at our doors.
(Random fact: I once came across one of the b*tch neighbors on Tinder. We didn’t match.)
This past month I moved places in Richmond. The weekend before I moved, I was dog-sitting Sam, who has made appearances on ATOB in the past. As someone who grew up with dogs, I always take poop bags with me on dog walks. Poop bags are not helpful, however, when they fall out of your pocket.
Cue me standing on a busy boulevard, Sam squatting near the curb, and I realize my two bags are no longer on me. I can’t decide what concerns me more: My litter contribution or the possibility I may get ticketed for not being able to pick up the dog’s waste.
Maybe I can slink away. I look around to see if anyone is watching, but crappola, there are a bunch of people hanging out on the nearest porch. One of them has to have seen me, and I don’t want to be that dude, so I approach the porch.
Me: “Hey, do any of you –”
I stop because I recognize one of the girls on the porch. Bridget went both to high school and college with me. She sees me and runs down from the porch.
I finish my sentence: “Do you have a bag by chance?”
Bridget ignores my question as we hug and start catching up. I then realize we are standing beside my new apartment. Like, one house away. Don’t ask me how I didn’t notice this before, but I don’t live there yet.
Me: “Do you live here?”
Bridget: “Yeah, I moved in last month!”
Me: “Wait, you’re not going to believe me, but I’m moving in next door in five days.”
Bridget: “Get out.”
Me: “I should, shouldn’t I, since my dog just pooped illegally?” (I don’t actually say that.)
Bridget introduces me to her other roommates - my new neighbors - and we keep repeating, “Such a small world.” Or maybe I’m the only one saying that. And of course they love Sam, but I have to break it to them he will not be living with me.
Before we part, I ask if any of them actually do have bags. No, they don’t.
“Don’t worry about it,” Bridget says.
Neighborly love, how I’ve missed it.