“Meeting the Neighbors”
Six months have now passed since the first installment of “Life After College,” and I’m sure many of you (i.e. the beneficiaries in my will) are eager to know how I am progressing. I am proud to report that – despite numerous setbacks (i.e. an ongoing battle with the California DMV, a debilitating fear of females, and a net worth approaching $5,000 in credit card debt) – I have made some serious inroads into the world of responsible adult living. For example, I recently traded my garbage bags for a piece of luggage that is allowed on airplanes. I will now occasionally understand one or two words on CNBC. And – most significantly – I purchased my first broom and I think I’ve figured out how to work it.
But I’m not here to celebrate. Never one to rest on my lapels (that’s the expression, right?), I am pressing on to the next challenge of adulthood: meeting my neighbors. As far as I can tell, interacting with one’s neighbors is a uniquely adult activity. Sure, I grew up playing with neighborhood kids, but those were fairly one-dimensional friendships requiring only that they (1) not be girls and (2) have an appreciation of the three elements: LEGOs, mud, and fire – preferably all at the same time. Adult neighbors are different. They require adult things like common interests, wives, or alcohol.
I realized during my senior year of college that I was probably unsuited for neighborhood cook outs and block parties. For starters, there was the natural (and usually justified) association of violence and delinquency with houses occupied by young men. But even if that wasn’t the case, I still wouldn’t be getting invited to the weekly poker game at 4539 Twin Oaks Dr. This is because I’m not very good at performing neighborly duties like “talking to grown ups” or “being quiet after 10 o’clock.” These deficiencies make conversing and recreating with my neighbors more than a little tricky. Not wanting to fight my genetic composition, I created a safety mechanism which would protect me from having to befriend the people around me: I assumed everyone living near me was a serial killer.
On the one hand, this device was impressively effective in its ability to remove all compulsion or obligation to interact with the local “community”. On the other hand, it led to a truly terrifying night during the second semester of that year when I was convinced that my neighbor (who we had determined to be a psychotic mailman who ate mostly squirrels) was burrowing through the wall next to my bed.
This paradigm was turned on its head the following year when our neighbors apparently assumed we were serial killers. I can’t imagine what else would compel them to call the police to our house eight times over a ten month span. Needless to say, our relationship never really took off.
When I decided to move across the country, I chose to leave my suspicions and squirrel stories behind me. From what I had heard, California was populated entirely by atheists, sodomites, and yoga instructors and I figured friends wouldn’t exactly be a dime a dozen. That meant I no longer had the luxury of ignoring the heavily-tattooed blackjack dealer next door just because he was obsessed with Ice Road Truckers and probably ate squirrels.
Unfortunately, for all my good intentions, I still had no idea how to go about approaching a stranger with the gift of my friendship. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to. My downstairs neighbor solved my shyness for me when he left the following note in front of my door (Note: this has been transcribed word for word. Trust me, I couldn’t make this up):
“My Dear Neighbor,
I am (his name) staying at Apartment X11 and How You been Feelin’. As for me I am Very Healthy and more Alive than Ever. Let me greet you a Very Pleasant Day Today for being so Manageable in the Neighborhood. Please feel welcome to introduce yourself. I do Not know you well enough to understand the good movement we know and follow. I know the rules and Laws of being a Very Good Neighbor. I am under your stairs.
Very Truly Yours,
your Friendly Neighbor“
As a general rule, I am wary of foreigners under my stairs, but, like they say, badgers can’t be choosers, right? (I still don’t understand what that expression means.) Wrong! I won’t bore you with the details, but my subsequent interactions with the letter’s author revealed a dangerously imbalanced, probably schizophrenic man whose habit of following me to the gym and ringing my doorbell at 6 a.m. resulted in my reporting him to local authorities. Also, I think I may have seen him eating a squirrel.
Turns out, some neighbors are serial killers and should be reported the police. But probably not all of them! Adult Kent isn’t going to let one mentally unstable apple derail him like college Kent would. In fact, right after I post this, I’m going to go introduce myself to the new people across the street!
Just as soon as I figure out how to translate “the good movement we know and follow” into Spanish that is.