Originally posted June 30, 2010...
There are a lot of questions I have about the television I watched as a child. Like how come the Sesame Street muppets could teach me to count to twelve one day, but then spend the entire next day stymied over counting to eight? I remember thinking, “We just did twelve yesterday! Come on guys, you know this!” And what sort of relationship did Sharon, Lois and Bram have? They all lived together, didn’t they? And who was the Elephant in relationship to them? Maybe it was a sort of Three’s Company scenario were Bram lived with a blonde and brunette (Lois and Sharon, respectively), but had to keep things secret from their pesky landlord (the Elephant). Lastly, and this still stumps me, where did Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood take place? I’m not talking about the neighbourhood itself or the land of make believe, I mean whose house was he supposed to be in every day? Was that Mister Rogers’ house? Was it supposed to be the house of his viewer, the child? He would come in every morning, take off one pair of shoes and his jacket, put on another pair of shoes and his sweater, feed this fish, dick around for half an hour, then leave at the end! What? Whose house are we in, Fred? Yours? Then where do you come from every morning and why do you leave? A friend of yours? Why do you have your shoes and sweaters there, then? And why do we never see this friend? What did you do to him?
But I’m overanalyzing. Mister Rogers was a stand up guy whose main objective, ahead of teaching us how to count or make shit out of pipe cleaners, was for us to be good neighbours. At least that was the lesson I really took to heart and long desperately to put into practice as an adult. It is my new Dream.
Dream: To make lifelong friends with a neighbour.
Goal: Achievable. Until I get my acreage with a porch, old dog and shotgun, I will have to contend with neighbours. There’s that freaky story about this woman in New York in the 1920′s or 60′s or something who was stabbed by a hobo and though literally dozens of people in the apartment across from where the attack took place witnessed it take place, they all figured someone else would call 9-11, so nobody did, and the woman biffed ‘er. That mustn’t happen to me. Someone will say, “I know that guy! James from apartment 8.” when I am stabbed to death by a vagrant.
Plan: Befriend the gorgeous, charming couple in apartment 2.
I wanted to form bonds with my fellow tenants, but I could never achieve it. The first week of living in my first apartment, I set the smoke detector off while cooking something. I didn’t know you could just hit a button to silence the smoke alarm, so I just turned the burner off the stove and stood there ringing my hands while it beeped incessantly. Then I thought, “But there’s no fire! Neighbours will think there’s a fire and panic! I have to warn them.” Then I did the stupidest thing I may have ever done. I ran up and down the halls (I’m so embarrassed to be writing about this), banging on all the doors and yelling, “It’s ok! There’s no fire! There’s no fire!” Honestly, what kind of moron does a thing like that? Put yourself in my neighbour’s position. You’re in your apartment, you hear a smoke alarm go off, it doesn’t stop, then somebody starts pounding on your door and yelling about fire. No neighbour friends for me.
In that same apartment, I came home late from work one night with my hands full. With a free finger or two, I put my key in the outside door and rather then delicately turn the key and open the door, I just gave it a yank and broke the key in the lock. Knowing it was too late to call the landlord or otherwise do anything about it, I jimmied open the door (the key, though broken, had unlocked the lock), went up to my apartment and printed this sign, which I posted on the door. “Dear Tenants, My apologies, but I seem to have broken my key in this lock. You can still open the door, but I think the lock is broken. PS. I work until five tomorrow but please feel free to stop by after that for an “I’m Sorry” cup of coffee!!! -Apt 10.” What this sign basically should have read was, “Dear Robbers, Take what you will because this door is busted. PS. Come to apartment 10 because there’ll be no one there until after five and also I am gay.”
But fast forward a few apartments and a few years later to oh, the perfect couple just down the stairs and across from us! We think they moved in two months ago. They are a young couple: she is graceful and smiley, he is rugged and sexy. Having never met them formally, Jon and I fantasize about who they are. He thinks they’re from elsewhere in the country because “they’re too nice to be from Toronto.” This after running into them at Shoppers Drug Mart and the guy saying “Hey” and the girl going, “Hi!”. I imagine she works selflessly in a children’s hospital and he does something all day in the hot sun with his shirt off.
They have this cute little dog which I’ll bet her gave her for Christmas where she found puppy under a tree with a bow on it like in the movies. They probably have a great cd collection because they have the same taste in music and lots of disposable income. I’ll bet they use a cutting board and their garbages never overflow and she lets him have Guys Night and he welcomes her Girls Weekend. Their sex is frequent and joyous and clean up is a breeze. She never lashes out at him when work makes her frustrated and he never belittles her in front of his friends. They agree on money, politics, marriage and children. They are perfect, and they will be in our friends. As soon as we meet them.
Truthfully, I don’t know why being a good neighbour is so important to me, but it is. Maybe it’s because, once school is done and your work friends are just work friends, it’s so hard to meet people. You can’t just go up to a stranger and start yakkin’. The internet has ruined our ability to actually socialize with anyone in real life. But wouldn’t it be great to have a beer on the front stoop with a new friend who shared your postal code? To run out of sugar and actually have someone to borrow a cup from? To come on in, kick of your shoes, feed the fish, and comment on what a beautiful day in the neighbourhood it truly is?