Saturday, August 15, 2009

McKinley Heights neighbors

Maybe if it hadn't happened in one day, I wouldn't have noticed.

6 am, walking to the bus, a neighbor I never particularly noticed called out to me.

“Hey, haven't seen you lately, thought you might've moved.”

I quickly explained that Merry had driven me to work in the mornings for the last couple of weeks.

“OK then. Have a good one.”

As I continued to the bus stop I was amazed. Had I ever seen this guy before? Of course, I must have. I probably passed him every day; a middle aged black guy in work clothes getting into his car the same time I headed for the bus. I must have seen him. Probably nodded to him in passing or said hi.

Later on the way home, I hopped off the bus at the same corner. There's a talkative short black guy with wrap around dark glasses who usually gets off at the same stop every day. I've said hello to him frequently. He's a janitor at a senior housing unit across town. As the bus was just pulling away he turned to me with a surprised look on his face.

“Where's your bag, man? Do I have to help you stop the bus?”

I do carry a brief case most days. Today I decided I didn't need it.

“Thanks, I left my case home today.”
“Oh, alright then. Didn't want you to lose it.”
“Thanks, for keeping me straight, have a good weekend.”

“You, too.”

Two times in one day on the same street corner made me wonder how much casual neighbors notice me. I remembered another example from about a month earlier on the same street corner. I woman often walks her Boston Terrier on the other side of the street in the evening the same time I take Joli for her constitutional. I had said hi to her a couple of times from across the street. On this occasion we had changed the time of our walk for a few days by half an hour because I had worked late.

“Hey, you doing OK?” She called out across the busy street. “Haven't seen you for a while.”

“I'm fine, thanks for asking.”

It finally dawned on me that I live in a neighborhood.

I vaguely recall reading the classic description of what makes a neighborhood in Street Corner Society by William Foote Whyte in my first sociology course many years ago. One key factor is that neighbors recognize and acknowledge each other. Making the slightest contact by saying “Hi” makes the stranger into a neighbor. Nice feeling. Neighbors look out for each other.

It was about this time last year we decided to move to Ann Ave. in McKinley Heights. Now without my particularly noticing it's becoming our neighborhood.


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  2. We moved four months ago and now when I meet people in town who used to live nearby they say hello when they never did before.