About a month ago, I was talking to my next-door neighbor, Delores. She hangs out with our cat to keep her company when we go out of town. She’s a great neighbor.
We were discussing which of our other neighbors we’ve met. I told her about Scott the Retired Plumber, whom you’ve all met here before; we are both friendly with the Jehovah’s witnesses across the street and their awesome dog Harley; she likes the single mom and her kid cater corner from her house, I think they’re both kinda dicks. Then she asked me, “Have you met the lady across the street?”
Chris always calls her “Coach” because he thinks she looks like a retired gym teacher. He’s worked as a sportscaster most of his adult life, so I have no reason to doubt his assessment. Neither one of us have ever spoken to her. She did bear witness to the profanity-laced tirade against my lawnmower when I couldn’t get it properly tipped over to drain the old gas, and that’s been our only interaction, if you can even call it that.
Delores isn’t much of a gossip, but she leaned forward conspiratorially to relay the tale of her only encounter with Coach. “I went over there after I moved in to say hi and introduce myself (Delores moved in about a year ago), and her response was that she doesn’t associate much with people on the other side of the street.”
What on earth?
I purchased my house in what some would consider an idyllic suburban neighborhood. It was a home I could afford within a ten minute drive to the beach, new-ish and safe. The only fences allowed by the tyrannical HOA are white picket ones, and if you’re out for a jog or a walk, plan on waving to everyone and stopping for a chat with at least two people. Since it’s Myrtle Beach, we’re not immune to a few sketchy renters or the occasional theft of items from our cars, but overall, it’s your standard middle class subdivision with a dozen different layouts comprising every home in the neighborhood.
Our street is narrow. “Across the street,” front door to front door, is maybe thirty yards. In that span, our neighbor Coach decided something on the west side of the street made it preferable to the east side of the street. She lives in one of the smaller houses, two bedrooms and a single car garage (I know because I’ve been in other houses with the same floorplan), so it wasn’t size she was referring to. I know my landscaping could use a little love, but Delores, who is directly across from her, hires professionals. Except for my non-Delores next door neighbors, who have an outdoor biweekly screaming argument, I think those of us on the East Side are fairly quiet, polite, and perfectly respectable.
The only difference I can see is that my side of the street includes a few black families, and hers does not.
Now, is this the actual reason for her consternation, or am I the one who’s super-racist for thinking that? I know what Coach would tell you. (Sidebar: if that actually is the reason she prefers her side of the street, Chris assures me there is no way she was ever a coach of any kind.) It just struck Delores as strange, and it struck me as downright bizarre.
How sad is your little life if you have to conjure up a feeling of superiority to the other side of your own dang street? How strong is this sense if you tell your new neighbor, the first time you meet her, that you consider the even-numbered houses, and by extension their residents, far superior to the peasants living in odd-numbered abodes? “Hello, glad to meet you, I’m better than you.”
Just something to think about while I set my garbage on fire in the backyard and sow my dandelion crop.