One of my favorite articles in The Onion shows a picture of a man dressed up to leave for work, with his hand on the doorknob and his ear against the door. The headline reads, “Exit From Apartment Delayed by 20 Seconds to Avoid Pleasantries With Neighbor.”
It made me laugh because I know I’ve done exactly that, many times. The article has been shared thirty thousand times on Facebook, so apparently it’s a thing for many people too. Now that I think about it, my neighbors have probably done the same thing to me.
What’s interesting is that I never really decided to do that. I never consciously thought about avoiding pleasantries with the neighbors, I just got into the habit of slowing down if I heard shuffling outside, sometimes hesitating at the door until it goes away.
After seeing this Onion article, whenever I notice that neurotic impulse avoid the neighbors, I feel silly and just go whenever I’m done getting ready. Somehow, I had made a “thing” out of having hallway interactions with the neighbors.
Because I apparently spent the last two years avoiding my neighbors, there isn’t much to these “pleasantries” when they do happen. I don’t really know these people, so there’s nothing to catch up on. I just give them a genuine “Good morning,” and go. I feel like I’ve solved a problem that never should have been a problem.
Shrinking your world
Now that it’s summer I go for a bike ride almost every evening. I live in a semi-urban area, consisting of a strip of restaurants and bars sandwiched by two grids of well-treed residential streets. I love the residential streets. They’re lined with pre-war two-storey homes, with old style trimmings and no stucco. Every night I pick a nearby neighborhood to explore and sort of meander my way there, without needing to take any particular route.
The other day I was heading to a neighborhood across the main strip, and I noticed that up ahead, the cross-street I was on passed a busy restaurant patio.
I guess I have a negative association with these patio scenes. I love my neighborhood, except for its loud, Thursday-night bar crowds that leave cigarette butts and empty bottles behind. Instead of proceeding past, I noticed myself turning around and taking a detour down a back lane.
As I was riding down the back lane I realized that I had just made a Thing out of avoiding certain streets because they require me to pass by a noisy patio. Next time I’m not going to worry about it.
It seems like this isn’t something worth thinking about. One street’s as good as another — I might has well have taken the back lane. But it seems completely absurd when you realize that this silly little aversion actually made me physically stop my bike and turn around to take the back lane instead. Obviously I’ve made this dislike of patios into something that matters, something that will put a little bit of my world effectively off-limits. Read More