Before one full day of living in our new place had passed, we had already met more neighbors than I had in four years of apartment living. The tenants of my old apartment building, while mostly nice people, usually didn’t see the need in introductions or really being social at all. The extent to which my old neighbors would converse would be determined by either a) how hard I was making it to pass me and my bike on the stairs or b) how likely it was I could be bummed for a cigarette. The one exception was Bike-Stealing Dude, who I’d often meet on my way from the laundry room to my back door, a long enough time for him to start and stop four or five different conversations—all with himself but directed at me.
But I’m done with that scene now. Now we’re in a condo building, where we’ve encountered this foreign, though comforting, sense of extended family. Much more than just people to borrow sugar from, these neighbors are clearly people we’re going be spending lots of time with over the next few years and getting to know better than our own siblings. We’ve already toured the apartments of three neighbors, to compare painting and decorating styles, and all those neighbors have already been inside our place—several times each—to witness the results of Our Four Days on the Road to Insanity, otherwise known as PaintFest ‘04.
I can’t say I was expecting this. I think we expected some kind of cordiality, due to the common interest of protecting and keeping up our mutual investment in this building, but I wasn’t expecting instant friendlinenss. I imagine it helps that we have the big common deck; compared to condo board meetings, which bring out everyone’s business face, chance meetings on the deck bring out everyone’s happy face. It probably also helps that there are a few adorable young’uns running about. Toddlers: Just Try Staying Mad Around Their Cute Li’l Punims.
The best comparison I can draw is to the feeling I had while living in a dorm suite in college. This building has got that great dorm atmosphere, where we all feel comfortable casually walking back and forth from unit to unit, just to see how our neighbors are doing, or what they had for dinner, or whatever. We often leave the back door open, and if we hear someone coming up or down the back stair, we rush to the screen door like nervous puppies in the hopes of catching that someone in time to say hi. Obviously, we’re still the wide-eyed freshmen, impressionable and excitable, but that suits us just fine.
There are still a few neighbors left to meet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason we haven’t met them yet is because they don’t follow this gestalt at all. They’re not here for the sugar-coated camaraderie; they’re here to sleep and eat and watch TV, and that’ll be it, thank you very much. I hope I’m wrong. I guess we’ll find out at the next dorm—er, I mean condo board—meeting.