I don’t know any of my neighbors’ names.
I think that’s excusable when you’ve only lived next to them for three months.
My problem is that I’ve lived next to them for eight years.
It doesn’t inconvenience me. I don’t talk to them. The only time it comes up is when Staci — who does talk to them — is telling me a story.
“Doug said they haven’t had any offers on their house.”
“Who’s Doug?” I ask.
“Doug. Our neighbor.”
“The fat guy whose wife doesn’t talk to him?”
“That’s Jim. Doug is across the street.”
“Oh, the guy with all the crap on his lawn.”
Although she’d rather not, she always knows who I’m talking about. There’s “the lady who got pissed about the fence”; “skinny Prius dude”; “beardy guy with the dog”; “the strange kid who walks around the block”; and “the heavyset woman.”
The “heavyset woman” is the only one that’s problematic. There are two of them. So when Staci says, “Which one?”, I have to either say “the one with the shed” or “the one with the dirt yard.” Should the one with the shed ever let her yard go to pot or the one with the dirt yard buy a shed, I’ll be in trouble. But until that day, it works.
There’s also the man I’ve affectionately termed “shithead.” He’s the guy who parks his brand-new Mercedes in front of our house instead of his because his trees don’t offer his car enough shade. So whenever we have guests, they can’t park in front of our house. He also has the annoying habit of sitting in his car for hours after he’s parked it so he can talk to people on his Bluetooth. The space under our trees is his home-away-from-home, the latter being just fifty feet from the former.
I thought about all of this today because I read an article on “earthquake block committees.”
In California, you’re supposed to form these committees with your neighbors. The board of the committee is responsible for knowing the names of everyone on your block. In the event of a devastating quake, each board member is charged with walking past a certain number of homes and calling out the name of the person who lives there.
I’m thinking of volunteering. Not for any altruistic reasons. Just because I think it would make for some interesting conversations as I walked past the houses on our block after a devastating quake.
“Anyone in there?”
“Yeah. It’s me. Doug.”
“Doug? Hmm. Not ringing a bell. You the guy with all the crap on your lawn?”
“Yeah, I guess I kept some stuff on there.”
“Great. Listen. You seen the fat guy whose wife doesn’t talk to him?”
“If you say so.”
“If you mean Jim, he’s over there. Near Kay.”
“The woman who lives next door to Jim. ”
“The heavyset woman?”
“Are you talking about Karen or Kay?”
“Which one has the dirt yard?”
“Yeah. Her boy is Dylan.”
“I don’t know a Dylan.”
“Tall kid. Sixteen or so.”
“The strange one who walks around the block?”
“Yeah. That’s him.”
“Great. I guess that’s everyone.”
“What about Stan?”
“Who’s Stan?” I say.
“The guy trapped in that Mercedes those trees just fell on.”
“Oh, you mean ‘shithead.’ Don’t worry about ‘shithead.'”
“He likes it there.”