I met and chatted with one of our neighbors the other day. I had just come back from a run and was taking Bennet out really quick before taking a shower when our neighbor, Jeannie, noticed Bennet and had to come say "hi."
Now I have always had a somewhat, um, modern approach to having neighbors, with a few exceptions. That approach is basically this. I will give you a courtesy wave in passing, make small talk with you if we are caught together in an elevator, learn your name when the time and place requires it, and if it appears someone is breaking in I will call the cops. It wasn't always this way. These behaviors, like so many of my behaviors, have progressively gotten more introverted and anti-social while I was working retail. Few things will make a general disliking of the human race the rule, rather than the exception, faster than watching a mom ignore her kids running laps around the store because she is too busy on her bluetooth (I realize the irony in being to busy with the little device that leaves your hands free to...I don't know....watch your kids) or helping another mom find a runway look for her teen daughter who is clearly tanning herself to death with mom's encouragement. Now that I am no longer in that environment I am trying to turn over a new leaf.
I only talked to Jeannie for a few minutes but I am already intrigued and, in a way, humbled by her. Even though she is the proverbial older lady that just wants to talk. I am, seriously like catnip to that genre of older folk. I don't know what it is about me but if I go to church and there is an old lady there that wants to mumble incoherently about nothing of consequence they will just gravitate towards me. And I will smile and politely nod and even enjoy the conversation until I have smiled and nodded to one too many statements that I didn't understand even after saying "Pardon?" two or three times. Then I get nervous, like there is going to be a comprehension test later or something, and I start looking for a way out. Jeannie is not like that.
She caught me while she was outside paying the guy that comes by every week to wash her 1998 black Cadillac. How perfect. And she is in this zip front nightgown with sea creatures printed on it and a terry cloth turban style wrap on her head. Then she started to speak and, my gosh, this woman sounds like she just walked out of the "Garden of Good and Evil." I could listen to her speak all day. To get the full effect of this dialogue you really need to read this out loud and when you do really open your throat and speak from your throat and not your nose.
Jeannie asks me, "Is that a cohrgi. Why my fihrst huusband and ah had a cohrgi yeahrs ago when we live in England. Ah cahn still hearah the lahdies now with theirah british accents saying, 'oh thoose are the dogs the queen has.'"
I felt like a mint julep should have just magically appeared in my one hand and a paper fan in the other. We continued chatting for a few moments. For me it was small talk, for her it was a very TV digest version of what must have been a very eventful and, in seemingly many cases, tragic life. For example, there was a husband who was killed in a POW camp after like, I think she said 7 years, longer than McCain at any rate. Amazing. What is even the appropriate response to hearing a story like that? What she must have gone through! And that was just her first husband. My mind just reels at the idea of where she has been and what she has seen. Cause someone who was married to an Air Force pilot and lives in England doesn't just settle down into everyday housewifery, right?
But, I guess, that is the thing with people. The really interesting ones, the ones that can really teach you a lesson are not in a secret location. They are hiding in plain sight, you just have to be willing to listen.