Neighbors

I rang my neighbors’ doorbell and no one answered. Their lights were on. I could see movement. But, I realized that I had not texted before stopping by, so they would probably not answer the door.

Where are we? As a society, how have we arrived at a place where someone can ring the doorbell (it still functions!) and we ignore it. We quiet ourselves and hope they go away.

I understand how my neighbors feel. They are a nice couple and were probably doing something and didn’t want an unexpected interruption. I have been there. My family and I have been sitting at dinner when our doorbell rang. One of us answered to discover a politician saying, “Would you vote for me?”

My cause was less self-serving than a politician polling the politic. One of my children bought an old-school stereo at a yard sale. It’s probably from the 1970s or ‘80s. It has a receiver, turntable, and two large speakers. We set it up and played the first record, Paul Desmond’s “Take Five”.

My son asked, “What’s that crackling?”

“A record,” I said remembering fondly some of the records I bought new, just after their release. I also basked in the warmth of the sound of vinyl. The signal is not compressed or digital. It sounded great!

After we listened for a few minutes, I said, “Let’s see how this thing sounds.”

He turned it up. It’s loud. And then, I thought, I should make sure this isn’t too loud for my neighbors. I should make sure they know my cell phone number and can text me if it bothers them. My older son’s room is next to their house. If he jams some cool jazz, they will be ancillary beneficiaries.

As I stood on their doorstep in the dark, and no one came to the door, I started to go back to my house. Then, I saw the shade move. I waved and heard the door click. They know me. One of the two recognized me and decided to open the door.

I had a lovely conversation with my neighbor. It reminded me of the kind of conversations neighbors should have. I opened with my concern about my son’s new stereo and how loud it might be. He talked about how much he enjoys hearing both boys practice their instruments.

It was a neighborly conversation—to me, it seems, it was just the way it should be.

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