Neighbors and Other Suburban Wildlife

Good morning everyone and welcome to today’s installment, “Neighbors and Other Suburban Wildlife”. I’m joined by TV legend, Mr. Rogers, and editorial intern Melanie Williams, quoting from her book, “The Reader’s Digest Practical Problem Solver”, circa 1991, page 142, column 2, “Neighbors”.

 

**canned applause**

Jolie: “Thank you both for being here with us. I’d like to begin with an obvious question for Mr Rogers. In your expert opinion, Fred, would you consider a good neighbor to be elderly, retired, and nosy…or young, raising five children, and cranky?”

Fred: “Thank you for asking. Is the elderly neighbor wearing a cardigan? Does the young mother have her lace-up shoes on?”

Jolie: “Mr Rogers, the question is more about which house on the street produces the most stress on the neighborhood. For example, in order to be a good neighbor, would a house full of bachelors need to invite the young mother over for a beer when they throw their monthly motorcycle club soirees?”

Melanie: “Excuse me, but neighbors need not be nuisances. Invite your neighbors over occasionally. Make sure they know the layout of your house and make an effort to learn theirs. Such knowledge could be important in a crisis.”

Jolie: “Sorry Melanie. No can do. My grandmother did that once and the minute she left for vacation, the neighbors cleaned out her house. Left a bit of wire on the wall and that’s it. Took every clock and cabinet. The cops were all “smh” over it.”

Fred: “Must’ve lived on Sesame Street.”

Melanie: “To smooth year-round relationships, establish a council with the authority to consider such neighborhood problems as roaming dogs, loud parties, and unkempt lawns.”

Jolie: “That’s called an HOA and most neighbors find them the biggest nuisance of all. Most of my hood want the right to throw a quinceanera into upwards of three in the morning and we replaced our lawn with tidy flat dirt years ago because of the drought. I mean. My neighbors did. Um. Fred?”

Fred: “Bob Dog was a dancer. I wouldn’t describe it as roaming. Melanie, if Bob Dog was dancing in your front yard, wouldn’t you think he was a good neighbor?”

Melanie: “Some people prefer to keep their distance from neighbors….”

Jolie: “Of course, if you live in an apartment complex, you might have neighbors stomp around overhead while you’re trying to sleep or throw your laundry right out of the washing machines to make room for theirs…”

Fred: (pulling out a puppet) “Is this the Neighborhood of Make-Believe?”

Melanie: “Why not start a neighborhood newsletter? The kids can be reporters.”

Jolie: “Um, yes, Fred, it must be. Melanie, if you see kids roaming the streets with paper, it’s toilet paper and they are on their way to TP their rival football team captain’s front yard. They are going to pick oranges from the next house over and throw them at passing busses on the way home.”

Fred: “Officer Clemmons would have to think about that one.”

Melanie: “If fruit has gotten overripe, don’t throw it away. Puree it in a blender with a little lemon juice and spoon the result over ice cream.”

Jolie: “Melanie, you’ve skipped over to page 93. And why do you sound like Siri? Reader’s Digest doesn’t pay their interns very well. I’m afraid we’re out of time, Mr Rogers, if you could just queue up the trolley? Thank you. Gentle readers of the blog, if you have any pesky neighbor questions for Fred or Melanie, please leave them below in the comment box and they will reply as soon as possible.”

Fred: “That’s one thing that helps to make good friends: playing together.”

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!

How to Make Friends in a Shark Tank

In the world of full-time employment, out there in the weeds of xerox machines and customer service, there are these things called “coworkers” and – just like your neighbors and your children – you don’t get to choose them. Nope. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Most of the time. Unless you want to step into the lavatory stall, close the door, and silent scream. That’s a thing.

Jobs can be fun. Right?

“You’re too happy,” commented my coworker early on, “You like people too much. I give it six months. You’ll be jaded and cranky like the rest of us.”

“Jolie, you are a fish in a little pond,” a senior director manager type human said to me once, when I was considering a move up the corporate ladder into a larger professional arena, “but in that circle….they are sharks. You will need to learn survival skills. Don’t trust anyone.”

Too late. I already considered every person in that shark tank my “friend”. We were all helpful, kind, courteous, even going out to lunch once in a while. I couldn’t think of a single reason why any one of them would turn around and have me for lunch instead.

But adult friendships are trickier than third grade ones. I thought I had a friendship that was outside of office politics, the lady being quite worthy on her own two feet, but her loyalty to her boss was stronger than mere courtesy to me, and even though she apologized after the fact, she had not prevented me being thrown under a passing bus.

She was sorry/not sorry.

There were bigger fish fries than that, but are hardly worth recounting. I have since been told The Rules: under no circumstances do you consider a coworker a “friend”.

Even if you go to Happy Hour or yoga with these fish. Even if you “donate” an exorbitant amount of personal money towards an office baby shower gift for a fish from the next department over that you’ve never even exchanged paperclips with. Even if this fish swaps intimate mom stories with you and brings you Valentines Day treats and laughs with you over morning coffee.

If this fish has a personal family emergency, I am expected to act like my own mother was in a  car explosion and make sure “the office” is supportive with donations, flowers, and cards. We will cover his work load with concerned faces and ask how the recovery is coming along.

But.

If this fish senses that I am drifting into their territory, or if the boss needs bait for a bigger fish, or perhaps I am just not taking their teeth seriously enough, queue the Jaws theme song.

I am investing more time and money and love languages with these fish than my own family. In return, I am to expect…shark bites?

This concept is so far out of my box that I don’t know where to begin. So I asked a thirteen-year-old girlfriend for some help. We agreed that relationships in both school and office arenas are based upon being temporary and the “every man for himself” attitude. And we suppose everyone goes in with this expectation. Which is a huge waste of possibility, in our opinion.

Somewhere out there in the deep blue sea is a company getting this aquarium thing right. Employees are trained that there are enough krill and plenty of waves for everyone.

I still have a habit of petting sharks, treating them like shiny yellow tang.

Perhaps the only way you will know for sure whether you made an authentic friendship at school or work is if the person is still friendly after the building is gone. If you remove the competition and the politics and the teeth, and are left with a real person with no agenda, I’d say you can finally call that fish a friend.

Everyone else can go jump in the lake.

Sorry/not sorry.

Just keep swimming.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Rom 12:18

The Forgetful Files is a safe, supportive space exploring different life challenges and big questions with courage, kindness, humor, and practicality. Please join the conversation by offering your unique perspective!