When I announced that I was moving to a rural community, the second thing people said to me (after the bit about needing to buy a lot of furniture) was, "Aren't you going to feel isolated?"
I'd usually laugh and reply, "I'm hoping so", because I love solitude, but I wondered if I actually had any neighbours and if I was going to meet them and like them. Even before I officially moved into my new home, I was here once dropping things off when I saw a little car pulling out of the long driveway across the street. The driver looked at me for a few seconds and I realized she was probably wondering who the stranger was, loitering around, so I waved and ran across the street to introduce myself.
She was very friendly and helpful about answering a couple of questions I had. And that's how I met Liz.
I later learned that Liz and Linda have lived in their house since about 1987, and between them, they know everybody. They know the former owners of my house, and they knew the owners before that.
A couple of weeks later, there was a knock on my door. It was Liz and Linda, who had arrived with a housewarming present of muffins, chocolate and flowers. I gave them a tour of the house and we chatted away like we'd known each other for years. They invited me to the Erin Eco Film Festival, about which I'd been reading. The day of the first screening, Liz dropped by to remind me (as if I'd forget!) and I learned that it's unnecessary to run right away to answer the door, because if your car is in the driveway, people know you're home, and if they don't get an answer at the door, they just look around the property to see if you're outside. In Toronto, if someone comes to your door without a formal invitation, either your building is on fire or they'll just tap timidly on your door and leave if you don't answer immediately.
At the second screening of the Erin Eco Film Festival, Liz introduced me to Phil, who owns a small brewery called GoodLot, not far away. Chatting away with Phil, I learned he's an admirer of my friend Dave Bidini, knows the West End Phoenix, and loves Dave's band The Rheostatics. I told him about our upcoming West End Phoenix Retreat and promised to have GoodLot beer in the fridge for the occasion.
So I was starting to feel like part of a community. I've been making a point of being extra friendly to strangers, saying hello to people and taking extra care to thank sales staff in stores for their help. Sometimes people's friendliness takes me by surprise. Once, walking down the main street, I was very taken aback when a man walked up to me and delivered a friendly vote of appreciation for the look of my jeans. Okay, they're red jeans, but still....
He asked if I planned to go dancing with him. I was quite startled. In Toronto, an unsought-after opinion about my fashion choices or physique, loudly expressed by a stranger, would have earned him a fat lip. But I'm not in Toronto, so I laughed and let it go right over my head.
Yesterday, I noticed that the tire pressure on Clyde, my beloved motorcycle, had dropped quite low. I wasn't totally comfortable driving into town to the nearest gas station with low tires, because the road I live on has a posted speed of 80 km/hr, so I picked a time when traffic was likely to be minimal, packed my mobile phone, CAA membership and a wallet full of cash, and headed into town. Clyde and I got there just fine. I filled up the front tire, no problem, but when I got to the back tire, it was next to impossible to get the nozzle of the air pump into position to pump up the tire. One dollar, two dollars, three dollars in the machine. I felt my irritation rising. I saw a guy in a pick-up truck pull in to the service station to fill up his tank. When he returned to his truck, I asked if he could help me. No problem, he said, and he pumped up that tire in no time at all. I thanked him, sincerely, and went to start up Clyde for the ride home. Hit the ignition....nothing. Tried two or three times and the battery seemed dead.
I rolled Clyde out of the way, called CAA and was waiting for a boost when a guy came over. "We were watching you out our window", he said, by way of introduction. "Looks like you're having trouble. Do you need a boost?" I told him I was waiting for CAA. He said, "We'll give you a boost", pulled out his phone and called his wife. "Bring the car. She needs a boost", he said. One minute later, she rolled up in an old Pontiac.
Together we put the booster cables on my battery, Scott hit the ignition and Clyde roared into action. Immediately, my phone started to ring. I had my motorcycle helmet on, so I passed the phone to Sandy and asked her to answer it for me. It was CAA. "Thanks, we've got it started", she told them. I went for my wallet to give Scott and Sandy some money by way of thanks, and in unison they firmly declined. I offered again. "People in Erin look out for each other", they said, so again I thanked them sincerely and shook their hands.
Clyde and I roared home without further incident, and I have added Liz, Linda, Phil, Scott and Sandy to the list of good neighbours who have made me feel welcome.
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