So I’m driving through my apartment complex the other morning, and I happen to pass my downstairs neighbor, who’s sitting on his front porch reading the paper.
I smile and give him a friendly wave … and he simply glares as I drive past.
No reciprocal wave. No nod of acknowledgment. Just an scrunch-lipped scowl as I cruise into the distance.
This isn’t an isolated incident. I drive past my neighbor at least three times a week. Each time I wave, and each time he stares.
Truthfully, we don’t know each other well … though I do think we exchanged pleasantries once. I asked him if he could help me carry my groceries upstairs, and he asked me if I could go screw myself.
And I don’t always wave when I see him. When he’s holding the paper in front of his face, he’s not aware of passing traffic. And if he’s bending over to retrieve the paper, with his bare white behind reflecting the morning sun … well, I find it best to avert my gaze, to avoid the blinding glare.
So sure, it’s not like we’re best friends or even acquaintances. All we have in common is that we live in this crummy complex (which might suggest that neither of us has any ambition, either).
But still. The guy knows I live in the building. He sees me driving every day. I’m pretty sure he knows what unit I’m in. Yet he can’t find it within himself to acknowledge my existence.
So much for trying to instill a sense of community in this disintegrating shit hole. The last time a bunch of freaks lived so closely together, they pitched a tent and started a circus. And yet my neighbors can’t even wave.
It concerned me at first when my neighbor ignored me. I’m a hypochondriac, you see, and oftentimes I leap to the worst-possible conclusion.
“Maybe I’m dead and don’t even know it,” I thought. “You know, like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Maybe that terrible case of acid reflux I had seven years ago was actually a violent heart attack, and I died in my sleep without knowing it. And maybe I’ve been a wandering spirit all this time, invisible to the physical world and stuck wearing the same clothes every day. Makes sense. That would explain why my downstairs neighbor won’t wave at me … and also why women walk away when I ask them for their number. (Unless, of course, they’re repulsed by me wearing the same clothes every day. Note to self: Buy a change of clothes.)”
Or maybe the reason is more benign. Maybe the world is simply devolving into a miserable, hellish cesspool of human scum, where a man will stab his brother for a loaf of bread, and where a woman will call her sister “fat” in a fit of anger, then spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about it.
Maybe there’s no longer civility in society, and rudeness is now the norm.
I hope so. That would make me feel better. I mean, as opposed to being a ghost and not knowing about it. A degenerating society I can cope with. But if I were a ghost, that would mean I was haunting a crappy apartment when I could be exploring the far reaches of the universe.
And, worst of all, it would mean I was paying rent on something I could be living in for free. (Though I’m sure they’d still find a way to stiff me on the security deposit. “Sorry, sir, but we detected paranormal activity in the dwelling that wasn’t there when you moved in. We reserve the right to withhold your deposit to pay for a spiritual cleansing. It’s all clearly spelled out on page 3,004, clause A-D of your lease.”)
I suppose, though, it’s much more likely that my neighbor’s a jerk … which is why I won’t be waving the next time I see him. Instead, I’ll be glaring back at him with my mouth hanging open, my head stuck out the window.
And as I drive past, I imagine my neighbor will put down his paper and say, “Hey, there’s that self-driving car again.” And then he’ll scrunch up his lips and scowl as I cruise into the distance.