My next-door neighbor’s name is Ellen and she has lived in the same 550 square foot apartment since it was built in 1964.
Ellen always has the news blasting at 7 a.m. and — if television volume is an indicator — is a huge fan of every sport played by humans. She has a wonderful routine on Fridays that consists of an 11 a.m. lunch at White Spot and getting her hair done. She enjoys getting dolled up to take the garbage out, but doesn’t believe a lady should ever have more than one bag to contribute to the chute. Then again, she has a woman who visits her daily and does her laundry, so her lifestyle is a bit more glamorous than mine.
Ellen is the best thing about my apartment building. She doesn’t go out of her way to share information with me — most things I know about her I know via observation and nothing else — but she has taught me a really valuable lesson.
Neighbours don’t really mean the same thing in a big city.
Sure, being neighbourly is a value that our parents hope they instilled in us no matter the place we end up living, but in my years of apartment dwelling I can assure you I have never really ever taken the opportunity. Rarely do our neighbourly duties extend further than the occasional elevator pleasantries and how-do-you-dos.
We aren’t mean — and it certainly isn’t that we don’t care — we just get so wrapped up in our own 500 square foot world that we never think to ask the person on the other side of the bathroom wall the big questions. Sure, we ask how they are in the current moment, but in a city of roughly 2.3 million people, Ellen’s story is a needle in a haystack we aren’t willing to root through.
That is, until something brings us together.
Every year around this time, the city of Vancouver is washed over by a blue wave. We are comrades and confidantse, dreamers and directors, faithless and faithful, fans and fair-weathers.
Come April, we are hockey fans, and despite the metropolitan disposition that encourages us to keep to ourselves and maintain a mentality of private and gated community we begin to reach out to our neighbours.
Songs in the streets, shirts on the Subway, impassioned conversations waiting for the pedestrian light to change....
Steve and I haven’t had Ellen over to watch a playoff game yet — namely because we know it’s past her bedtime and we’re too lazy to clean up grandmother’s-visiting-style — but we did have another neighbour over. A group of us sat — most old, but one new — talking hockey, rivalries, and a past that was shared between the two.
Canadians are known for our passion forhockey — all you need to do is watch a Molson Canadian commercial to both cry and get the picture — but this year, with five Canadian teams in the running for the cup, we feel united in a way that feels different.
We sat, high-fiving one moment, hot-heading the next, like we had been friends for years.
Sure, some of us were, but others were simply being neighbourly.
When you live in a city of millions of people — when you live in an apartment building that boasts transience and 300 suites — being ‘neighbourly’ can sometimes come across as being a hassle. The indication we need to do it anyway comes in those vulnerable moments in the hallway when someone turns to you and says, “you just watching the game at home tonight?” and you respond “yeah, come on over!”
I’m not saying the good old hockey game is going to bring us world peace or anything — hell, that Canucks/Flames game was bloody — but it might help me start a conversation with Ellen that goes further than “mmm, I love their milkshakes.”
— Andria Parker is a 20-something blogger from Kamloops