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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Isolation Sickness


I think our society is suffering from isolation sickness. We live in our private homes, drive our fast cars, and work in our tiny offices, insulated from distractions and isolated from the happy chaos of life. If someone visits unannounced we grab the mace, and peek through the dirty little peep hole in our doors shouting “Who’s there!” like we’re expecting the Gestapo.
When I grew up we had an open door policy and friends were always welcome. There was usually a pot of coffee on and a card game in progress. Laughter was the sound track for most of these scenes, (unless my step-father was in a sour mood, then we would take the party elsewhere.) and it didn’t take an act of congress for us to decide what to do next. “Want to go for a walk?” was met with an eager “Sure.” Then off we would go with no particular destination in mind. We would walk in the sweltering heat of a city summer, or the stinging snows of a classic northeaster. It didn’t matter because we were always game for an adventure. We’d collect a friend or two along the way, and eventually wind up in a booth with a drink in front of us and our mouths full of interesting chitchat.
We mingled with people….real people, with skin on. Not muffled phone voices sandpapered with static or abbreviated messages texted in haste. There were real friends to hang out with and they were usually our neighbors; making them conveniently accessible. You could walk up a flight of stairs and be at a different kitchen table engaging in new rounds of conversation.
There was a certain tribal vibe to the old school way of hanging out. You belonged to a neighborhood and the people in it. If you didn’t like your neighbor you simply ignored them to their faces, and talked about them behind their backs, making sure that all the members of your tribe hated them as much as you did. But you didn’t stalk them, shoot at them, vandalize their cars, or steal their identity. Okay, so maybe you left a bag of dog shit, set ablaze, on their front porch and rang their doorbell, then hid in the bushes and belly laughed while you watched them frantically stomp it out.
But who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Any way, I miss hanging out with friends without having to set up an appointment a month in advance. Am I alone in this?

4 comments:

crookedeuphoria said...

This was my favorite one yet and laugh out loud funny.
You're not alone, I remember as a kid just being able to walk into a neighbor's house as if it were my own. I'd love it if my kids were able to do that.

L.C. Griffith said...

Right! I remember not only walking into a neighbors house but helping myself to some ice cream and then watching tv until someone got home. Yeah, our kids are missing out for sure.

Eydie said...

Leah,

This one really hit home for me today.

When I worked out of my house almost 12 years ago before becoming a mom, I felt semi isolated. Less than I do today.

Today, even thought I have my circle of women, our gatherings are prescheduled, and yes, usually weeks in advance.

I love your words about the doorbell. When our bell rings, my husband and I look at each other with blank faces. No one really comes to the house unannounced these days.

And yes, my neighborhood was just like yours. I only wish my daughter would know what it could be like to just walk over to a friend’s house and say, “do you want to play”, rather than texting before heading down the street.

I love your blog. You are a very talented and creative writer.

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Eydie,
I agree...I wish my kids had the casual kinship that living in a close knit community offers. I miss it too.
I work at home also and rarely do anything spontaneous with my friends. Everything is scheduled.
Thanks so much for speaking to me from that vast universe of cyber space. It's so nice to meet a kindred soul.
Hugs,
Leah

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