Getting to Know Your Neighbors

Okay, I admit it – I watch Oprah. I am not an Oprah addict. I do not subscribe to her magazine (although I do occasionally take a glance when I am at Barnes & Noble), nor do I receive updates from her website. I do watch her show, somewhat regularly, each day while working out. I enjoy her segments on what 30-something women in America are doing, or the importance of updating your dance moves as to not get in a rut like Gayle King, Oprah’s best friend. Recently Oprah had a segment on getting to know your neighbors. She decided she was going to walk over to her neighbor’s house, knock on the door, introduce herself, present a gift and get to know the people who live across from Harpo Studios.

In recent years I have not been as neighborly as Oprah. I have not taken the steps to knock on my neighbor’s door and say hello. Prior to living in Ithaca, when I lived in cities (Boston and San Francisco), I had been known to make cookies for the new couple moving in downstairs or bring a bottle of wine to the new woman next door. I guess the idea of saying hello to someone who is already living there doesn’t make much sense to me. I am all for welcoming the new, but to say hello when someone has been living in the same place feels a bit unusual.

I live 10 minutes from downtown Ithaca. The road I live on is rural and very quiet. Perhaps one, somewhat lame but true, reason I have not gotten the gusto to knock on my neighbor’s door with a cherry pie (or in Oprah’s situation, a case of Dom Perignon) could be because I am a bit apprehensive of the person who lives there. For instance, one Saturday morning while out for a run, I heard the heavy beat of several feet behind me. When I turned to see what on earth was chasing me, I saw several goats. I am originally from the suburbs and am familiar with farm animals, but only when they are on the farm – not when they are in my neighborhood. It was quite a scare. I was somewhat worried about running and whom I would run into – or who would run into me – for about a week. Thus, one may surmise that I am slightly afraid of the person who lives a few doors down from me.

With that being said, I have worked downtown for about two years. I now recognize so many Ithacans I feel as if they are my neighbors, even if they do not live next door. For example, I know the interesting duo that makes regular trips to Starbucks. The gentleman is rather dapper, but a bit strange – for some reason he reminds me of Pee Wee Herman. His coffee date is a blonde, typically in floral prints, often with a dog. I see them at least weekly.

Just this morning I saw my buddy “the pseudo-homeless man.” I refer to him as such because I am not 100-percent sure he is homeless. He’s always dressed decently, typically with a bag of some kind of recent purchase (today it looked like goods from True Value), yet he always asks for change.

I regularly see the woman who works on the Commons, tall and slender with a short pixie cut who uses an umbrella in all kinds of weather – rain OR sun. On occasion I see my baristas and restaurant servers out and about at the Bookery or on the #10 bus. Just yesterday I saw the guy who works at the post office riding his bike as I walked to my car.

I think Oprah has a point: How nice it is to not only recognize the people in your neighborhood, but to know their names (think of the television show “Cheers”). In Oprah’s case, she met a very classy couple with a super trendy loft apartment suitable for all kinds of lavish events. One may never know whom they are meeting when they knock on their neighbor’s door to say hello. I am certain they are not all goats. And with some time, I am sure even I will be able to say hello to my furry neighbors.

by Katie Irish
Katie Irish makes her home in Ithaca. She is taking the necessary steps to be friendlier to all her neighbors, including those with four legs.

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