Independence Is Nice, But Being With Friends Is Better

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | July 4, 2020

I have moved into a small apartment in an old building in a “rough” part of town. As far as I can tell, my neighbors are very diverse, mostly immigrants, and all lovely.

The Fourth of July is coming up, and since money is tight, I’m not able to make it home for the holidays. I will be working a shift at the gas station I work at the night before, anyway, so I would be too tired to travel on the day.

I get home one day and see my neighbor’s door open; they’re an Iranian family. The mother is doing laundry and has the door and windows open to make a breeze on this hot and humid day. We get talking, and she asks me what I know about the Fourth of July, as she has heard it in conversation recently. I explain about Independence Day and what American families usually do — BBQ, fireworks, etc. She seems satisfied with the answer and goes back to doing laundry.

The next day another neighbor, this time a Chinese man, knocks on my door. He asks my help in translating a government form he has to complete, and he doesn’t understand certain words. We have spoken before so it didn’t come out of the blue, and I am happy to help. Funnily enough, afterward, he also asks about the Fourth of July and what it means. Again, I am happy to explain.

The day before the Fourth of July, I am heading out to my long night shift and bump into another neighbor coming into the building, a Ugandan woman. She doesn’t ask me about the Fourth of July, but asks if I am working all night, as I sometimes do. She is shocked, asking why I am not celebrating one of my holidays with my family, and I have to explain I have moved far away and money is tight. 

I go to my shift, which is 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and it goes by without incident, just lots of people on the road traveling to see family and last-minute purchases of party supplies. I finish, head home, and get some sleep.

I wake up around midday on the Fourth of July and see a piece of paper at the bottom of my front door. Someone slid it under while I was sleeping.

It reads:

“Hi, [My Name]! We felt sorry that you couldn’t celebrate with your family today, so we’ve made some food for you. Come across whenever you’re hungry.”

It was sent by the Iranian mother across the hall. Very surprised, and more than a little touched, I freshen up and go over. I discover that their whole apartment has been turned into an international potluck! 

Their apartment is the only one with a terrace, and there I find most of my neighbors! Some are wearing tacky Fourth of July plastic glasses, some are drinking from red party cups, but all are having a good time. Without realizing, I had assisted or befriended most of my neighbors over the previous months, and I had been one of the few US citizens that had treated them nicely and with respect, so they wanted to say thank you.

That afternoon, I celebrate an All-American holiday with Iranians, Chinese, Ugandans, Filipinos, Uruguayans, and Vietnamese, who all contributed their cultural food for the occasion. It is the best Independence Day I have ever had! I miss living in that crappy old apartment!

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It’s A Big, Bright, Beautiful World… But Not For Shrek

, , , , , , , , | Related | June 14, 2020

CONTENT WARNING: ABUSE

I own a dry-cleaning business and work there. When the national lockdown happened, my business was considered among the “essential” ones, so I was allowed to stay open but doing fewer hours.

During this, I had a particularly nasty client visiting me on the regular — almost every week, in fact. He’d always bring in absolutely filthy bedsheets and pillow covers, never had the correct amount of money, and only used hand sanitizer when he gave me his rags.

By chatting against my will with him and by what info my wife told me, I found out that he actually lived in the apartment above mine, meaning that he not only he was a pigsty of a person, he also was the same man that heavily swore in the wee hours of the morning and stomped up and down his place, waking my son up and scaring him, and had done so for months.

Due to this client’s boorish behaviour, I had nicknamed him “Shrek,” and I told my son that “Shrek” had left Fiona, took a potion turning him human, and then went to live upstairs from us, which was good enough to get him to stop being scared at his heavy steps and his Tuscan blasphemies against God at strange hours.

A few days ago, restrictions relaxed, and I was allowed to finally take my son out to play in the park. As we were getting ready to leave, I saw “Shrek” come down the stairs with some luggage on hand.

My son looked at him with curiosity and intensity, and then he asked, very loudly, “Hey, Mister Shrek, where are you going? Were you really an ogre?”

The client stopped midway through the steps to look at my son. As embarrassed as I could be, I rushed my son back inside, scolded him, and gave him a couple of slaps on the butt to teach him.

I just hope the guy never figures out why my son said that.

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Get Some Blinds Before You Go Blind

, , , , , , , | Working | June 5, 2020

I am working as a court clerk in civil cases. Our courthouse is in the middle of the city and is several storeys high. Modern development has built up around the court, so that from levels four up, the back of the court overlooks and looks into a flashy five-star hotel.

One day, I am assisting in a settlement conference, and the judge and I are sitting at opposite ends of a long table, with the parties down either side. The judge is sitting in front of the window with his back to it, and I can see clearly everything going on behind him.

The judge recalls to me later that suddenly my face changes and contorts, and I busy myself in a piece of paper, looking horrified. 

He decides we should have a break and when the lawyers have cleared, he asks what happened. I raise a shaky hand to the hotel across the way, which does not have frosted or tinted windows, and the very large, naked man doing Zumba. In front of the windows. 

The judge laughs so hard he extends the break for an extra fifteen minutes so he can calm down, and he teases me about it for the rest of the week.

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The Secret With Dogs Is Consistency

, , , , , | Friendly | May 28, 2020

A neighbor’s dog, large but still a puppy, has slipped her collar. The dog is usually very well-behaved and has learned commands well. The neighbor is pretty friendly, laid back, and in control, so I am a bit surprised to see the dog running back and forth in the street as the young man chases after, swinging her leash and cursing and yelling at the dog to stop.

Of course, the dog thinks it is a great, fun game and keeps running, staying close but out of reach, and nearly getting hit by cars a couple of times. “Stop” is probably not a command that she’s been taught.

Me: “[Neighbor], stop and command [Dog] to ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’ She thinks you’re playing with her and she’ll keep running if you keep chasing her.

Neighbor: “She’s my dog and I’ll handle it my way. Butt out!”

As I watch, the “game” continues for several more minutes, the neighbor getting more and more frustrated and upset at his dog but still chasing after her and cursing and shouting. Finally, after the dog is nearly hit by another car, he stops running.

Neighbor: “[Dog], sit! Stay!”

The dog immediately sat, allowing the young man to walk right up and slip her collar back on and lead her back home.

Although it was hard not to say anything, I didn’t, as I was glad disaster was avoided and I didn’t want to antagonize the already upset young man. The next time I saw them, the dog was wearing a sturdy harness, and for several weeks after, the neighbor avoided eye contact with me.

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Slippers, Sneakers, And Tighty-Whities Are Next

, , , , , | Friendly | May 18, 2020

My husband and I have just bought our first home and moved in with our kitty. It is the peak of summer and we are getting him used to the new house before letting him hang out in the yard, so he has not been outside to explore yet. He seems pretty keen on it; he was an apartment kitty before and now we live on a street with only four houses and almost zero traffic. He is a very distinctive white cat with brown socks and brown ear tips.

Once the weather cools down and he is used to the house, I take our kitty out to the back deck and plonk him down, which he responds to by rolling in the grass and sniffing a tree before curling up in the garden bed to nap. I sit outside with him for a bit and then go inside to get a drink. When I come back, I think I am seeing things. There are TWO of him!

An identical cat is perched on the fence leading to my neighbor’s house, and they are holding a staring contest. I go to scoop up my cat when a woman around my age pops her head over the fence.

Neighbor: “Hello! You must be— Oh!” 

She spots my boy in my arms and looks back and forth from him to her cat, who is now purring and headbutting her.

Neighbor: “Well, I’m [Neighbor], and we apparently have twin cats.”

Me: *Laughing* “I’m [My Name], and this is Scarf!”

My neighbor cracks up laughing so hard she nearly falls off of the fence. I’m used to people laughing at Scarf’s name, but she finally stops laughing and picks up her cat.

Neighbor: “This is Pants!”

We both laughed a lot that afternoon, joking about how we needed some more cats to complete the outfit — which did happen a few months ago when they got a kitten named Socks! — and made sure we didn’t own any of the same collars so we could tell them apart.

As I type this, Pants has let himself in through the cat door to loaf around on Scarf’s cat tree. They are both getting older but are firm friends, just like our neighbor is for us. Matching cats are a great icebreaker!


This story was included in our May 2020 Inspirational Roundup.

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