WACKY NEIGHBOR UNIVERSITY
This fall, after months of soul searching, after countless hours spent walking through the cool crisp air, my feet crunching the brittle flaming leaves below, I have made a decision.
This decision will most likely affect me the rest of my life.
So today, Saturday, I have decided to drop out of the workplace and return to school full time. Just this morning, I emailed my boss, informing her of my decision.
I am not planning to attend Yale University, where I could take classes in Introductory Microeconomics and American Economic History. I am not enrolling in the film program at New York University, nor am I heading to Lincoln Center to study Harmony and Counterpoint in the 17th Century at Julliard.
I will be in the comfort of my kitchen, pursuing an online degree at WNU.
Wacky Neighbor University.
That’s right. Wacky Neighbor University. This venerable institution was founded a few decades ago, to assist those who want to pursue their dream of being the zaniest, most unpredictable personality in any apartment complex, neighborhood stoop of a city brownstone, or general enclosed space.
The entry process was not easy. In addition to completing page after page of application forms, answering a range of questions ranging from date of birth to the number of “uncles” on your mother’s side who had a habit of dropping in during dinner to the number of babies you have delivered in a stuck high rise elevator. (October 25, three and none), you were asked to relate a few instances in the past where you found yourself in a situation where you could be possibly described as a ‘wacky neighbor.
For me this was the most difficult part. There have been more than few situations in recent memory where I could have fit the bill.
About a year ago, also in the fall, I was heading to work in my usual corner seat of the W train. Just before the doors closed, a slim, mousy young woman who I recognized from my Laundromat slid into the seat next to me. She carried an umbrella; a handbag and a plastic bag from the local C Town supermarket. I did not know her name, so I just nodded politely and returned to my newspaper. After a few moments, I heard a rustling at my side. The woman was going through her C Town shopping bag, which was obviously full of many cellophane wrapped lunch items, including a pear, hardboiled egg and sunflower seeds. I ignored her when she ate her pear, dribbling juice down the front of her rain coat and onto her handbag. I sunk deeper into my TV listings when she picked apart the shell of her egg, presenting its noxious fumes to our end of the subway car.
But when we finally made our descent underground towards Manhattan and she used this long stretch of uninterrupted travel time to open her cellophane package of sunflower seeds, crack each one open with her teeth, saving the kernels in her palm and dropping the shells to the floor, I was unable to focus my attention on the Jumble puzzle. The constant crack, spit drop, crack, spit, drop was getting the best of me. And only me, I noticed, as the rest of the passengers were oblivious to the noise, their ears blocked with headphones of various types.
As we pulled into Lexington Avenue and the doors opened, I reached over, grabbed her C Town shopping bag from her lap and hurled it out the nearest door. Conveniently, this was also her stop, as she leapt up, ran after her bag. My last image of her was sprawled on the subway platform, clutching her torn C Town shopping bag in one hand and her sun flower kernels in the other.
Ok, maybe that’s not the best example to use for my admission application. That was a bit more unstable, than wacky. Perhaps I should stick a little closer to home.
The intersection in front my house has a stop sign, which most motorists usually ignore and fly right through. I was returning from my Laundromat on recent fall weekend late afternoon with an oversized bag of fresh clean folded clothing in my arms, almost blocking my view. It’s my favorite laundry bag, with a life sized photograph of a smiling mother and young child holding hands, endorsing Fab detergent.
At the same moment, a speeding driver ignored the stop sign and barreled right through the intersection. I caught him out of the corner of my eye and made it to the curb in plenty of time. Without thinking, I then turned and tossed my bag of fresh clean folded clothing back into the street and path of the oncoming car. The driver swerved, narrowly missing the mother and child decorated nylon bag and plowed in to an old large oak tree next to the Laundromat, causing its remaining rust and gold leaves to float to the ground, days before their time.
I barely had time to retrieve my laundry bag and get back to the safety of my locked front door before the driver stumbled, dazed, out of the car into an early evening rain shower.
Maybe that’s not so wacky either. But the red light from the ambulance danced in the rain all evening.
Think hard…wacky...neighbor…maybe the time the woman on the bus spilled hot coffee on my new chinos and offered me a crisp new twenty to cover the cleaning. My demand of thirty more for a new pair of pants wasn’t so neighborly. Or how about the time I called the police because my neighbor’s blind cat had chewed through my just carved Halloween pumpkin and got sick on my brand new doormat. The young boy next door didn’t think it was very neighborly when I hosed him down with ice cold water while rinsing dried leaves from my driveway. Poor kid was out of school for a week with a cold.
Maybe this Wacky Neighbor University isn’t such a good idea after all.
Maybe I’m not just cut out to be up there with Rhoda, Phyllis, Kramer, Gladys Kravitz and Mr. Roper.
Maybe my boss does not check her email on a Saturday. What a wacky situation to be in…hmmm.