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Great Idea: Make friends (and eye contact) with your neighbours, improve your quality of life

It would have been around 6:30 a.m., while sipping coffee in the nook I called a home office, that I first heard my neighbour “Boris”.

It wasn’t that I expected my bachelorette apartment to be a hermetic chamber against all outside noise. Not for $650 a month, that’s for sure. I heard my west-side neighbour channeling Adele through my living room wall three nights a week. And my east-side neighbour’s cell phone vibration was enough to wake me up on a Saturday morning, if the leaf blowers in the parking lot outside weren’t cacophonous enough through my single-pane windows.

The problem was I could hear “Boris” across the hall as he went about his morning routine, which as far as I could tell consisted of (1) not shutting his bathroom door and (2) the things he did after not shutting the bathroom door. The worst bit, you may be surprised to read, was his oral hygiene routine. I’ll spare you the details.

I never got to know “Boris” (that isn’t his name but it feels like it fits with the white tank top he wore and his angry-sounding phone calls). I’m not sad about that. But he made my brain-wheels turn. What if I liked my neighbours instead of avoiding them?

A brief history of attempted neighbouring

When Boris moved out, the neighbour who replaced him was a woman around my age. I felt shy about saying hello and our schedules didn’t seem to put us in the hallways at the same time too often. But shortly after the 2013 flood, I noticed one day that she left muddied boots outside her door. In June and July 2013, that was the sign that you’d been volunteering to help someone who had been flooded. I wrote a note that was basically a high five for helping and stuck it to a bar of dark chocolate and placed it next to her boots. I didn’t sign the note and we didn’t meet after that, but I like to think she maybe thinks of me as the chocolate flood fairy. I’ll take it.

I’d once helped a friend try to get to know her neighbour. She’d occasionally encountered a guy around her age in the laundry room of her building who seemed cute and nice. “Cute and nice” in your early 20s is several steps above “pictured in his OKCupid profile picture drinking Jagermeister while shirtlessly driving a quad.” It was time to make a move.

Our plan was simple and harkened back to our even younger days of passing notes to the trumpet players in high school band class. We had some leftover homemade cupcakes from my birthday celebration so we sealed two of them in a Ziploc and got to work on a notecard. My friend was and still is a big fan of to-do lists, and carefully teared a long piece of list-making paper from her pad on the fridge.

We collaborated on what we decided was a charming note that would make him want to meet and date her. This was after a few glasses of Prosecco (which I’d instructed all guests to bring to my party) so the charm level of the note may have been questionable. We placed the cupcakes outside his apartment door and scurried back to her place.

Days later, long after the cupcakes had disappeared, they ran into eachother again. He thanked her, they both nervously laughed, and nothing mirrored the 15-minute mark of a romantic comedy. That was the end of that story.

Eventually that friend and I became roomies and the closest we ever got to making friends in our new apartment was chatting with the leopard-print-wearing women who smoked in the stairwell. I guess we didn’t have enough in common.

A portrait of the blogger as a good neighbour

I was still without a neighbour friend when I moved into my latest apartment. But this place was a little different. I don’t know if it is because the residents are outgoing, or have lived here longer, or because there are seven suites and just one laundry machine and we’re better off being decent to eachother. I think a few things coalesced.

To make a long story short, my boyfriend and one of our neighbours followed each other on Twitter, which is how I initially met Jocelyn. Then Jocelyn noticed I ran some comedy-writing classes and signed up for one and we met and shared our sense of humour and the rest is a blurry history of neighbourliness that I never knew before.

Knowing I was a cocktail fan, Jocelyn gifted me homemade bourbon cherries and leant me a book on making bitters. Then I hosted a bitters making night at my apartment where she and I turned vodka and tree bark and citrus peels and pepper and bourbon into three kinds of bitters.

Then Jocelyn hosted a bitters-tasting night upstairs at her apartment where we invited other neighbours (and neighbours-past!) to try out our concoctions. Jocelyn’s helped me into my apartment when I’ve locked myself out. She’s watched our cranky cat on multiple occasions while we’re out of town and we’re set to return the favour.

And when it’s a sunny day and I’m in need of a friend to enjoy the apartment’s front lawn garden with a cool drink, she’s just a text message away.

I'll note that's ironic indifference in her initial response.

I’ll note that’s ironic indifference in her initial response.

Now, I can’t take too much of the credit here. Clearly, my neighbour Jocelyn is the type of person people want to be around—and that’s contagious. I can say without hesitation that it’s better to have a neighbour who you call upon for cocktails rather than to turn down the bass because Jurassic Park is too loud*.

I know there’s going to come a day when I’ll move again and with that will come the opportunity/challenge to make a new neighbour-friend. Friendly neighbours make for an even better neighbourhood, they improve the quality of life of everyone involved (see all that jazz about sunshine hangouts above) and they don’t add a cent to your rent or mortgage.

It doesn’t always happen magically, though. It’ll take some pointed organization if, for example, I move to the East Village and want to meet some of my fellow brand new Villagers. Like any kind of hype-creation in 2015, I imagine it will take a combination of social media (a Facebook event; Twitter lists) and on-the-ground, word-of-mouth marketing (talking to one other in the hallways instead of avoiding eye contact; posters in the elevator) and good old fashioned friendliness (free wine and cheese) to turn a bunch of strangers into a knot of neighbour-friends. I think it’s worth doing.

*Full disclosure: We were the apartment playing Jurassic Park loud enough to resonate in a neighbour’s kitchen. We’re not friends with him. Yet…

This blog post is part of my bid to become the East Village Resident Ambassador! In that role, I would live in the East Village, an exciting new neighbourhood rising on the banks of the Bow River in the heart of Calgary and tell stories about that life and make new neighbours into new friends. If you think I’d be good at this gig, you can help by watching my 30-second promo video, sharing it and keeping an eye on my tweets tagged with #EVliving. When you fave, RT and reply to those tweets, you’ll help my chances of becoming the Resident Ambassador.

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Filed under: Blog, East Village

About the Author

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I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites

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