Last Friday evening I arrived home from work via bicycle with a few reusable bags of groceries in each hand, which caused me to use the elevator. As I shimmied my way inside, the door was held open for me by a kindhearted neighbour, Sonia (sp?), who had in her possession some nifty artwork. Naturally, I struck up a conversation about the piece and Sonia politely inquired about my ride home on such a nice day.
And then something unfortunate happened…
JOHN: “Could you please push the button for the second floor? Thanks, Sonia”
SONIA: “Second floor, eh? So, are you new to the building?”
JOHN: “Nope, my wife and I have lived here for about a year and a half now. You?”
SONIA: “Yeah, I’ve been here for about the same amount of time.”
[INSERT SHARED AWKWARD MOMENT HERE.]
JOHN: “Well…nice to meet you, Sonia.”
[Both make disappointed, semi-ashamed eye-contact and nod goodbye.]
This problematic encounter, I imagine, is an all too common scene within apartment buildings around Vancouver. Sure, I – like most people in this city – are super-polite and very friendly to my neighbours; however, only one other person in my building has actually entered Michelle and my apartment and I regretfully don’t go deep enough in my encounters with neighbours.
This case gets more interesting – perhaps a bit confounding – as the people in our building are supercool folks, which Michelle and I have learned during two strata meetings. There are Inventors, members of the film industry, an Operations Manager for YVR, a Somali Pirate, Yoga Instructors, a Manager of a Mr. Lube franchise, Mr. Lube, Kevin Quinlan, an Actress, a Health Promotion Project Manager, a Comedian, two Welders, and the couple next to Michelle and I who have nicer tomatoes than we do (no envy, we’re just impressed).
I mean, who wouldn’t want to have meaningful conversations with these fine folks?!
Basically, here are three options on which I would love your feedback as I move forward this my quest to build community within my apartment building:
- Knock on everyone’s door and introduce myself. PRO: this is probably the most efficient way to get to know my community. CON: this is probably the most efficient way to annoy and/or alienate my community.
- Throw a festive holiday party for the building. PRO: who doesn’t love parties?! CON: our building lacks a shared community space, so we would either have to cram 35+ people into one unit and/or host the event in the back alley (for the record, neither of these things are “cons” from my perspective, but I live in a world where they are not deemed “acceptable”).
- Borrow ideas from 1990s sitcoms. PRO: the “holiday candy” episode of Friends and the “photographs and kiss hello” episode of Seinfeld were both great in their own way; further, superficial community-connections were definite outcomes of these plot lines. CON: in Friends the community rebelled and aggressively demanded that Monica make more candy, much to hilarious chagrin of the show’s most shrill character; in Seinfeld, Jerry’s refusal to kiss hello results in the vandalism of his photo on the community wall as well as his being shunned by several members of the people in his building (although this problem doesn’t come up again within the Seinfeld universe…).
Speaking of community, Gumbooteers, what do you think of these options? What are other suggestions that you have for building community within apartment buildings?
As our world becomes more dense and urbanized, building positive and productive communities in smaller and smaller urban spaces will be of tremendous importance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and knock on some doors.