27 February 2013

The Strangers Next Door

The Universe is a cruel and fickle mistress. Some days she just lets humanity alone, lets us go about the task of living...then out of the blue, here comes the Universe, screaming in from left field, reigning down terrors of Biblical proportions.

What a shrew.

And like the vile, odious, repugnant hell-cat she is, she usually rears her ugly face when it's the least convenient for the victim.

Case in point:

I'm a closet-introvert. Surprising, no? The average schmo wouldn't think it from looking at my lifestyle; as a teacher and director, I'm surrounded by teenagers for a vast majority of my day. During productions, I usually work with students for over 12 hours per day, plus another six hours of contact on Saturday.

I'm suffocating in seniors and sophomores, drowning in juniors, and flooded with freshman (but in a good way).

So is it any surprise that I like to spend my personal time away from the huddled masses of humanity? Is it shocking that, when given the chance, I go to afternoon matinees by myself, and hole up as far away from the early-birders as possible? Would anyone blame me for wanting to curl up on my couch during a snow day and read a book for my own personal pleasure? No, I'd say not.

Imagine my reaction, then, when I heard somebody on my front step the morning of our latest snow day. 

Surely it's just the paper delivery, I rationalized. No need to get off my butt. Read on, Tobey-san, read on!

*scrape scrape scrape*

Well, that sounds like the paperboy is scooping the snow off my porch; that's odd. Let's see what's going on here...

It was a boy, but instead of a paper, he was holding a shovel.

It was a neighborhood kid who lived across the street. His dad was in the driveway with a shovel, and his little girl was down by the garage with a very large spoon (a shovel was much too big for her; the spoon was an elegant, albeit inefficient, solution).

...OK, they haven't seen me; they can't prove I know they're here. If I'm really quiet, and I can keep the dog from barking, I could sneak downstairs and keep reading, then act all shocked when I come out in another hour to scoop the walk...

It was the perfect plan. I had excellent cover, and the only witness to my dastardliness was the dog, and she loves me too much to give me away (plus, if she barked and blew my covert-operation, she knew she'd get a bath every day for the next week).

And wouldn't you know it? As I belly-crawled my way down to the basement, the Hag of the Cosmos swooped in and yelled "You are an AWFUL human being! There are elderly neighbors all around you who actually need help. What on earth is wrong with you?"

See what I mean? The ol' Battle-Ax is always showing up at the worst time, making poor, innocent schmucks like me feel guilty about things we should feel guilty about. Who does she think she is?

The bawdy, swag-bellied strumpet!

What was I to do?

The harpy-of-the-heavens was right.

I pulled on my big-boy pants, jumped into some boots, pulled out my snow shovel, and went out for the awkward confrontation.

All-in-all, however, I suppose the Universe wasn't all that wrong this time. While it was an uncomfortable situation, I'm glad I manned up and went out there. I've lived by these exceptionally nice people for almost an entire year, and this was the most conversation I've had with them. We found connections I never knew we had, and I was lucky enough to join in the excitement of their new-baby announcement (I am, after all, suffering from baby-fever). Now, I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

Of course, I won't admit this to the Universe, the old crone; her head is big enough as it is.

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