It started with the subtle movements of blinds.
Cautiously, slowly, they peeked out from behind their drawn curtains in the immediate aftermath of the sonic boom. With no immediate answers available from behind the window and nothing but quiet and darkness on the inside, they did the unthinkable. They opened their doors. Slowly, but driven by pure curiosity, they opened their doors wide enough to stand there and peer out.
Across the way was someone else, mirroring the same actions and emotions. They locked eyes and froze for a moment, both standing in their doorways. Usually they avoid each other, as all the neighbors do. Maybe a nod, sometimes a hello. But for the most part it’s keep your head down and mind your business so you can both go about your day.
But this was no normal day.
They hesitantly stepped outside into the hot summer air to ask each other what happened. Neither one knew. But seconds later the rest of the neighbors were slinking out of their domiciles with the same curious and slightly frightened look on their faces.
“Does anyone know what happened?”
“I heard a bang.”
“I have no power.”
As the lot of us made our way down to the street, the news was confirmed by all residents who live in the other eight phases of our condo complex: It was a good ole fashioned blackout.
TVs stopped blaring annoying infomercials and radios ceased spouting mind-numbing advertisements for car dealerships. The silence was even more pronounced because all of the air conditioners had stopped their incessant humming. And it made people uneasy. You could tell by the looks on their faces. The sweet, cold, refreshing air is the reason we all keep our houses hermetically sealed, as if one solitary cracked window or open slider will result in the end of days.
“I hope the power comes back on soon. I need the AC,” said one neighbor, whose name no one knew because we don’t take the time to learn any of each other’s names.
But a funny thing happened as we collectively stood and watched the NStar truck roll in to check things out. We all started talking. Outside, in the heat, a group of neighbors began chatting. Some for the first time despite having lived within 50 feet of each other for several years. Such is life in the unfriendly northeast.
John is running a marathon. Ed built a new deck. Lois has to have back surgery. Jim had a stroke a while back and none of us even knew it, despite the fact that an ambulance had come to rescue him.
And little Tommy, who just turned 2, got to play with Will. We had always known there was a little one nearby, but we’d see him and his parents walking around the circle. But instead of heading out there to talk to them with Will, we’d simply guess how old he is and hope the two of them could play together sometime, as there are very few kids here. Sure we could’ve run out there, but…well you know, that smacks of effort.
As we talked and bantered and our kids played, I couldn’t help but think it was nice. I’ve peered out windows at them, listened to some of their arguments (thin walls) and made up my own hypotheses about their lives (I’m convinced one of my neighbors moonlights as a cougar hooker), but I’d never really talked to them before.
“We’re all set guys, power’s back on,” shouted the NStar utility worker.
And sure enough, all the air conditioners simultaneously began their barbaric roars and TVs all around us snapped back to life. We looked at one another, unsure of what to do. But instead of continuing our outdoor neighborly summit, we all nodded at one another, grunted our goodbyes and headed back into our caves craving cool air and TV. And just like that the doors were closed, windows shut tight and the blinds drawn.
It’s probably for the best. Don’t want to let that cold air out.