When I lived both in Poca and South Charleston, it seemed easy to meet people.
Often, introductions would begin after one of my two sneaky dogs would escape, inevitably resulting in me meeting a person who was kind enough to assist in re-capture.
One time, my beloved Furry Murry disappeared through an unlatched door without me realizing he was gone. A neighbor several doors down I hadn’t met yet was unloading flats of flowers from her car and had left her hatch open. When she went to retrieve the last flat, she found a big yellow mop dog smiling at her from the passenger seat.
“Let’s go for a ride,” he seemed to be saying. So she took him for a ride.
After a few loops around the neighborhood, she returned him to the address on his name tag. And she became my favorite neighbor.
When I first moved to Poca, I met several neighbors when they saw me attempting to remove a few mostly dead bushes from my yard. I’d been trying to dig them up enough to saw off the main root. One neighbor and then another joined in the effort. By the time the roots were gone, I knew well who lived across, beside and diagonal from me. We remain friends more than 20 years on.
In Atlanta, it’s a bit different. People are friendly, yet a bit guarded.
Our dog, Ash, has done his part, making certain we know everyone (who has a dog) within several homes of our own. He’s biased, as he requires a person to live with a dog or cat in order to be deemed worthy of a visit.
But truth be told, I tend to place similar markers myself. Having a pet, or being open to those who do, offers a shortcut to knowing who you are. They make it easy to get a conversation started.
But when my dog isn’t around to open a door, it isn’t as easy to meet people.
Until I got my new old truck. The one that’s 33 years old.
With fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, a hula girl on the dash, and a 76-ball topping the antennae.
Driving my baby has proven to be a real conversation starter.
“What a great truck,” they say.
“Love those dice,” they say.
“Do you need to borrow my jumper cables?” they say. The latter perhaps more than the rest.
I’ve been meeting people in parking lots everywhere.
My truck is a bit like my daughter — hard to wake up. Both will often grumble and fight to stay sleeping. But once one or the other is awake, they’re pretty much fine. In a way I suppose I’ve been training to own this truck for 22 years.
The intent, when I purchased this truck, was not for it to be my main vehicle, but rather something we’d take to weekend estate sales and flea markets to transport the furniture I refinish. But almost as soon as I bought it, my daughter’s car developed a major issue that will cost nearly as much to repair as the car is worth. Because my workday commute is less than eight miles, I’ve been taking the truck so she can use mine.
Once she saves enough to get her car fixed or buy something new, I’ll deal with fixing mine then. In the meantime, the folks I’m meeting are so nice I’m not in a hurry.
The truck might not always start, but the conversations so often do.