Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

Well, he's not exactly a stranger, but he certainly can't be called a friend. An acquaintance, I suppose, but even that is stretching it. He lives one flight up, and I hear him moving about regularly. He's been up there for years, ever since the former tenant, the girl with the dog, moved out. She was a nice one, too. She worked a very regular schedule, and every night at 7 PM, like clockwork, I would hear the dog's Happy Feet welcoming her home with clickety clickety clicking across the floor when she opened her front door.

That girl, I can't recall her name, made only one unneighborly mistake, one Thanksgiving, when she went away for the long weekend and left the dog alone. I'm sure she arranged for someone to pop in to walk and feed the pet, but for hour after hour after hour, all weekend long, the dog was alone. And let everyone in the building know it. Someone must have complained to her upon her return, because a few days later, I found a little bag of chocolates taped to my front door. It carried an apology note from Marky (the dog).

Funny how I don't remember the woman's name, but I'm sure the dog was called Marky.

I don't interact with my neighbors much, it makes it hard to complain about them at the Condo Association meetings, so I'm not sure when I was first aware that Jane Doe and Marky had vacated, and Jason had replaced them upstairs.

I did start to run into him on the stairs, as he left for work and I for the gym. He was clearly a pleasant, friendly guy. But even then, I was not sure he was the tenant directly above me until one Saturday night, when I returned from several days out of town to discover a leak coming through my bathroom ceiling. I dashed upstairs and knocked on the door of the condo above mine, thinking perhaps a tub had overflowed.

Jason answered, and was oblivious to any problem. We searched his bathroom together, and could not find anything leaking. I'm sure I was too preoccupied with the leak to notice how fit he looked in that tank top and those cut-off jeans.

Turns out, there was in fact a leak from his toilet, but instead of insisting that I call a plumber on a Saturday night, he offered to spend the rest of the weekend at his girlfriend's, allowing us to turn his water off until Monday. Yes, there is a girlfriend whom I've never seen, but I hear her often enough. When she is in residence upstairs, her heels sound eerily similar to Marky's toenails, clickety clacking across the floor. I guess in a way, you could say both Marky and Jason's girlfriend have happy feet.

My next interaction with Jason actually wasn't mine at all, it was my buddy Barbara's. She was coming over for dinner, and miscounted the flights of stairs. She overshot my floor and landed in front of Jason's front door upstairs. Being Barbara, and knowing she is always welcome at my place, she knocked on the door and immediately entered. She walked right in on Jason and his girlfriend cooking dinner. I have no idea what the girlfriend was wearing, as Barbara only reported that Jason was stripped to his underwear. And that he built. Of course, I had never really noticed that fact, even after my binoculars picked up his daily run around the block in those tennis shorts.

I'm not the only one around here who thinks Jason is a good guy. Clarence thinks so too. Have I told you about Clarence? He's an elderly black guy who hangs around our parking lot. For years, I thought he must be running a chop shop out of one of the single-car garages which ring our building's parking lot, but I have since learned that he's just a retired gent who used to live in the neighborhood, and now drives his ancient Caddy or his yellow Mustang onto our lot to "work on it." He usually parks his vehicle in Jason's spot, which is, appropriately, spot #1. Clarence has mentioned to me what a nice guy Jason is, to allow him to poach his spot.

That parking spot brings me back to my latest encounter with Jason. After the big snow hit last weekend, I ventured out, to take a few pictures and to have a look around. I found Jason in the parking lot, shoveling snow like a machine. We got almost 30 inches of snow, and a plow never made it onto our parking lot, so Jason had grabbed a shovel and begun to dig. He didn't really need to free his car, as the largest employer in the area (the government) was shut down, but he just thought he would pitch in and do his bit.

As a joke, I motioned to the large mound of snow under which my car sat, and said, "While you're at it, that's my car."

We both laughed, and I went back upstairs. The next day, I discovered that Jason had dug my car out of its drift.

It's sometimes hard to believe that there are people out there like Jason, who just do things to help out. I left a bottle of Merlot on his doorstep, with a note thanking "the dude upstairs," but I'm sure he didn't expect any thanks. Don't you just want to clone this guy? Or at least be his friend.

DC is getting hit with "Snowmageddon 3" as I write this. The wind has turned wild and blizzardy, and my car is again packed under several inches of snow. I wonder if Jason would like a nice Chardonnay...

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