You Say Hello

And I say goodbye.

I was in the elevator (you spend a lot of time getting into and out of elevators here what with the walkers and canes and rollators) and we’re all crowded into one and the blue shirts are apparently all taught to be cheery.

One of the cheeriest blue shirts says to me with a big smile: Good morning. Nice day today.

Or something along those lines.

I turn to her and snap back, you’re to from New York are you?

She says, I live inNew York. Why?

I say, because I’ve lived in New York my whole life and New Yorkers, especially strangers, never say Good Morning, to each other or any sort of greeting. They may have lived in the same building for years and if they get into an elevator at the same time, you’re lucky if one nods at the other.

An old guy (that’s all there are here) chimes in: that’s true. The first time anyone said good morning to me, or hello, who I didn’t know was here.

Now the blue shirt keeps the smile on her face, and says: but we all live here together and we want to make it like home.

“I’m just saying,” I continue to no avail, and thinking that I’m just anti-social (partly true) “that the first time I noticed people saying good morning or anything like that, people I didn’t even know, was when I lived in a small town in upper New York.

“And even then I found it disconcerting.”

Then there was the usual shuffling around of walkers and people were struggling to get out, and I got to my floor and said somewhat sarcastically, “Be seeing you,” from The Prisoner.

As I was walking back to my room, a scene in my old house, as I was struggling to get up the stairs. I hear behind me, my neighbor of 30 or so years, say “So how’s the gimp doin’?”

I got to the top of the landing, and Mike was standing behind me all the way up in case I fell. He had already picked me up twice from the floor of my apartment, and we shared our keys with each other in case either one of us had to get into the other’s apartment.

I said, “Did you just call me a gimp?”

“Yeah,” he says deadpan. “Did I say something wrong?”

“You don’t call your neighbors gimps. “

“Did I offend you,” he says.

I had to think about it a second. “No. It was kinda funny.”

And I said back to him, “see ya later.”

He says, “take care.”

And that was the sort of thing that felt homey to me.

The few times I did have a fall, my neighbors came out to help me up. Some strangers I had never met before. Others people I had known for decades.

Felt like home.

What I was trying to get across, and this was impossible, and what set it off, was that I was just sitting on the toilet, about 6 a.m. when I hear the apartment door open (you can’t lock them) and a cheery voice shouts, “Good Morning!”

I know I have to say something, so I yell back “You too.”

And no matter which way you slice it, that just makes it into more of an institution and less of a home. Had I not said anything she would have opened the bathroom door to make sure I was alive.

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