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The Joy of Neighbors: Connecting during Quarantine

Pooja Salhotra
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Shalini Aggarwal, Shobha Aggarwal,

Shalini (left) and her mom Shobha Aggarwal enjoy drinking tea on their front porch, which has given them a chance to connect with neighbors while in quarantine.

Neighbors. Many of us tend to only take note when they are over-the-top-amazing – like when they bake us brownies when we move in – or when they are unbearable – like in the film Neighbors, where young neighbors throw obscenely loud fraternity parties. 

But these days, neighbors are often taking on a larger role in our lives. For many of us, they are the only human beings we see in their full, three-dimensional form, aside from our immediate family members or roommates, who, quite frankly, we are seeing too much of these days. 

Pre-corona, I was typically in a rush in the mornings to get into work; in the afternoons, I was hustling in the house to walk my dog. So, interactions with neighbors were brief: a hand-wave when we’re both bringing our recycling out, still groggy-eyed on a Wednesday morning, a courteous hello as we make our way back inside, both exhausted from a long day. 

Now that time is in our favor and we are craving real human interactions – not the Zoom video conferences that, while useful, are just not the same as face-to-face conversation – I’m finding myself getting to know my neighbors a little better. We pause on our walks to chat with each other about our home workout routines, and we stop by our elderly neighbor’s home to make sure they are doing alright. 

Many residents are also attending to their neighbors in a new way.  

“It just seems like we are looking out for each other and have more time to socialize than we normally do,” says Cathy Troisi, a West University resident. “I’ve been going out walking or riding my bike every day and it’s like after a hurricane, where more people are outside.”  

One neighbor is certainly looking out for Cathy and her husband Richard, both 67 years old. The couple recently found a colorful note taped onto their front door. Written in green crayon on a piece of yellow construction paper, the note read: “Dear neighbor, hope you aren’t too lonely. We are thinking of you!” 

Though it was not signed, Cathy has an inkling of who it’s from – a neighbor with a young child across the street.  

“It was a really sweet thing to do,” Cathy says. “My husband and I have each other and are doing fine. If you were living on your own, I’m sure it would mean even more.”  

For some, quarantine has simply provided a new opportunity to meet neighbors.

Shalini Aggarwal was sitting on her front porch drinking coffee one morning this week when her neighbor, a mother of five, struck up a conversation. 

“Ever since they moved in eight years ago, there’s never been any communication,” said Shalini, who lives in Bellaire. But that morning, the two women talked at length about their families, virtual birthday celebrations and ways to cope during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Everyone is always running around and just too busy,” said Shalini. “It’s only now that people are slowing down.” 

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