Monday, January 28, 2008

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

I have a neighbor whom I like to call by the name "Bad News Bear*." He was actually the first neighbor I met in my building, after living here for 2 months, but he has grown to be the absolute last face I want to see when I come home. Why? Because he is a bad news bear. Each time I see him and we have a friendly exchange, he ends up telling me something I don't want to hear. One time he even told another neighbor something I didn't want to hear, and it ended up getting back to me anyway!

BNB has a store right across the street from our building that I pass every day on my way to the church. Usually I just give a friendly wave and continue on my way. After I first met him, I would go in and say hi and make small talk; that was until the day he decided to give me an unsolicited and kind of hostile Portuguese lesson. We're right in the middle of a nice little conversation and -BAM!- he starts telling me to never use a particular word when speaking Portuguese, because it's slang and it's wrong. He then taught me the "correct" way and asked if I had ever heard the incorrect way. I said yes, and that I used it. I think that severed our relationship a bit.

A few weeks later, I was waiting for my elevator to go up to my apartment. When it arrived and the doors opened, a guy I had never seen before walked out. We courteously smiled at each other, but then he did a double take and asked if I was The American who had moved in. Turns out this neighbor lived in Australia for a while and speaks great English. (BNB also speaks English, but it's far from great.) We talked in English for a while then he asked how my Portuguese was coming. I told him okay, that I was really trying to learn and speak well. He said "Oh really? _____ (BNB) is the one who told me that you were living here, and he said your Portuguese wasn't good at all."

Okay. So I know I lost a lot of Portuguese when my family moved back to the States, but after living here for 2 months I would not have called my Portuguese "not good at all." My pride was hurt, and I decided to prove BNB wrong and wow New Neighbor with my Portuguese. I switched over, speaking as fast as I possibly could and with the simplest vocabulary I knew, as to not mess up but simultaneously create the illusion that my Portuguese was perfect...perhaps a bit deceptive, but necessary. (You understand.) NN looked at me, wide-eyed, and said "Wow! You've only lived here two months? You speak very well." With a smug smile on my face, I politely thanked him and stepped in the elevator.

After this episode, I became more and more weary of running into BNB. He just brought too much bad news for me to deal with. So tonight, as I walked into my building, I saw two people in the elevator. The doors were closing but they held it for me, and as soon as I saw who was inside I wished they hadn't. BNB was inside, grinning from ear to ear, probably excited because we hadn't talked in a while. He asked how I was doing and I said fine. Then, somehow, between floors 1 and 7, he managed to bear bad news...again. He started to laugh and then wiped a bead of sweat off my shoulder. "Wow! You must be really hot!" "Yeah," I said "I can't handle this heat." "Oh, well it's only going to get worse you know. February is the hottest month." The elevator chimed, the doors opened, and he happily stepped out to go to his apartment. "Goodnight!" he called out behind him. I couldn't push the "Door Close" button fast enough.

Thankfully, my apartment building has 8 stories, with 2 elevators and 6 apartments per level. With all the coming and going everyone does, I hope this is my last encounter with BNB for a while. Maybe I'll start thinking up really sad stories to tell him every time we run into each other. I imagine it going something like this: "Hi Cris! Man it's hot today!" "I had an unfortunate accident with a kitchen knife and am now blind in one eye. WHATCHYA THINK ABOUT THAT??" "Oh...ok, bye." Maybe that will teach him how it's really not pleasant to be neighbors with a Bad News Bear.**

*I realize that the actual phrase is "bearer of bad news," in which case the appropriate spelling would be "bad news bearer." However, I am referencing the movie and children's book, and personally prefer the illustration of an actual bear bearing bad news like this:

**I tell you this story in jest, and you are meant to laugh. I am not venting actual Brazilian frustrations and I will not actually tell him that I had an accident with a knife and am blind in one eye. Just being a bit sarcastic.

1 comment:

OutsidersIn said...

I hadn't thought about the Bad News Bears in forever, until I just said it in describing my volleyball team's horrific defeat this very Monday... we must be on the same wavelength.