I’ve moved many a time and met many a neighbour along the way. And while I can regale you with plenty of tales about the bad ones (a certain cranky old battle ax who just didn’t like anyone I dated certainly springs to mind) that’s not the purpose of this post. No today we focus on good neighbours, helpful neighbours and I’m not talking about the jovial crew residing on Ramsey Street either.
Mower man was the first good neighbour
And even though his name is lost to the sands of time (or more to the point I’ve completely forgotten it) for the purpose of this story, let’s call him Steve. Or Allen. Maybe it was Malcolm? Anyway, Gary came to my rescue on a rental inspection eve when I needed a quick and easy way to tame the overgrown jungle at the back of my unit and he introduced me to the wondrous invention known as a lawn mower.
By way of thanks I paid him in beer because two spare beers from my own fridge (which I think I got for free anyway) was a lot cheaper than hiring someone to mow, especially when it was late afternoon. Jeremy appreciated the beers left by his mower when I returned it and all was good in the world once more.
Stoner man was the second good neighbour
Again, I’m rubbish with names so by virtue of random male names I know (and in this particular case I went to school with), for the sake of this story Stoner Man shall now be called Torsten. Torsten liked two things mainly, smoking green out the back of his unit and smoking green out the back in the rain. It wasn’t a habit shared by his lovely wife and daughter (they really were nice to chat to) but it was rare that I didn’t see him smoking away in his backyard at all hours of the day and night where even in his hazy state, he played neighbourhood watch – although with more focus on people visiting houses than actual criminals prowling.
‘Hey Al, who was that Asian bird who popped round for dinner the other night?’-Torsten, chatting over the fence from his own backyard. A shout out to Michelle the girl in question if she’s reading this.
I’d also like to send a special shout out to my best mate’s wife Jess who also managed to site Torsten in an experience she’d probably like to forget.
‘He’s got his d–k in one hand taking a piss in the corner and a joint in the other, waving at me as I walked past..’-Jess, popping in with Heath to say hello.
Obviously being that focused on keeping the neighbourhood safe, Torsten the good neighbour rarely left his post.
My best story involving this pillar of the community however involved my old Mazda Rx7 that went bang one night about 100 kms away from my unit. Since the RACV didn’t seem to have a belt that would fix the one that snapped, they called a tow truck. And since my roadside assistance plan only covered a short distance away from my house, it’d be roughly $3.50 per kilometre to tow it back home at that stupid time of night that it broke down.
Not only did it seem like I was paying for his kids to go to university just by getting my car back to base, he also flat out refused my suggestion to ‘dump it a block away’ from where I lived. No according to Captain Tow, it needed to be towed right to the carport of my residence.
So it’s now 3am and the tow truck from hell is making one incredible ruckus that’s echoing off the buildings in the parking area off the back. There’s lights flashing to add to the chaos and all I want to do is go to bed without crying about the dent I’ve just added to my credit card. Finally we push it under the carport and he goes off to buy Cuban cigars after I pay the bill. I sleep (badly) and call in sick the next day because I was feeling rougher than the snapped belt at this stage. I organise a mobile mechanic to pop round early in the afternoon and that’s when Torsten emerges, wandering over to take a look at what we’re up to.
‘So sorry if I woke you last night!’ I tell him, hoping a preemptive nicety strike will diffuse any possible gripe he has over being woken up.
‘I looked through the window last night at your car on the truck…then I grabbed my cricket bat…and then I saw you and I thought ha, he’s not stealing his own car is he! (chuckles) ..and then I went back to sleep…’ And with that slightly slowed and slurred explanation, he did an about turn and wandered back to his backyard post before I had a chance to say anything else.
‘Mate, what the f— was that all about?’ the mobile mechanic asked me quietly when Torsten was out of earshot.
‘Just the neighbour from across the way.’ I shrugged. Up until then (and ever since) I haven’t had a good neighbour willing to go to war with a cricket bat over a possibly stolen car. Although given his usual state, I’d probably be fearing more damage to the car than the crims trying to boost it.
(I didn’t thank him with beer though. In hindsight this was probably a very good thing.)
Finally Andrew is my latest good neighbour
(And I remember his name because this incident happened just last week..)
Long story short, I was servicing my wife’s Mitsubishi Lancer for a big trip to Melbourne coming up on the weekend and a simple one hour oil and filter change soon became a six and a half hour wrestling match that had me covered in oil and my own blood and looking for help wherever I could find it. The full write up and all the details of it going completely off the rails can be found right here but let this broken bastard of an oil filter picture sum up my frustrations in 1000 nasty words.
No matter what I did, no matter what I tried, that oil filter was so wrenched in there nothing sure of nuclear meltdown was going to get it off again. The more I tried, the more it crumpled and fell to pieces making a difficult job horrendously worse with every effort.
By the time I ran into Andrew I was holding my slashed finger to stem the bleeding, in a world of pain and looking horribly worse for wear myself. But as soon as this classic car owning all round top bloke arrived on the scene (if he can restore a classic car then this shouldn’t be too much of a drama to fix I figured) as soon as I said the words ‘Can I pick your mechanical brain for a second?’ and showed him a pic of the problem, he was under the car cursing the mechanic who had used an air tool to almost cement it in place just like I’d done hours earlier.
After an hour of trying his vast repertoire of tools, he finally got the go ahead from an auto space engineer mate who randomly called for something else to use one of his favourite tools of all time, the application of heat. ‘Should be fine something something not reaching blast point something’ Torch in hand and then some quick work with a hammer and chisel and suddenly the remaining scrap hit the ground and I punched the air in triumph.
Andrew the good neighbour refused my offer of beer or wine as a bare minimum way of saying thank you and ending my hours long ride on the frustration train, telling me he was happy just helping out a neighbour. And as nice as that gesture was, I refused to just leave it at that and turned up on his doorstep the next day while he was out, asking his wife politely to pass on the six pack of beers to him as it was the least I could do for what he did.
She also echoed that there was no need to but I wouldn’t have it. He could have said no and left me to my own devices, where I’d probably continued to bash away at it and lacerate myself further in the process.
Make friends with your good neighbours kids and make sure you have some beer on hand when you do. Because you never know when a good neighbour might pop up at an opportune time to really get your day back on track.