After living in our new house in Charlotte, North Carolina, for a few weeks, we were delighted to receive an invitation to a block party to meet our neighbors.
Up to that point, we’d only seen and spoken with one neighbor. She and her family welcomed us to the area, offered an air-conditioning reference and shared the garbage pickup schedule.
The morning of the upcoming gathering, my wife and I took a walk through the neighborhood. We admired the landscaping and architecture of nearby homes. We moved off the sidewalk as runners passed us. We trotted up one lawn to clear space for a biker whose steering wheel seemed to be pulling left and right.
Most of the people in cars waved as they passed, a regular occurrence here, even when they didn’t know us.
My wife believes I alert the canines in the area that I am a “dog person.” A golden retriever and a black Labrador spotted me from across the street and stared, causing their owner to stop and wait as they watched us disappear up the block.
A friendly man with a small dog stopped and chatted. He asked if we were residents and if we were attending the block party that evening. When we told him we moved here with our kids, he asked what brought us down.
“Work,” we said.
“Oh,” he said, turning to me. “Did you get a job with one of the banks?”
“No, my wife did,” I replied, directing his attention to her.
He was embarrassed and immediately apologized for assuming I had landed a job that required us to relocate. We reassured him it was fine and we kept walking.
I am proud of my wife and her professional accomplishments. I also recognize, even in a world where people regularly discuss equal opportunity, that we are still far from situations in which people can’t assume anything about the roles husbands and wives play when they meet a couple.
Later that evening, with our children in tow, we walked the few blocks to the party, waving politely at a man who almost certainly carried a beer the same way 20 years ago when he was in college, although his clothing, like ours, was probably a few sizes smaller. Maybe that’s an unfair assumption, too?
When we arrived on a tree-lined cul-de-sac, we noticed that most of the children were considerably younger than our pair, who snarled about an early exit.
After urging them to stay, we made some selections in the crowd and broke the social ice. Consistent with our experience since our arrival, we found people who came originally from Long Island, New York and New Jersey.
We chatted with a proud father, who pointed to his high school senior and proclaimed her the best athlete in her entire school.
“You must be in public relations,” I said.
He and his daughter laughed.
“That guy over there,” he said, pointing to a house.
“Yes?” I replied.
“He is a neurosurgeon who works with football players. His attends games and he does concussion protocol.”
“Really?” I asked.
“The players are supposed to say ‘spaghetti’ when they see him after a hard hit. They get hit so hard that they say things like ‘ham’ or ‘bologna’ because they can’t remember the first concussion word,” he offered.
Our children, despite their initial disappointment, found contemporaries that night and are cellphone buddies with the kids on the block. We received restaurant recommendations and local service provider referrals, while we also will recognize a few of the people who exchange pleasant waves on and off the block.