After being overwhelmed for the past decade by my “sabbatical into suburbia,” and after many false starts in trying to write down my experiences in the field, I finally broke down a few days ago and started a series of essays dedicated to the curious people I live near known as “neighbors.” After writing my first essay a few days ago, dedicated to “The Social Climbers,” I’ve been overwhelmed at who to examine next. Really, at the speed of a cautious minivan full of kids, the different categories of neighbor-type carefully drove by my brain until I could take it no more. So here is my second installment of the series. Perhaps you may even know this/these neighbor(s). I know one or two of them. I call them “The Profilers.”
Now in this day of intense police television drama, the term “profiler” takes on an exciting new meaning. It is not the meaning I’m referring to here in my bland cul-de-sac. When I say “profiler” I literally mean that this is the only part of the face you will ever see on these neighbors. For reasons unknown, as soon as The Profiler spies you out of the corner of their eye they turn away and pretend they have no idea you are standing next to them. Now I must emphasize that not all neighbors are a Profiler. There are many different crayons in the box. Even I am a crayon in this box.
The Profilers are a neighbor that took me a while to recognize. At first you wave hello, or look in their direction to catch their eye, but they are always too busy to notice or slow down to return your “hello.” You think, well they have a lot of children running around or must be on their way to an important business meeting. I’ll say “hello” next time. But the next time it’s the same, this time they’re juggling groceries, on the cell phone or dashing into the house like they are improperly digesting a rich and spicy lunch. “Next time,” you say. But the next time you see them they’re with some other Profilers. This time they are in deep discussion in their front yard about who knows what. Something flashes and you’re hopes are elevated, “Was that a wave?” As you return the gesture you notice by the grimace and shrieks from The Profilers that they are actually swatting at a bee that has decided to attack them. “Good Bee,” you think.
Slowly it begins to sink in that The Profilers want nothing to do with anyone other than their select group of Profilers. You start to wonder, “What would happen if we were trapped in an elevator together? Would they speak to me then?” Seems that as long as a cell phone was handy the answer would be “no.” Maybe it’s for the best.
Here is a true story. One of the worst Profilers in my neighborhood and I were in an interesting social situation a few years ago that should have rightly resulted in an exchanged hello. I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when I recognized the back of the head directly in front of me. I knew that back of the head! It lived across the street from me. As this person turned around and faced me I realized I’d never seen their full-face before. I seriously was looking at a stranger. We locked eyes, and I knew she knew who I was because I’m not a Profiler. As soon as she saw me, and in textbook Profiler haste, she said not a word, about-faced and continued unloading her cart. Never to turn around again. True story! It really is quite funny.
So, why are The Profilers so exclusive? I can only make guesses. I’ve never spoken to The Profilers directly in more than two or three word hurried and awkward sentences at a time. These exchanges are at the mailbox or bus stop. Here is the exchange after nearly a decade: “Hi! How are you?” Neither of us sticks around to hear the other’s answer. I’ve come to accept it.