There was a short-lived website here called backfence.com which was supposed to recreate, on the Internet, that old-fashioned opportunity to share news, ask advice and exchange opinions over the common back fences of our yards.
As useful as the Internet is, as much as I rely on e-mail in place of knocking on a neighbor's door or even picking up the phone ("Mommy, why are you calling the Superys instead of just walking across the street? That's not good for the earth."), the low-tech peasant in me still needs the face-to-face experience that a thing like backfence.com can't replace, even with all those clever avatars to customize. So where am I getting it?
My hu-co* hotspots are the Ayrlawn bus stop, morning and afternoon, and in the little copier room at school. This is where I see the same folks every day, where we can pick up where we left off last time, where I can ask how to save a dying plant (sounds like it's already dead), when class photos are (today) and where to find a dozen pairs of scissors (go buy them at Staples). These neighbors will do me a favor if I'm running late, will ask me a favor if they need one, and laugh at my stupid quips about school or national politics (out of politeness if not out of actual amusement).
And these exchanges are as close to concrete as social relations can be. They're here and now, live and unedited, and they remind me (as my conversation last night with the children about Samantha Smith, the Cold War and nuclear weapons did) that just because we can doesn't mean we should. Just because we can communicate almost solely by IM, Blackberry, email, evite, Facebook, blogger.com, cell phone, and other highwired tools doesn't mean we should. Sometimes we need to look each other in the eye.
So I'm going to get up, open the front door, walk 50 yards, and say good morning to a neighbor I have not laid eyes on since we got back on August 4. And if she's not there, I'll send her the link to this post.