separate but equal

Yesterday, while heading into the shared basement to do laundry, I locked myself out of the condo. I realized my blunder the moment I committed it, and grimaced silently. Since Jared was already on his way home, I figured I’d make the most of the next forty minutes. I entered our (unlocked!) storage unit in the basement, sat down on a plastic bin, and rifled through various semi-unpacked boxes. I found something I had been looking for for months, read an article in an outdated music magazine, perused the transcript of my 1989 bladder surgery, and laughed at some remnants of a party game called “The Paper Game” that some friends and I used to play quite often.

Then I came upon a photocopy of a former employer’s newsletter, and now we must back up several years to provide some context.

When I was eighteen, I began working at my first (and second to last) office job in Boston. The company had been established in 1895 as a sort of drafting supply and blueprints outfit, and had changed with the times as those technologies became obsolete. By the time I got there in aught-one, there were departments for digital imaging, large format printing, construction supplies, and survey equipment. I started as the receptionist and after a while switched to the inside sales department. I mainly sold paper, thus ensuring that by the time the original The Office series came to DVD in the US, I fully empathized with its characters. The current president was the nostalgic type, and he had a large archive of materials from the company’s one-hundred-plus year history which he loved to share with us youngins. One such item was the company’s first newsletter from June 1941, which opened hilariously with:

“Have you a transit that needs repairing? Or a microscope that is out of kilter? Or any scientific instrument that needs repairs?” It also cotained some great retro ads for tracing papers, and less explicably, a small section called Just For a Laugh which featured the following joke:

Judge: Guilty or not guilty?
Sambo: Not guilty, suh.
Judge: Have you ever been in jail?
Sambo: No, yo’ honah, ah nevah stole nuthin’ befo’.

After this trip down Shameful Memory Lane, I started to desire some fresh air, so I went outside and around to the front porch and sat by my impenetrable front door. Our building contains four separate units that share a common porch, and over the next twenty minutes I encountered the residents of each unit. First, one of the girls from Unit #1 returned home after a dog walk. By way of small talk I explained my situation, and she offered me the keys to her home, stating that she and Unit #2 had the same keys and that it was therefore worth a shot. I tried her key, but it didn’t work. She went inside. A short time later, the girl from Unit #2 came out. She too offered me her key and then told me she was heading out, but that I should go inside and watch sports with her husband if I was bored. Soon thereafter, the girl from Unit #3 came outside, and together we theorized that if Units 1 and 2 shared keys, then 3 and 4 might share a set as well. She gave me her key and it worked, and I entered my home at last. Roughly three minutes later, Jared came home, and I regaled him with Jim Crow era relics and tales of our friendly neighbors.

2 thoughts on “separate but equal


  1. Roughly three minutes later, Jared came home, and I regaled him with Jim Crow era relics and tales of our friendly neighbors.

    …and the fact that neighbors have the power to come in and touch your things whenever they want to.

  2. We trust them, both because they’re good people and because they know that we, too, can enter their home at any time and touch their stuff.

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