As I have described, we live 10 miles out of Ithaca in the small hamlet of Danby. Our house is in the woods and we can't see any of our neighbors, which are few and far between. Almost no one visits the house, the kids are grown and gone, and my wife is working almost non-stop in her office at one end of the house. The bottom line is--I'm lonely.
I know this because two days ago a small, beige car drove up the driveway, parked at an awkward angle, and sat there for a moment before anyone got out. I knew then exactly who they were. A nicely dressed man and a teenage girl got out of the car, and began walking piously toward me carrying something in their hands. You guessed it. They were from Jehovah's Witnesses and they had their usual copy of the Watchtower to offer me. Normally, I brush off strangers in a New York minute who come to the house trying to sell me anything. But in this case I was never so glad to see another human being. We had a pleasant talk for about 15 minutes, about everything in the world except religion. At several pauses in the conversation, the man shook my hand, but then I thought of another topic I wanted to cover. The guy must have shaken my hand at the end of what he thought was the finale of our conversation at least three times. I honestly believe that he thought I was trying to convert HIM. I realize now, they were anxious to leave.
I have taken to walking down my country road and talking to any neighbors who make the mistake of venturing outside at that moment. The letter carrier woman speeds past our mailbox if I am in the driveway, but I know she has mail for us. The UPS guy tosses the package from his moving truck as he passes by our garage. The electric company lady checks our meter in the dark with a flashlight. It is amazing how hard of hearing she is. She must hear me calling as I run after her little white pickup in my pajamas. And because we signed up for that program, even telemarketers don't call anymore.
But I think I am solving the problem. I have joined Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Xomba, Helium, SheToldMe, ISayToo, Squidoo, and Moli. I have worked my way through my old gradebook going back to 1980, and invited every former student I can find to be my friend. I belong to four social chat rooms and three stock trading message boards. We actually have two landlines (with a phone in every room except the bathroom, but I'm fixing that this weekend), a cell phone, and a fax machine, and, of course, I have email, Skype, and several instant messaging accounts. If you get a busy signal, try another device. If you are in Ithaca, just drive out.
On the bright side, I have been spending a lot of time with myself, and I've gotten to know me pretty well. All in all, not a bad friend to have.