In part 1 of The Neighbor & My Phone, I introduced you to my neighbor Nia. She spoke roughly 10 words of English and I thought she was in trouble, needing to use my cell. A parade of “what if” scenarios marched their happy asses through my head including elder abuse and human smuggling. In reality, she just wanted to shoot the shit with her sister. I would find myself in the same situation, 6 weeks later. Let’s do this.
Nia was on my porch, leaning on her cane. She smiled her big toothy smile I had become familiar with over the summer.
“How are you?” She said in her typical broken English.
“I’m good. How about you?” I asked. I was wearing my Chihuahua (It’s a baby bjorn for small dogs, don’t judge me) and having worked from home, hadn’t brushed my hair in 2 days or worn makeup since last Tuesday. I looked like a new mother except I was 17 years into motherhood so I couldn’t blame my appearance on that.
Nia got down to brass tacks.
“I need to use your phone now,” she said as if she was placing a Starbucks order.
“Now?” I asked looking at my Fitbit. It was 9:30 in the morning.
“Yes, till 12:30,” I think she said. I was annoyed she was placing demands on my phone so I held my ground.
“Nia, I can’t right now. Tell you what, I’ll come to your house at 12:30 today.”
“12:30?” she asked. “That is too late.”
“I’m in the middle of work, I can’t let you use it right now.”
I felt proud of my firm stance until I realized I would be personally delivering my phone to her in 3 hours. Nia turned around and slowly walked off our porch. I contemplated if she would successfully make it back to her house without falling over given her feeble state.
Dutifully, I leashed up my Chihuahua Lulu, and walked my phone down at 12:30. Like a prison guard, I told her she had 10 minutes. I turned on my heel and walked back to my house.
My mind is a real ass-hole. Just like when a million scenarios skipped through my head the first time she asked to use my phone, the same thing was happening now. Only this time, I had visions of her going through my texts, pictures, etc.
Did I delete those pics I sent to my husband?
Was she reading the completely wrong texts between me and most of my friends?
Is she reading the unpublished, dark blog posts I had written?
Suddenly, I did a U-turn with Lulu and began to mall-walk my way back to her home. With each step came a new, horrific vision of what was happening with my phone. Sure, she probably had the tech skills of an Amish farmer but it didn’t stop the thoughts. When I walked up her driveway, I looked at my watch. I was 3 minutes early but fuck it, I didn’t care.
What Does She Look Like?
I knocked on the door. 30-seconds later, no one answered. I knocked again. After what felt like an eternity, a 30-something woman answered the door. Despite it being lunchtime, she was dressed in pajamas and looked annoyed that I disturbed her.
“Hi,” I began. “A woman that lives here, borrowed my phone. I don’t know if she’s your grandma or something.”
“She has my phone,”
“What does your phone look like?” She asked.
Are you kidding me? What does my phone look like? I didn’t know that phones came in any other shape other than rectangular. Had Apple developed an apple-shaped phone? Or perhaps Google made a round one?
The sarcasm took over and I decided to play the game.
“It’s rectangular, and looks like this,” I said as I held out my hand to imitate my phone. I looked like someone trying to describe where a city is in Michigan.
“What does she look like?” She asked confused. This is when I looked at her as if she had 2 heads, growing increasingly frustrated. How many fucking people live here? After all, it was a 3-bedroom, 4-bedroom house at most.
“It was the lady with the cane,” I responded.
She pondered this for a moment, asked that I wait, and shut the door. I heard voices on the other side and 30 seconds later, Nia opened it. She looked at me conspiratorily, grinned and fished in her pocket. She pulled out my phone and handed it to me.
“Thank you,” she said.
I was annoyed on so many levels but again, I’ve been taught to respect my elders so I bit my tongue and said good-bye.
But Wait, There’s More!
Lulu and I hadn’t even made it past two homes when I heard Nia’s door open. A female voice shouted in my direction but I ignored it. She shouted again to the point I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I turned around.
“My auntie used your phone?” She asked, a little boy I had never seen before trailed in her wake.
“Yeah, she did,” I responded.
“What number did she call?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, noticeably annoyed.
“Show me your phone.” She demanded.
“I’ll tell you the number,” I said as I wasn’t showing her my phone.
I told her the number and she just stared at me, genuinely annoyed. I stared back equally frustrated.
Days later, a patrol car rolled up to their house. Like a good nosy neighbor, I stood there and watched to see if anything out of the ordinary occurred. When the cop got back in the car to drive away, I flagged him down. I told him what had happened a few days prior. He said that the kids get on the adult phones and call 911 and that they’ve been there a dozen times.
“Then why the hell do they need my phone?” I blurted out confused. He explained they probably don’t have internet but can still call 911.
So let me ask you, what would you have done if you were in my shoes? Do you think I should have handled it a different way? I know for one thing, I’m done loaning my phone.
What a neighbour nightmare, it’s easy to get involved when there might be an emergency. I would probably have said something lame like my phone was broken the second time. Definitely give that home and all who sail in her a wide berth.
You know, I didn’t even think of going the broken road route. Then again, I’ve never been great at thinking of stuff like that on the spot. I’m going to feel incredibly guilty saying no, if there is a next time but that’s the way it has to be.