By Callie Oettinger | Published: October 24, 2014
My neighbor called yesterday. She was in the hospital and her husband’s cell phone wasn’t working. He’d forgotten to bring a few things with him and was on his way back home to pack another bag for her. Would I pop over and ask him to grab a few extra things to bring back to the hospital?
I adore these neighbors and would do anything to help them, so I dropped what I was doing and stuck my head outside. Empty car port.
Back inside, I grabbed a sticky pad and pen and scribbled a note with the items she needed, then headed to the kitchen for a plastic bag. It was raining and I needed the note to survive. Only gallon-sized freezer bags were in the designated baggie-tin-foil-and-cling-wrap drawer. (Noted to self: Buy more sandwich-sized bags and hide from 6-year-old who hordes them for random rocks, pilfered coins, and other bric-a-brac).
No Scotch-tape in site (also most-likely claimed by the 6-year-old), I grabbed a tape gun, tucked it under my arm and headed back outside, note-stuffed gallon bag in one hand and umbrella in the other.
Not wanting to risk paint pulling from their door if I taped the note to it (and thus a call from the horrid HOA to repaint, which is the horrid HOA’s M.O.), I stared, wondering about the best placement. The door knocker made the most sense. It was centered, toward the top of the door. Because the note was in a gallon-sized plastic bag, it would hang below the knocker, at about my neighbor’s eye-level, note facing out through the clear plastic.
A few minutes after drying off inside, I heard his car. Moving faster than a TMZ informer sniffing out a payday, I stuck my head back out. The note was still on the front door as he shut it behind him.
What to do?
Did he see it and leave it because he was in a rush? Or did he tell himself he’d read it on the way out?
The Type A cloth from which I was cut demanded me back outside to double-check. I bypassed the soggy tennis shoes and pulled out my flip-flops this time, hoping they wouldn’t hydroplane over the sidewalk and land me in a puddle, grabbed the umbrella and headed back out.
At their door, I pulled off the note and knocked.
A few seconds of silence later, I could hear footsteps approaching the door.
“Hi, John. Joan called and asked me to give you this note. I just wanted to make sure you saw it.”
Furrowed brows. Pause. (Insert good-natured English-accent, because it changes things up when you read, and imagine a thick-salt-and-pepper haired 70ish fellow with a mustache and smiling eyes, too, if you’d like.) “No, I didn’t. Were you just putting it up?”
Smile. (Drop the English accent for my comments.) “No, it was on your door when you opened it.”
Laugh. Head shake. “I didn’t even see it. I was rushing and focused on getting in the door.”
I shook my head and laughed. “Men . . .”
He smiled and made a joke about running around. He and his wife have a wonderful sense of humor. He’s always teasing, and that’s the nature of our relationship—good-natured teasing, even during awful situations. Helps keep a positive outlook, though we do go straight-serious at times, too.
After an update on his wife’s health, he thanked me, and then was off again.
I walked back home, thinking about how fortunate I am to have them in my life and about how I hope she feels better soon, as my less-emotional, uncompassionate inner Type-A made a mental note to tape future notes onto door handles instead of door knockers.
Why am I sharing this?
Because, in addition to loving my neighbors and enjoying the smile that thinking about them puts on my face as I type this, I’m also obsessed with how messages are shared.
In such a simple situation, I placed a message in what I thought was the best position: The door knocker.
There was one better: The doorknob.
Morals of the story: 1) Think about your messaging and placement. What you consider great placement — an obvious place that you can’t imagine anyone missing — might go unseen. 2) Lessons arrive at the oddest times.