The last phrase of the theme of my favourite sitcom growing up has stuck with me as a description of a sense of home throughout the years. And being expat it is something you ponder about a lot. If you want some thought on it in proper English, the munificent Secret Wombat has had some entries on it.
This morning it happened again. My Yaya (nanny for my kids) told me there was a woman outside who wanted to sell me a fish.
- "She knows your name" C. said, which is code for "You'd better go out and talk to her"
So I did (and bought the fish)(and it was tasty).
I had never (knowingly) seen her before, but she knew who I was.
This particular incident is not hard to explain: I usually buy food that people bring to my doorstep. I figure I'm giving more back to the community that way. There's a good chance the woman knew someone who had earlier sold something to me. Maybe cucumbers. But it is part of a pattern.
Two weeks ago in the supermarket a man whom I've never (knowingly) seen before comes up to me at the check-out and says:
-"Sir, your lights are on"
After a split second of considering and dismissing the thought that this might be code for "Your fly is open" or "There's a huge bugger hanging out of your right nostril", I thanked him and said I'll be out in a minute to take care of it.
Now, did this man see me get out of my car? Probably not, why would he wait forty-five minutes to tell me? Then how, out of the hundred cars in the parking lot, did he match the one with the lights on to me?
A month ago my water distributor went out of business so I went to one of their competitors to ask them to start delivering water to me. I walk in to an office of a company I have never had anything to do with before, addressing a man I have never (knowingly) seen before and asked to have water delivered.
- “How many, sir?”
- “Five, please.”
- “Yes, please.”
I pay him and sign my name on a receipt. When I start to fill up the address-part I am interrupted by:
-"It's OK, sir, I know where you live"
Not in a threatening way. Just pure service. But you do start to wonder why: Is it “It’s that guy that screams at his children all the time” or “It’s that guy that bought cucumbers from my cousin” or “It’s that guy that walks in the rain without an umbrella”.
Whoever you are, you are not a stranger, you can’t be. There is no such thing as anonymity (with a few exceptions, I know). This IS the land of "Hey Joe"(Which, by the way, is close enough) where you get cheery greetings from every Tom, Dick and Jhun-Jhun, but among these are also an impressive number who actually know who you are.
And it leaves me with a feeling of reassurance since I know there are people out there who obviously are looking out for me, but also a feeling of sadness because I realise that being home is not just where everybody knows your name.
You know theirs, too.