(On reflection, other factors are probably that "the people who you meet when you're walking down the street" don't get met if instead of walking down the street you walk only to your car and then drive down the street; and that more and more both/all adults in a family have to work during the day so there's less opportunity for interaction.)
( These are the people in my neighbourhood )
Wednesday afternoon, after the long-aforementioned lunchroom discussion, I come home and the boy who appears to be the Deaf girl's younger brother greets me with "This is from your mailbox." Holding up a bag with a notebook and pen in it that I keep in my mailbox for the noting of messages in case of emergency. I said, "...Yes, yes it is," and put it back and went into my house.
Ten minutes later I'm grabbing a zucchini and some silverbeet from the garden when K comes over to give me a lovely gift set of nice sauces. My guess is that it came from someone's well-intentioned contribution to a food parcel, because she immediately asked if she could borrow some money. I happened to have the $20 she paid me back last time so gave her that.
Ten minutes later I'm chopping up vegetables for my dinner when the Deaf girl knocks on my door and shows me her broken scooter. I poke ineffectually at it for a while with various tools, then decide it really needs the nuts taken off which I can't do. So I'm halfway to next door to see if they have what it takes when I hear the distinctive sound of power tools. Immediately changing direction I find someone with an entire car-yard in his driveway. Once I've explained the situation he immediately agrees to fix it: "Anything for the neighbourhood kids."
Which I feel is a lovely end to the day.
But then as I'm cooking my dinner the Deaf girl comes back to ask my name. It takes her three goes before I understand but then we spend some time fingerspelling and then I confirm with paper just to be sure. (I'll call her H.) She takes this opportunity to wander through my entire house touching everything at which point I'm... what is going on here. I explain I'm eating and show her to the door.
Halfway through dinner she's back. I explain again that I'm eating. At some point this turns into a tour of the garden (it's now after dark). I start wondering if I've given her the impression that I'm going to give her something to eat, so grab a bunch of grapes off the vine for her and send her on her way.
Today I go to several neighbours both on this street and the street behind us to ask if anyone's seen my missing cat. (The majority of them ask "The black and white one?" Sadly no, but I know the one they mean.) [ETA: the cat came back the next morning, in 'recovering from mystery illness mode'.] When I'm back, K comes over to ask if she can borrow more money; I say I don't have any cash. (This is not strictly true to the extent that I do in fact have cash, but I also have limits. Poorly defined limits, but limits.)
As she goes, H comes and wants to hang out. Or something. I try to explain I can't and she seems to go away. For about five minutes. At some point I go and hide in one the spare bedroom to attempt to ignore the knocking on the door; it doesn't help much. I'd have gone to the library except it was closed for Anzac Day. I did take the opportunity to teach myself some NZSL online; unfortunately what I taught myself was "I'm busy doing stuff, sorry, go home."
On the bright side she does clearly understand when I sign this to her! Yay communication! She goes away and I breathe a sigh of relief. On the downside, she comes back again, and again, and again. (She knocked on the door again while I was writing the above paragraph.) I get the impression of a) some degree of intellectual disability, hard to be sure given my lack of NZSL but OMG boundaries, plus b) a bunch of loneliness such that being able to talk with someone who knows like six words including "go home" is really exciting.
I should go talk to her family and say actually I'd love to practice my pathetic NZSL with her, but, like, once a week max at a predetermined time. Or at least just on the footpath. It's just, I've already talked to more humans in the last 24 hours than I ideally prefer, and could happily go another month without any more interaction with any of my neighbours at all.