There’s not much to see outside the window where my desk sits: a big swath of sky, a maple tree, the row of townhouses across our narrow condo street, a shaggy pine that was once a shrub but now obscures the neighbour’s front door, the shadows of people in their kitchen windows.
Our street is a dead-end and holds only 14 units: there is no through traffic. Every car that motors up the hill and turns into our laneway is scrutinized thoroughly by me and any neighbours who happen to be in their kitchens. Like gophers, our heads pop up as we follow the progress of the vehicle. Funny thing is there is more traffic now on our tiny street than before. A daily parade of UPS, FedEx, and Purolater trucks, the unmarked vehicles delivering Amazon packages, and of course Skip-the-Dishes and Uber Eats drivers meander into our neighbourhood.
My Grandma would have loved this new, busy pattern. She’d moved to our small Vancouver Island town from Chicago where she was accustomed to the sound of steady traffic all hours of the day, sirens of emergency vehicles, and lots and lots of foot traffic outside her apartment. She complained daily that there was nothing to see outside our living room window in Comox.
As a child, I was perplexed by Grandma’s complaints since our first home on the Island had a spectacular view of the Comox Glacier and the harbour leading to a river estuary. There were always Bald Eagles to watch diving into the water and pulling up fat salmon. Back then there was still a small commercial fishery and boat traffic chugged slowly by on the way to deeper water fishing grounds. The only sounds were birds, lawn mowers, and intermittent jet traffic from the nearby air force base. Occasionally, an ambulance siren would wail on its way to the hospital just up the road.
I supplied Grandma with most of her excitement when my boyfriend would drop me off after a date. We’d sit in the driveway, headlights out, necking, knowing she’d be watching. We’d stop our long good night kiss and look up into her bedroom window and there she’d be, her lights off but the outline of her upper body and her silver-blue hair clear. And then we’d kiss some more. I could hear her in my head going “Tsk”. Sometimes we’d see her shaking her head – whether with disgust or dismay, or both, I don’t know – and we’d laugh. Sometimes we’d sit in the car and not kiss and just watch her window and count out the seconds until she popped into sight.
Now I’m the gopher in the window, eagerly wondering who is getting what from Purolater or Amazon, speculating about home reno needs, dinners, food and other critical supplies inside the boxes ranging from refrigerator size to small, padded envelopes. The distraction from the monotony is delicious. New faces in the neighbourhood – so exciting! Men and women delivering goods. Uniforms and everyday clothes. Hat and hatless. Smiling or grim faced. Waving. No waves. I bellow out “Thank-you” when a package one of my daughter’s has ordered arrives. I don’t care what’s inside but, goddamn, I’m so grateful to hear a new voice reply “You’re welcome!”