Over the past half dozen years or so I have increasingly noticed an odd sight in my travels through rural and suburban America that I have come to believe is the beginning of a movement of some sort. Never mind the fact that it doesn’t involve any movement. I’m talking about garage sitting, the new activity-less activity whereby people with perfectly good houses with perfectly good TVs plunk down in a folding chair in the opening of their garage and watch the world go by. Or, perhaps for those with memories or imaginations of more tranquil times, to watch the world go bye-bye.
A curious thing about these garage sitters is that they are also likely to have perfectly relaxing backyards to escape to, in some cases complete with decks, patios, pools, grills, grass, and gardens enough to replace the world entirely with a substitute more to their liking. So who are these people who have turned their backs on their backyards and said the heck with the deck, traded the privacy fence for the seat by the street, birds and squirrels for cars and people, and who look as comfortable as if they’d been transported back to a 1950’s front porch swing?
From what I can tell, garage sitters are most apt to be men and women who are old enough to remember front porches and neighbors, at least neighbors who weren’t so prone to yelling “Get off my lawn!” It may have been started by some of the bolder ones who grew tired of peering at the world through curtained windows, but who weren’t quite ready for such public activities as walking the neighborhood. Garage sitters have the security of the home at their back and the adventure of the world at their feet, since the garage is connected to the driveway, the driveway is connected to the street, and the street is connected to the imagination, for it can go anywhere. Sitting quiet and alone at the entrance to the world can be a powerful Zen-like experience, marred only by the occasional dragon passing by in the form of a barking dog, a belching motorcycle, a screaming fire truck, or a door-to-door evangelist from an entirely different world.
I believe these garage sitters are the spiritual kin to the cave sitters of mankind’s early days, when the neighborhood was full of dragons that came in the from of large, hungry creatures who discovered that Zen-like experiences were meant to be savored, one practitioner at a time. It paid to be cautious then, as now, when it is only memories that can eat one up.
Some garage sitters, however, do so expressly to invite the world in. They might not have the welcoming front porch, but they do have a welcoming wave, an extra chair, and a thick enough hide to ignore the nagging to get out of the chair and do something for a change. News from the neighborhood is generally far more interesting than either news from the newspaper or from inside the house. Additionally, people watching with a friend is always more fun than doing so alone, and provides a terrific chance to really sharpen one’s critical evaluation skills. Experienced garage sitters strongly advise that anyone actively engaging in this sport keep the garage door remote close at hand.
Don’t despair if you’re a novice though and social media is as social as you’ve been for years. Dogs and babies offer great opportunities for engagement. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, just remember that it is usually enough to comment on passing dogs and babies, there is no need to procure them for yourself. Having cold beverages available however can help. And if you’re still having trouble drawing people in, try a garage sale. Why not, you’re already there, I’m sure you can find something to offer besides your spouse’s car. Do not, however, attempt to sell any dogs or babies you hurriedly procured in your rush to make new friends.
There is yet another category of garage sitter that has taken things to a whole new level. These are typically younger men who have moved the cars out of the garage and replaced them with car posters, not to mention rugs, recliners, TVs, beer fridges, pool tables, poker tables, and weekend football parties. Many traditionalists feel that this has gone too far, and that these people do not have the proper spirit of garage sitting. Many spouses feel they don’t have the proper spirit of garages. Or of relationships.
Already I have seen the signs that garage sitting is sweeping America, opening up new vistas to people feeling isolated in their homes and backyards. Soon, perhaps, fences will come down and neighbors will again be neighbors, sipping lemonade and chatting breezily in their garage openings as they wonder why they don’t have front porches. It could be worse. As this trend catches on, there are undoubtedly those like myself who will be looking pretty silly sitting on a folding chair on the driveway as we wonder why we don’t even have a garage.