The Lost Art of Dropping In
It’s no secret I’m a ride or die fan of the show Friends. But you really can’t fault me, because the cosmos aligned at the perfect moment. A show about a group of 20 somethings (who were actually 30 somethings but we all just silently agreed it was best to ignore that for the sake of entertainment) living large in NYC, searching for love and dream careers while sleeping with each other and singing along to “Smelly Cat” comes into my life when I am also a 20 something, who is living small in Tampa, searching for love and a dream career while intentionally not sleeping with my friends and singing along to anything by Sarah McLaughlin or the Indigo Girls. Relatable? Indeed.
Some say that the running storyline of Ross and Rachel was what kept them hooked. Others would argue they tuned in each Thursday night for Chandler’s one-liners or Phoebe’s free spirited take on being a former homeless twin of an amateur porn star. All this is fun and whacky and highly entertaining, but none are the reason I love this show. For me, it was the sense of community these six friends created and the open door policy that came with it.
I loved watching them pop into one another’s apartments; sharing breakfast together before work only to meet up that evening to hash out their day. There was never a scene in which Joey calls Monica to ask when she will be home, find out if he can come by, or schedule a time to hang with her. If Joey needed something, he just dropped in and said, “how you doin’?”
In modern times, dropping in is a lost art and as it departs it takes with it the informal gatherings that build meaningful community and tender memories. These days every one is too busy to even think about quickly popping over to a friend’s house when they’re nearby. Or more so, terribly worried about being seen as rude, intrusive, or invasive to so boldly show up unannounced. What if you ring the bell as your friend’s son is having a nuclear meltdown over math homework? That would be embarrassing. Or suppose your drop in coincides with a meal? Oof. You are one giant B-hole with devastatingly bad timing.
You have the ability to control so many aspects of life now. Social media is a curated carousel of concerts, vacations, and five star vegan charcuterie boards. Text and email allow you to (sometimes) think before responding and choose your words with gentle care. Using nothing but your phone, you can sync calendars with your partner and know all the specifics of their dental appointments. Which means having a person drop in on your real raw afternoon can launch you into a tailspin. There’s no edit button, no time to pop on to thesaurus.com to find a just right word, and dammit, no one put this on the calendar.
I long for a surprise knock on my door. To see the face of a friend and invite them in. At this point in my life, I welcome as many happy surprises as possible. I’ll apologize for my living room looking like the morning after an all-night fraternity party, pour you a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and try hard to control the giddiness that is coursing through my veins from your spontaneous act of dropping in. And when we part, my soul will be so nourished I won’t even need to eat my emergency pre-dinner snack.
Now I can imagine that any introverts reading this have broken out in hives at this point. But my husband is the captain of that team and I promise that he loves drop ins as much as me. OK, that’s being generous. Initially, he will quickly run through a list of fake reasons he needs to leave the house immediately, but ultimately turn to me once our guest has left and say, “it was really good to see them.”
Human connection feels good, it’s what we were designed to experience. And the added element of the unexpected makes those interactions even juicier. I truly believe if you remove the fear of showing up sans planning, magic can happen. Beautiful, real, honest time spent with people who matter. It puts you in the moment and forces you to be present. No calling. No texting. Just popping over to say, “how you doin’?”