Let me tell you about the time I pulled the car out of the garage and couldn’t get the overhead door to close behind me via the in-car remote.
Sounds fascinating, I know, yet bear with me.
Scene #1: The Garage
Frustrated and late for a yoga class, I exited the vehicle and dashed inside the garage to press the “close” button and dart back to the car. I’d figure out what caused the issue when I got home.
And then, as I stood in the garage with my finger still in the air, having just pushed the red button, the overhead door slammed to the ground, stranding me inside with no house keys or phone and leaving my car running outside with the door open and my purse in the console.
I managed to McGuyver my way out.
I won’t bore you with the details. Yet in the panicked minutes I stood trapped in my Houston-summer-hot garage with no method of communication to the outside world and no way to get inside the house or outside to the driveway, I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me, especially given that this had happened on a Saturday morning—meaning that no one would likely notice me missing until at least Monday (and probably not even until late that day, given the number of external meetings I have scheduled during the average week)—and with the likelihood that someone happening by would shortly steal my car, handbag, phone, and wallet, leaving nary a tip-off clue for my neighbors.
Scene #2: The Run
And let me tell you about the time I tripped over some road-construction debris on a run, breaking a rib and cracking my head and causing enough of a visible commotion to stop at least a couple concerned bystanders, who asked if I knew the name of the president and the day of the week. (I did, but I could hardly breathe enough with a broken rib to answer. Amped up my levels of pathetic a few notches, don’cha know.)
One of the bystanders asked me repeatedly—incredulously, really—who he could call to come get me and whether I had someone at home to take care of me when I got there. My family couldn’t have arrived to my location in any sort of reasonable timeframe.
And I had no one at home to help me.
I had to admit both to the rescuer, which made me quite the sorry character. In fact, his concern seemed so deep, especially as he dropped me at my front door and asked yet again whether I really, truly didn’t have anyone inside who could help, that after I finally managed to pry off my sportswear, I had a little pity cry in the shower.
The Dangers of Having No Tribe
As much as I enjoy living independently, having no tribe has its hazards.
First, let’s define “tribe.”
Though some strict definitions consider “tribe” a group predominantly allied through kinship, I prefer a broader definition from psychology and some sectors of anthropology that considers a tribe “a social group of humans connected by a shared system of values and organized for mutual care, defense, and survival beyond that which could be attained by a lone individual or family.”
Though I have a relatively close family, none of us call each other or see each other every day. (Well, the married and nuclear-family components do, but between these groups, we do not.)
I have no kids living at home or living remotely to check in with me.
I do not have a group of people for which I watch out and take care and that does the same for me, other than my company cohort (and even then, only on weekdays and during working hours).
Experts say people who live alone should have companion animals—and I’ve written about whether I agree. Yet Ramona can only look out for me so much. She can’t help me in a practical fashion when I’ve managed to hurt myself (go me, the eternal klutz) or have picked up an illness somewhere. She can’t do much if I don’t come home one night and haven’t called. And she can’t free me from the garage.
Given that more of us live alone today than ever, I have company in the challenge of living alone without someone to look out for me or assist me when stuck.
And so, other than getting one of the nifty necklaces with a button that calls emergency services when I’ve fallen and can’t get up, how do we solve this problem for the many solos out there in the world today? What services can we provide to address these needs?
Or will reverting to a communal-living arrangement end up the best solution, after all?