(By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Scoping Out the New Guy

I met my first neighbor in my new neighborhood on a hot Saturday in August 2004 as I mowed my front yard for the first time. I live in Northeast Washington, near New Hampshire and Eastern avenues.

As far as I could tell, I was the only white guy on the block. Also, I reckoned I was the youngest by at least 20 years -- I was surrounded by black grandparents. I later learned that some folks had lived there since the late '50s.

The street was immaculately kept -- bushes were trimmed at right angles -- and I wanted to make a good first impression.

As I was mowing, a young black woman pulled up out front. "Did this house sell?" she asked.

"It did," I said, cutting off the mower. "To me."

We exchanged greetings, and she related something that had happened about 10 minutes earlier. I had been scoped out and didn't know it.

The young woman said she had been two doors down, with an older lady who is nearly blind. The woman could not see whether the "For Sale" sign in front of my house had been removed and asked whether my house had sold.

The young woman had looked out the window and seen me.

"Well," she said, "I don't know, but there's a white man mowing the yard."

We shared a hearty laugh. I told the story to a friend, and she suggested I get a T-shirt that reads: "White Man Mowing."

-- Frank Ahrens

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