Death of the friendly drop-in

Coach Eric Taylor of <i>Friday Night Lights</i> ... a popular 'target' of the friendly drop in.

Coach Eric Taylor of Friday Night Lights ... a popular 'target' of the friendly drop in.

My wife and I were driving past a friend’s place recently and she suggested we drop in for a visit. I was shocked at my reaction, which was shock at the very suggestion. Drop in? Are you mad? Who drops in these days?

But, time was I used to love the drop-in. When I was in my late teens and had just moved out of home, I was one of the first of my group of friends to live alone and was dropped in on by all sorts at all times of the day and night.

There was the “quick, social drop in” – friends in the neighbourhood who came by to say ‘hi’ -- these usually involved coffee. The “long-haul drop-in” which could last for hours -- these usually involved someone bringing beer, drinking beer and, on one occasion, making beercicles (There is a reason that these are not commercially available, by the way – eeuggh.). And there was the “girlfriend drop-in” where my partner would come around unannounced – these usually involved telling her mother she was at her girlfriend’s place.

My 20s were a busy time for drop-ins, too, and were the beginning of strangers appearing alongside friends at your door. Several hours later these strangers were now fast friends and could be added to your very own drop-in list. The fact I worked shifts also meant that I was occasionally the subject of the “after the pub” drop-in, the drop-in’s poor, and far less welcome, relative.

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So why have I become so anti-drop in?

My friend calls it the holy trinity: age, kids and technology. “There is always some family madness going on, the kids are either asleep or should be, and in this day-and-age there is no excuse for at least not giving a quick text before you arrive at the doorstep.”

That’s true – but I can’t help thinking that a pre-emptive text robs the drop-in of a bit of spontaneity. A true drop-in meant the tension of not knowing if the target was home, the initial surprise on the target’s face (hopefully “good” surprise, not “oh, sh-t” surprise) and the chance you might catch them in their pyjamas.( I know I spend a lot more time in my pyjamas now there is almost no chance of being invaded by visitors.)

Another nail in the coffin of spontaneous visitation is the fragmentation of family and friends, the tyranny of distance. I know this because I am writing this column from a country town where my grandparents have lived most of their life. Their house is almost perfectly set up for the drop-in. They have a lounge room that faces onto the driveway so any potential dropper-inners do a parade past until they get to the front door. Sadly, Nan and Pa no longer live here but when we are in town staying in the house it goes straight back onto the town’s well-worn drop-in route.

My wife remembers her grandmother’s front door as drop-in central too. Neighbours, friends and family would all call by to check on her and some would even be coaxed into a Lambrusco run when she was running short of vital provisions.

Perhaps, the drop-in is not dead, maybe in my dotage the drop-in will return, and like a random visitor at the front door bearing a sheepish grin and a couple of beers it will be welcome because I kinda miss it.

And what about my friend who I decided out-of-hand could not handle being dropped in on? Well, he called a few weeks later and I told him what had transpired.

“Don’t be silly,” he said. “It would have been great if you dropped in, our kids haven’t seen each other in ages.” Then when I told him what day it was. “Oh, Saturday, no that wouldn’t have worked, but call us next time you think you’ll be in the area.”

68 comments

  • I read this with a smile! Too true - when did we all get too precious to insist on the "Euro tradition" of calling first & make an appt?? ( I grew up in that kind of formal household... not much fun) In my multicultural household with teens - we have frequent drop ins. Friends & family -unannounced - will take you as you are whether there's dust on the bookshelves or toys on the floor.(and if they don't - well too bad :-)) Life is too short to be that uptight!

    Commenter
    Simone
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 11, 2012, 9:03AM
    • Too true, life is to short. My favourite drop in as a kid was to the neighbours ... via the back fence! These days i might get shot. With the connectedness and status updates of today perhaps there is something that FB cannot offer.

      As if you'd try to freeze beer. Silly

      Commenter
      Patrick Burns
      Location
      CBR
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 9:50PM
  • I don't answer the doorbell if I'm not expecting somebody.

    Commenter
    DisDis
    Date and time
    July 11, 2012, 9:06AM
    • You must live a life full of wonderful surprises.

      Commenter
      HighlyDubious
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 12:11PM
    • I don't answer the phone unless i know whos calling. If annoys my mother who has to sms before calling.

      Commenter
      philv
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 12:50PM
    • @highly dubious

      Loved your comment . LOL

      Commenter
      Michel
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 1:30PM
    • You know what I don't live a life of? Jehovah's.

      Commenter
      DisDis
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 3:14PM
    • I don't answer the doorbell if I AM expecting somebody.

      Commenter
      DatDat
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 3:52PM
    • Same.
      I walk around naked at home when it's warm to do so.

      Commenter
      Snake
      Date and time
      July 11, 2012, 5:13PM
  • My husband's family live in a small remote community and the drop in is still alive and well there. They tend to bring this attitude with them when they come to visit us in Sydney, ie, not unusual to get a call from my brother in law to say that he is at the airport and will be there in 10 minutes for a two week stay! Used to drive me nuts. (Doesn't happen as much now that we live somewhere much more inconvenient for drop-ins and well away from Sydney airport).

    Commenter
    ENG
    Date and time
    July 11, 2012, 9:20AM

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