9 Apr 2015

Don't be a stranger

8:56 am on 9 April 2015

Drus Dryden takes the next logical step in his quest for friendship and escape from loneliness.


Listen to the story as it was told at The Watercooler storytelling night or read on ...

It was 2009 and I was at a house party. It was Robin’s house. I was there as we shared a mutual friend, Jo, who I had met a year prior when she was my first date at a hipster speed-dating night.

I had decided to make a fan video of Jo, a videJo if you will, and I did this for a few reasons.

Firstly, I wanted to learn how make a video as I only had the most basic skills: zooming in and out and adding a dreamy soundtrack.

Secondly, I was interested in how making a devotional video about Jo, and that concentrated process, might change how I felt about her. I didn’t ‘like like’ Jo, but I also didn’t ‘not like like’ Jo.

I quietly put it up on YouTube and waited for VideJo to be found. It was discovered two years later by a friend of hers who was Googling her. It went viral. Well, it got over 100 views.

At the same time I had been seeing someone but it was waning. Our last night together involved what was meant to be dinner and a play, but dinner took too long and we missed the play so we took ourselves to Rialto cinema. We created a rather large queue by our indecision in what to see. “Just fucking pick one” was yelled at us from behind. I took charge and picked Incendies. From the opening scene I could tell this was not The Notebook (a bus load of people were machine gunned and torched after the opening credits rolled).

Following the inevitable breakup with Rialto girl I was feeling fragile and alone. I needed to make new friends.

The window of my bedroom faces out onto the street, so I decided to put a sign that said “Hello” up in it. I didn’t know my neighbours and rarely talked to them but no one made mention of my new sign, although occasionally someone would take a photo of it.

Following the inevitable breakup with Rialto girl I was feeling fragile and alone. I needed to make new friends. 

I noticed at one point that Robin walked down my street everyday to get to work. So I made the next logical step in my quest for friendship and escape from loneliness: I added “Robin” to the “Hello” sign.

Robin must have taken notice of the addition as he put a sign up in his own window that read “How are you Drus?”, then took a photo of it and sent it to me. My reply was in the form of a sign on a lamppost near his place that said, “I’m well, thank you. And you?”

This ‘taunting Robin with kindness’ thing was enjoyable, but I don’t think Robin always knew how to take it. Sometimes he would walk past my house without looking up at the “Hello” sign.

I left it.

A few months later while crossing Grafton Bridge, I saw Robin next to his white Ford Escort broken down in the middle of the road. I offered him a push, but AA was already on the way. I was inspired.

I headed home and made Robin his very own letterbox, put a letter in it and put it on his street. He used it to post a reply letter for me a few days later.

“Dear Drus,

Thank you kindly for the letterbox (and of course the letter within). I have to admit it took me a while to realise it was a letterbox due to its unusual orientation. I’m glad you appreciate my white coloured Ford Escort, I myself like it for its 80s glamour. As you noticed the car can be troublesome at times, but I actually enjoy the spontaneous interruptions to my daily life.

The friendly AA man was very helpful to me on Grafton Bridge. He ingeniously created a device on the front seat that allowed me to drive home. You’re friend’s brown car sounded terrible, now that I think of it I haven’t seen a brown car for some time. Just to let you know I am going on a ten-day holiday to Samoa (my sister is a teacher there).


By 2013 I had met Robin’s girlfriend, Ju, and I had decided to take the “Robin” sign down. It was getting manky and I wanted to make a fresh new one. That took a bit of effort so it stayed as “Hello”.

Robin broke the news to me one day that his office was moving and we wouldn’t be meeting on his street on random occasions anymore. Then not long after, a storm blew my bedroom windows open and removed some of the sign so now it just read “Hell”.

I thought that was it with Robin and Me.

However, after only six years of waiting for an invite to his and Ju’s house, I was invited to their New Year’s Eve party last year. Slowburner or not I was back in the game.

My last trip to their house was short but Ju’s parting words, “don’t be a stranger”, made it the nicest one.

This story was originally told at The Watercooler, a monthly storytelling night held at The Basement Theatre. If you have a story to tell email thewatercoolernz@gmail.com or hit them up on Twitter or Facebook.

Illustration: Hadley Donaldson

 This content is brought to you with funding support from New Zealand On Air.