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meeting people

Photo by Kolby Milton on Unsplash

Challenge your neighbors to a Nerf duel and see what happens.

Moving into a new neighborhood or a new building can be daunting. Getting used to a new space, meeting new people, growing accustomed to the vibe or culture of the neighborhood—it can feel like a lot, especially if people don't reach out in a welcoming way.

But as a viral video on Reddit/MadeMeSmile shows, sometimes a warm welcome could actually be a war welcome…with Nerf guns, that is.

In footage from a Ring camera on the front door of an apartment, we see a man in the hallway holding a Nerf gun. He says, "I notice you just moved in. The guy that used to live here, him and I were big into Nerf."

He then holds up the Nerf gun, saying, "I'm gonna leave it. Don't feel any pressure, but if you want to, hey." Then he laughs as he sets the gun down in front of the door.


After that, we see the across-the-hall neighbors engaging in ambush, trickery, deceit, semi-breaking-and-entering—with the help of "Jack," whoever that is—and all manner of silly antics in their battles to shoot one another first.

It's adorable, delightful and a great example of how someone might reach out to a new neighbor in a creative way and see what happens. Watch:

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byu/ihavestandardsman inMadeMeSmile

As some folks in the comments clarified, these videos were acted out by two guys who are already friends and who pretend to meet in all sorts of unique ways. But the idea of introducing yourself to a new neighbor this way is a solid one, regardless.

People loved seeing the battles raging in the hallway.

"'Jack let me in' was my favorite part. Props to Jack, whoever he is," wrote one commenter.

"For a second he thought that things went too far. How the hell you get in my apartment you stalker!!!

Oh Jack let you in. Not fair," wrote another.

"Turncoat! I’d be sleeping with that nerf gun close to my chest," shared another. "Honestly though my favorite was 'did you really think that was gonna work?'…. 'Maybe.'"

Let's use this entertaining video as inspiration to go out and meet our own neighbors if we haven't already…and maybe take a Nerf gun with us, just in case.

Dear friends,

First of all, let me explain what it feels like to be me, a guy with social anxiety.

Picture a scene that fills you with gut-clenching dread. A dark alley at night maybe. The edge of a windy cliff with no railing. A deep ocean, too dark to see what’s beneath you.


Photo via iStock.

Think about how those scenes make you feel. That’s the same feeling I get in social situations.

Having social anxiety disorder means I experience intense, oppressive feelings of dread — sometimes even panic — just about every time we meet up with our friends or go out to a restaurant. It occasionally even happens when you come over, too.

None of that is your fault, obviously. There’s nothing rational about these feelings. I can take steps to fight the dread — and I’m fighting hard to do that, all the time, even when I’m exhausted — but in the moment of panic, I have no more direct control over my social anxiety than you have over your allergies.

Telling me "Everybody here loves you!" doesn’t get rid of my dread or panic any more than telling you "My cat loves you!" clears up your feline allergy. I wish it were that easy. Believe me, I do.

Having social anxiety isn't the same as being an introvert. It's also not the same as having low self-esteem or being shy or no fun.

Unlike social anxiety, introversion isn’t a clinical disorder; it’s a personality type. An introvert is a person who's "predominantly concerned with their own mental life." That doesn’t describe me. I care about you, and the rest of our friends, very deeply.

But I’m not an extrovert either. Neither of those terms fits me.

Photo via iStock.

For me, a fun night out with cool people is every bit as energizing as a good movie at home. It’s just much easier for me to put on a movie than it is to fight my social anxiety for hours until I finally relax enough to have fun.

You know me, so you know I’ve got a healthy sense of self-esteem.

I’m not shy at all when we’re alone together, talking for hours on end about our favorite songs and stories and characters. We’ve laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. We’ve made up inside jokes that can’t be explained.

I can be the fun friend sometimes, too. Photo via iStock.

"Well, of course," you may be thinking, "I love all those things about you! Why can’t you bring that side of you along when we go out?"

Imagine if every time you wanted to go meet up with friends, you had to hike to the top of a mountain. No matter how much you loved your friends, you’d have to spend time and energy gearing yourself up for each trip — and you’d arrive exhausted. If you huffed and puffed your way to the top of the mountain only to find that everyone else had decided to meet atop a different mountain at the last minute … well, you’d be pretty annoyed, wouldn’t you?

This is basically what I go through every time I decide to go out socially.

My "night out" actually starts days in advance, when I first hear about the plans you’re making.

Right away, a mental alarm goes off: "DON’T GO," flashing in all caps. Once I’ve managed to deactivate that alarm, then the spiral of anxious thoughts kicks in — not just anxiety about what to wear, but over every possible outcome, every person who might potentially show up, every question or joke or come-on to which I might need to reply. Obviously this makes no logical sense.

I know. I keep repeating that to myself. I shout at myself: "This makes no logical sense! I’m fed up with this!"

By the time we go out, I’m waging all-out war against an army of vague and specific fears.

I'm battling uphill, taking heavy losses with every step toward the front door.

This is the feeling I get when I'm preparing to go out. Photo via iStock.

But at last, fighting furiously, I manage to gain the upper hand! I know where we’ll be going, who’s going to be there, which side(s) of myself I’m going to put on display, and which interesting things I can mention when the conversation converges on me. Every time the anxiety mounts a new attack, I’ve got an answer ready. I sit by the door, waiting for your text…

And I wait and wait and wait some more, continuing to fend off fresh waves of dread every 30 seconds or so, until you text an hour later to say we’ve ditched the old plans. Now we’re meeting up with some people we haven’t talked to in years, and instead of a quiet bar, we’re headed to the fairground for an outdoor food fair.

At the very least, I’ve got to lie down and regroup before I can fight my way to the top of a completely different mountain.

The thing is, I love having adventures with you! I love seeing new places. I love catching up with people I haven’t talked to in years.

It’s not like I sit at home and think, "How dare they change plans on me?" Exactly the opposite. I scroll through the photos you’re tweeting, and I think, "How dare I be such a burden? I’ve got no right to ask you to structure your plans around my anxiety." At least, I've been told all my life that I don’t have that right.

I definitely don’t want to be treated with kid gloves now that you know all this about me. I don’t want to make it weird next time we go out. That’s the absolute last thing I need: even more tension in my social relationships.

You know what would help me most of all? Two things: consistency and low pressure.

As long as I can assure my inner army of dread that I know where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing and that I’m only going out for one drink and then I can leave — whether that turns out to be true or not — then I can usually keep the worst of my anxiety at bay, maybe so well that no one would even guess I have it.

This could be me; it's what I dream of. Photo via iStock.

That’s what I dream of more than anything else. Just to be able to leave the mental horror movies behind for a night and go out and have fun.

Lynn Johnson first discovered the legendary turtle hat after a painful slog through Purgatory in 1996.

Purgatory Resort in Colorado, that is, where Johnson was skiing with friends and ended up tearing his ACL on the slopes.

But on that fateful night, as he hobbled his way to dinner, he saw the green, shell-patterned flatcap shining like a beacon in the gift shop. So of course he plopped it on his head right then and there.


The turtle hat goes to the beach. All photos provided by Lynn Johnson and used with permission.

The hat soon became his trademark accessory. He wore it on vacations and on his days off. He found it bestowed him with an almost magical sense of delight.

It didn't take long for Johnson to notice the remarkable ways his turtle hat could disarm any situation and immediately put people at ease. "When I’m out without it [the hat] I can notice the difference. It’s a good prop, like a smile, and you already cross that 'Oh, we’re friendly' line," he said.

A turtle hat with its turtle-turtle friend. (I'm not sure if they can tell the difference?)

But the more he wore the hat with cheerful powers, the more it wore out.

Within five years, his beloved turtle hat had started to fray; its once-bright-green shell now faded to a dullish brown. He had the lining changed, but after the tags still fell off, he realized he'd never be able to find its creator. Still, he refused to throw it away.

"My daughters, now grown and married, hardly remember a time I did not have the turtle hat," he said on Kickstarter. "For them it is rich with memories of relaxed days when Dad let his hair down."

After 16 years, Johnson did find another turtle hat waiting for him in an online vintage store — but soon that one too succumbed to the pressures of weather and wear.

Lynn Johnson pouring champagne at his daughter's wedding — while, of course, wearing his turtle hat.

After two decades of turtle-hatted-happiness, the future was looking bleak and hatless for Lynn Johnson — until a brilliant plan broke through the shell of his mind.

After reaching out to some friends in the clothing industry, Johnson realized he could use the pattern from his existing hat to have a new one custom-made! ... The only problem was that he needed a minimum order of $5,000.

Even for him, that's a whole lot of turtle hats.

So on Aug. 26, 2016, Johnson launched a Kickstarter campaign to sell his turtle hats — and in less than a week, he passed his goal. "I want to share the fun of a hat which has given my family laughter and joy for 20 years," he said. "It is a self help course in chilling out."

The original turtle hat, disassembled and turned into a pattern for the new production line.

Of course, a great power like the turtle hat also comes with great responsibility, and Johnson makes it clear that ownership is a commitment.

"You cannot take yourself too seriously with a turtle on your head,"he explained in his official campaign disclaimer. "If you are easily offended or do not have a good sense of humor, please do not get a hat for yourself, get it for someone you want to give a hard time and have a good laugh with!"

And, yes, he even expanded on these rules by stipulating the Terms and Conditions of wearing a turtle hat on his website, such as "You must slow down when wearing this hat... Turtles never run over anyone."

Lynn Johnson blends into the woods when he goes out walking in his turtle hat.

Yes, the turtle hat is a little corny. But it's Johnson's genuine sincerity that makes his story so endearing.

It's hard enough to watch the turtle hat campaign video without feeling a big, goofy smile alight across your face. So imagine the positive effect it would have to see a turtle hat in real life. Thanks to Johnson, that kind of wholesome happiness is spreading. Slow and steady might win the race — but sometimes silliness makes it worth running in the first place.

You can check out Johnson's charming campaign video below and buy your own turtle hat as well, if you still need some help coming out of your shell.

I recently called a random 27-year-old Swedish dude. Let me explain.

In yet another successful attempt to cement their role as the coolest freakin' country in the world, Sweden created a phone number for the entire country.


Image via Svenska Turistföreningen/YouTube.

That's right, a phone number for the entire country. Call it, and you'll get connected to "a random Swede" with whom you can talk about anything: IKEA, meatballs, gummy fish ... seriously, anything.

It was created by the Swedish Tourist Association to help spread information about the general awesomeness of Sweden and its people, much like they did back in 2011, when they handed off Sweden's official Twitter account to be managed by ordinary citizens.

So I called the number, and I got connected to a guy named Rasmus*.

I'm a 24-year-old from New York City. He's a 27-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden. And we had a surprising amount in common.

We exchanged names and tentative hellos, and I asked Rasmus a question that, in America, I would ask just about anyone within five minutes of meeting them.

"What do you do?"

"I'm just a Swedish guy," he said, and asked what I meant by the question. I felt pretty silly.

You see, in the unfortunately limited amount of time I've spent in other countries, I've noticed that "What do you do?" as in "What do you do for work?" is a question that hardly ever comes up. In America, it's a standardized bit of small talk that tends to carry an identity-defining amount of weight. In Sweden, Rasmus told me, it's irrelevant.

Gothenburg, Sweden. Not to be confused with Gothenburg, Nebraska, which is also lovely. Photo by Mike Cooper/Allsport/Getty Images.

"In a way, it's like 'How cool are you?'" he explained. "'Should I really talk to you or not?' 'Are you worth my time?' but when I meet new people I'm more like ... 'Who are you? What do you like? What are your interests?'"

Rasmus told me he doesn't even know what some of his friends do for work.

"To be honest, I'm not even really that interested. I don't really define myself by my work," he said.

That cultural difference aside, we decided to discuss our weekend plans.

"I like to dance," said Rasmus. "Gothenburg has pretty good nightlife when it comes to underground clubs. We have a lot of good techno and house clubs."

"I'm going dancing this weekend too!" I told him. (Yeah, I can cut loose.)

Photo by Daniel Robert/Unsplash.

I asked him what music he likes.

"I've realized that I like almost all music," said Rasmus. "I've caught myself digging to like Justin Beiber songs."

He also mentioned he likes post-rock music. OK, wait a minute. Post-rock music? The little-known sub genre of ambient melodies and melancholic sounds that is also one of MY FAVORITES?

"I love post-rock!" I told Rasmus excitedly.

"Amazing! What's your favorite band?"

"Explosions in the Sky."

"Boom! They're really really good!"

This was getting interesting.

We talked about Explosion's new album as well as taking long walks in the woods. "It's really nice to just walk in the forest, listen to post-rock," Rasmus said. "I think you get in touch with nature in a way that's ... I think it's kind of unexplainable. Serene."

Photo by Todd Quackenbush/Unsplash.

Then conversation turned to life in our respective big cities.

"You live in New York. That's really cool, man." said Rasmus. "I've seen it on TV many times, but I've never been there."

"It's very cool," I told him. "But living here is exhausting. It's a really intense environment. I like it, but I'm not sure I can do it for too much longer."

"I understand you, man," Rasmus replied.

Photo by Jake Ingle/Unsplash.

Rasmus said he lived in Berlin for three years. Berlin is city with 3.5 million people, but he got out of there and decided to live in Gothenburg, which has just over half a million people. He also visited London once. "It f***ing sucked," he said.

Big-city life is just about the same everywhere, it seems.

"I live in Sweden's second largest city now," Rasmus explained. "It takes me 15 minutes to get to central Gothenburg. 15 minutes' walk in the other direction, I get to like a huge piece of woods. It's a forest actually, with lakes and shit."

"Sounds amazing," I told him. I've always been a fan of lakes and shit.

My conversation with Rasmus lasted 25 minutes, and the similarities kept on coming up.

We talked about video games — the history of the Hitman series as well as settling friendly disputes over a game of Super Smash Brothers.

He told me about his one visit to America: a four-day business stint in Las Vegas. "It was nuts," he said. "It might as well have been the moon."

And when I asked him where else he might like to visit in America, he mentioned the Lower Hudson River area of New York State. Which is where I grew up — a stone's throw from where I am now.


Photo by Jon Ottoson/Unsplash.

In the end, I realized something pretty amazing.

While I expected the conversation to be interesting and stimulating, I didn't realize how much I'd have in common with a Swedish stranger on the other end of the phone.

Despite the oceans that separate our countries, Rasmus and I live remarkably similar lives. It's easy to say that people are the same everywhere, that we're all part of the same story, and that we all have more bringing us together than separating us. But now I see it.

Whether we're taking a stroll through the woods or totally crushing a noob in Rocket League, Rasmus and I were cut from the same cloth.

It's good to keep that in mind.

To call Sweden, dial +46 771 793 336

Image via Svenska Turistföreningen/YouTube.