When my son was in elementary school I became friendly with a mom and we realized that we had some mutual friends when we were in college. And by mutual friends I mean that she married her college boyfriend, who was a good friend of a guy that I dated. In fact, we realized that we were at the same New Year’s Eve party in nineteen-eighty-something. (Eighty-seven maybe. I think. Doesn’t matter.) It was just funny to realize that we were at the same party and had no idea. We didn’t meet. Or if we did we didn’t remember, but what are the odds that our paths would cross again fifteen years later?
There’s a truck in my neighborhood I see all the time. I know it’s the same truck because it’s neon yellow with a huge Ford label on the front doors. It’s hard to miss. The person who owns it goes to my gym and is usually pulling up at 6:30 AM just as I’m leaving. (Yes, I’m leaving the gym at 6:30 AM because I am a crazy person who hates herself and gets up before the sun.)
Now that wouldn’t be unusual to see this truck most days when I leave the gym. We each have a routine. Mine is a 5:30 workout and his is a 6:30 workout. But I’ve seen this truck drive down the main street in my town. I’ve seen it parked at the elementary school down the street from my house. I’ve seen it parked in the complex where my mechanic is. It’s like this dude is stalking me. (Or maybe I’m stalking him.)
I’m sure you’ve seen this before too. Maybe there’s a car with a specialized license plate, or an unusual classic car, or Angelyne’s pink Corvette that drives by you and you think to yourself, “I’ve seen that car before.”
But it makes me wonder. How many cars do I cross paths with on a daily basis that I’m actually crossing paths with on a daily basis?
It was my birthday earlier this month. (Thank you – I said thank you, because I’m assuming you all said, “Happy Birthday” in you head as you read that. Anyway…) I had the day off work and decided to bring the book I’m reading to a restaurant and treat myself to a solo lunch (and a margarita).
As I was standing at the hostess stand waiting to be seated I looked at the woman standing next to me and thanks to the “People You May Know” feature on Facebook (you know, those pictures that pop up in your feed of friends of friends that they suggest you friend?) recognized her as my son’s girlfriend’s mother. (In his last semester of college my son met a girl he went to high school with but did not know in high school and they started dating – talk about crossing paths!) I introduced myself to her and told her how I recognized her. We chatted for a few minutes while she was waiting for her friend and talked about our kids and funny coincidences. (To intensify the serendipitousness of our meeting – she and her friend were meeting to celebrate their birthdays too.)
If she hadn’t popped up in my Facebook feed we would have been at that restaurant at the same time having no idea the other was there. It makes me think of a scene in a movie where you know two characters are in the same place at the same time, but they don’t know they’re in the same place at the same time.
And because I love a good cliché, it really is a small world. Especially when you live in a small town.
I suppose it’s not so unusual that two women who live in the suburbs of Los Angeles who both went to college in Los Angeles would discover that they were at the same party many years ago. Or that my routine would be similar to someone else’s in my neighborhood. Or that I would choose to celebrate my birthday at the same restaurant as my son’s girlfriend’s mother.
We all run into people we know all the time -at the market, at the movie theater, at happy hour- we stop and say hi and then go on with our day and think nothing about it except maybe, “That was nice, running into so-and-so.”
But think of the people we unknowingly, but repeatedly cross paths with – people we may know in the future or may never know. Maybe it’s someone who leaves your gym everyday just as you are pulling into the parking lot. Or someone at your office park who always parks one aisle over from you. Or the person who likes to go to Trader Joe’s on Sundays at 4:30 PM just like you, even though it’s the worst time to go to Trader Joe’s because they’re out of everything, and you’ll just have to make another trip on your way home from work on Monday.
When I think of all these people that I cross paths with, maybe only once, maybe countless times, and the people they cross paths with and the people they cross paths with – it makes me feel that we’re all connected. And that it really is a small world.
And I think that’s nice.