Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Small World

You've probably heard it said that it's a small world. I'm here to tell you that it's all a matter of perspective. As someone who has not yet lost the crick in my back from trying to sleep through a ten-hour flight to get here, I can say that I think it is a fairly large world. Small plane, large world!

But when the planets from the solar system get together on the celestial playground Earth might tower over that wimp, Mercury, and let's not even talk about Pluto! Why, even that kid next door, Mars, could take him no problem. But just go and tell those big brothers and there will be trouble. The big kids from the neighborhood on the other side of the asteroid tracks show up, and we'd better have a care! Heck, even Neptune could take on all the kids from our block (and send our twin sister, Venus running home in tears) with one ring tied behind his back!

While imagining some grand celestial playground is fun, I'm fairly certain that most people who use that expression are using it in its more figurative sense as an expression of surprise at a seemingly chance meeting under unexpected circumstances; such as the meeting that happened yesterday at lunch in a small restaurant here in Thames Ditton.

Thames Ditton is small! As I have noted before, it is a small hamlet (…or is it village? Apparently there is a distinction that I am not quite clear on…) about half-an-hour to forty-five minutes south and west of London by train. You can walk across Thames Ditton in ten minutes. (I know… I have!) Were you to live here it would be pretty likely that you would know a goodly portion of the village population; by site if not by name. The United States by contrast, is big. About 3.5 million square miles with a population approaching three billion people… It would take considerably more than ten minutes to walk across – even at a relatively narrow part. And you can just forget about knowing everybody!

That is why I found it strange when, at lunch yesterday, the owner of the restaurant (who recognized me from my last trip here) absolutely lit up when she saw me and welcomed me back. She then offered to introduce me to an American couple eating in the restaurant at the same time.

“This is Mark and Bev.” She said, introducing the couple. “They’re from the states too; South Carolina. Do you know each other?”

Here’s the weird part. I of course would have had a better chance of hitting the Power Ball last week (Which I haven’t checked yet so who knows!) than of having known these randomly selected South Carolinians, but the connection was there! Their first question whether I was the man from the American couple living on the island in the Thames behind the Ferry Works. (My office is in the Ferry Works. If you look at the pictures taken from my office window last month showing the Thames, the footbridge goes from the mainland on the right to the island on the left.) Later in our chat, they said that they were from Mount Pleasant. Well, they said Charleston, but when I asked “What part? I have friends who live in the historic district.” They admitted that it was actually Mount Pleasant, across the harbor. I admitted of knowing the area, having a client that I once visited there on business and passing through it each year on my way to my friends’ Beach House at Debordieu Colony.

“We know Debbie-Dew!” they exclaimed.

I explained where my friends from Charleston live, just by the Harris Teeter near the downtown area. They explained that they had lived on Wentworth Street which is in that general area until they had their children and had to move to a bigger house. My friends live on Wentworth! They did not know the Colonel and his wife, but they apparently lived within a couple blocks of each other for a couple years.

My point, I guess is that it is strange and inexplicable how two random people who happen to be in this country for completely different reasons can meet by chance, coming from such a large and diverse place as the United States, and end-up having such a chance common bond. I guess it is a small world after all!

I’m almost afraid to meet the American couple that is living on the island in the Thames that is right outside my office window. They might be my parents or something equally strange and inexplicable.

I hope you have a wonderful day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 16-March-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

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