I never completely get used to how small the world is. It’s particularly teensy in Vermont: if there are six degrees of separation in the world at large, there can’t be any more than two in this state of just over 600,000 people.
I was at a happy hour last evening with friends from a running group I used to be in – God love them, they still invite me to their social events even though I haven’t run with them in two years – when in walks someone I used to work with closely but haven’t seen in months. She and her boyfriend bike with the hostess’ husband, a state judge who heard an awful murder case several years ago in which a close friend’s cousin was shot to death – two connections I hadn’t been aware of until tonight.
When you live in Vermont, you have to watch what you do and what you say, because you never know when someone who knows someone you know might be sitting at the next table. Where everyone you know knows someone else you know. It’s a bad place to break up with someone and a very risky place to cheat on your spouse.
For me, though, it’s not just Vermont that seems tiny. Ever since I left college, I have had what I consider to be an inordinate number of small-world encounters all over the US of A. Passing a co-worker from Cape Cod on the sidewalk in Miami’s South Beach. Picking up a sheet of photos at work – not once, but at two different newspapers on Cape Cod – and finding myself looking at the photo of someone I went to college with in Indiana. Chatting aimlessly with a man at a friend’s Super Bowl party only to realize that we graduated from the same small Southern Ohio high school three years apart – 30 years ago.
These encounters happen far too frequently – I have a dozen more stories where those come from – for me to read any deeper meaning into them – but I never cease to be amazed. I mean, the odds have to be astronomical. On some level, it’s a little spooky. But at the same time, it’s comforting to know that there’s a friend waiting to be discovered around every other corner.