It would probably surprise a lot of people I knew in my youth if I told them that I'm not a very social person anymore. I was pretty gregarious as a youngster - I made friends easily, hung out with friends a lot and was socially well-adjusted.
For the last few years (more like about 15), I have actively avoided social stuff - an all encompassing term that includes "hanging out" "socializing" and generally being socially well-adjusted. The particular psychological idiosyncrasies that facilitated that particular personality quirk are probably numerous, no doubt serious and likely something I should see a therapist about, but as it isn't really causing me any distress and I can't afford a therapist, I'll settle with blogging and vague resolutions to "get out more."
I did see a movie last month. Granted, it was with my wife and we went right home after...
Today, though, something happened that is making me rethink my hermitude. My better 3/4 and I (I call her that because she certainly constitutes more than half of the "good" in our relationship) decided to spend part of our spring break working today. Shocking, I know. We gathered up the electronic crutches (laptop, mp3 players) that allow us to procrastinate at lightning speed, and managed to step out into the light (I think there was cringing and hissing... one of us shook a fist at the fiery ball in the sky). We pulled into the parking lot of the local coffee shop with a sigh and one of us remarked "I hope we don't see anyone we know."
I know, it's a strange statement when you're stepping into a coffee shop that's popular among the students you teach. Suffice to say, though, that we feel like this mostly because we want to get work done, and only a LITTLE bit because we're pasty hermits.
As we were walking into the place, I caught sight of someone coming up the sidewalk. I did a double-take and before I could say "The light burns us, the precious!" I found myself out the door and extending my hand to a man walking toward me.
I haven't seen this guy for fifteen years - since we were in college together. We've known each other since we were six - we went to kindergarten together. We grew up together. He moved to another town in the sixth grade, but we kept in-touch and got together as often as we could all through high school. He introduced me to fireworks wars - where a bunch of guys pool their money, buy TONS of illegal fireworks and spend an evening running around in a field trying to hit each other with bottle rockets and avoid raising the suspicion of local law enforcement (kids, don't try this at home). It was stupid, but we almost never got hurt (except for our friend Todd, but we made a rule after that: No roman candles). We hung out a bit in college - but he had a social group and I was cultivating my hermitude, so we didn't cross paths as often. Then he went to Duke for grad school and I stayed here. We lost touch.
Then, bam. I'm standing outside a coffee shop on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon shaking hands with a guy I've known for over thirty years, but haven't seen for half that time.
And it was cool.
We talked for about ten minutes - about our families and our careers and what we've been up to for the past fifteen years. It was an easy conversation, peppered with names I haven't heard in years, lots of laughing and the occasional stunned look as we realized how weird it was to bump into one another by chance after fifteen years.
This sort of thing has been happening to me recently. Just before Christmas, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years (again, at the SAME coffee shop) and we spent five minutes catching up. Eventually, 3/4 and I ended up getting together with his family for a lovely dinner and good conversation. There will be more dinners.
I don't go in for much metaphysical crap. I'm not religious or spiritual. I like to think that the world is a place where what you see is what you get, and coincidence doesn't mean anything other than "huh... weird."
So I'm not going to attach any higher meaning to this. This isn't the universe telling me to get out more. I might as well believe that coffee houses exist at social nexus points that draw people into unusual social meetings. Thinking about some of the people I've met in coffee shops, that seems plausible. But this? It's a happy coincidence.
But that doesn't stop me from appreciating the event. And there IS a lesson for me in there somewhere.
Maybe if I got out more, I could figure out what it is...