Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When Will I Be Famous???

When I lived in Grand Rapids, pretty much wherever I went, I ran into someone I knew. This was especially true if I went to the grocery store, out to eat, or to the mall—I would almost certainly see a co-worker, a former co-worker, a soccer teammate, a fellow Humane Society volunteer, or a former student. At the very least, I would see people I recognized from work or from other activities even if I didn’t know their names. Sometimes I saw people I’d rather avoid, but most of the time, I felt a sense of relevance and importance in that I had a lot of connections around town. In fact, it got to the point where I just expected to see someone I knew every time I went shopping—and I usually did.

Back in January, I went to the mall in Cambridge by myself. Sarah wasn’t with me, so instead of talking to her, I was walking through the crowded mall, scanning the people around me. All of a sudden I realized that I had been subconsciously looking for people I knew, as I was used to doing back in Michigan. I almost stopped dead in my tracks and began to feel a sense of panic when I became conscious that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. I felt like I had just come to my senses after being drugged and abducted by aliens and deposited on a distant and foreign planet. I conceded that in my new town, I was a nobody. No one knew, or cared, who I was. I saw other people who had unexpectedly encountered friends and were busily conversing and laughing. I can’t recall too many times in my life when I’ve felt as lonely.

About a month after that horrifying realization, I went to the grocery store at lunchtime during the workday. I was in the checkout paying for my salad when a voice behind me blurted, “Hey you!” I turned to see that was one of the goalies of my hockey team. At first I didn’t appreciate the significance of the situation, but then I thought of how remarkable it was that I was hopefully getting to the point where I was seeing people I knew around town. She was also buying lunch from the deli, and I was so pleased to see someone I knew that I paid for her lunch, too.

On another occasion, I saw a co-worker at the LCBO (liquor store) near my house. I found myself chatting with her as loudly as possible, as if I was trying to show everyone else in the store that I was not a friendless vagabond. But, other than these two incidents, I still am finding that trips around town are reminders of how my life has changed. It’s funny what seemingly insignificant events can remind you of what you used to take for granted.

Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge is roughly the same population size as Grand Rapids/Kentwood/Wyoming/Walker, so I’m hoping that the connections I make at work, in hockey, and in soccer will grow and become more apparent. In the mean time, Sarah and I have become acquainted with the owners and employees of our local laundromat, so that’s at least one refuge for us. After all, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name—and they’re always glad you came (with lots of quarters)!

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