I got a chance to talk with a new neighbor yesterday. We discovered pretty quickly that her college room mate dated a guy I graduated Cheshire High School with. Cheshire High School isn’t big and neither is my home town. With all of the millions of people in South Florida, it seems unusual but not an extraordinary connection.
An extraordinary example of happenstance took place just after I had moved myself to Southern California from Cheshire, back in 1993. Shortly after arriving in California I ventured up to Venice because I had always wanted to see the gym on the beach where Arnold Schwartzenegger pumped iron. As I approached the beach from the parking lot I came face to face with a friend from Cheshire that I had worked with at Dunkin’ Donuts while in High School.
The distance from Venice, CA to Cheshire, CT is about 2,900 miles.
It’s that six Degrees of separation thing at work. That fad prompted scientists built a website called the Oracle of Bacon that proved that all actors in Hollywood are connected to Kevin Bacon on average by not 6 but just 2.95 steps.
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I believe there are way more undiscovered connections happening at any moment than we are ever aware of. Like how my in-laws discovered that they had actually lived in the same apartment building for years prior to their first meeting at a party in Manhattan. They’ve been married over 50 years now. It makes you think that there must be something moving us toward connecting with each other.
So, as I was thinking about my new neighbor and our mutual friend from Cheshire, I wondered if discovering connections warrants another connection. Should look him up on Facebook?
Are all hometowns constantly connecting their former inhabitants back to it, like Cheshire seems to do to me?
How can a little town of 30,000 people spread connections like the diaspora?
If you look up Cheshire, CT on Wikipedia it lists people of note. One of them, journalist John Chamberlain, was a columnist and well-known book reviewer for the New York Times. I happened to know this man because he was married to my beloved dance instructor (also of note), Ernestine Stodelle. For ten years I used to listen to Mr. Chamberlain tick-tick-ticking away on his electric typewriter upstairs from where we danced in that beautiful studio they had converted from a barn off North Brooksvale road.
Then I discovered a negative connection. It turns out that Ernestine had been married previously to famous Russian theatrical director Theodore Komisarjevsky, whose grandson by adoption is Joshua Komisarjevsky, one of the perpetrators convicted for the Cheshire, Connecticut, home invasion murders in 2007. So, sadly, I find myself less than three degrees separated from that horrible event in my hometown’s history, too.
Now that technology makes us more aware of our connections and how many we have (think mutual friends on Facebook, or that column that says ‘people you may know’ is a little uncanny) – how do you feel about all those connections? Are you, like me, always finding connections with people you meet, too? Or sometimes, as in the case in of bad connections, they can feel uncomfortable. I don’t like knowing that Ernestine was connected to tragedy even though it had nothing to do with her.
Despite a positive or negative outcome, I’ve always thought that chance connections are little gifts from the universe – an opportunity that allows for a connection that can lead you down one path versus the other.
I have never forgotten a particular moment when I was 15 years old, I dialed a wrong number and by chance ended up talking to a friend of a friend. I never would have called this boy otherwise because at the time I thought he was pretty annoying. But that first conversation sparked what became a long friendship, which eventually led to a serious relationship that, like all serious relationships change the trajectory of your life and ultimately who you become. I don’t think that he ever believed that I had dialed a wrong number – he thought it was an excuse I had made for calling him up, but I know it was the law of connection at work.