New connections

I’ve often marveled at the random connections that end up bringing people together, either as casual acquaintances or as lifelong friends. In the last couple of days, I’ve been reintroduced to how strange the process of making new friends can be.

Over the weekend, I found myself sitting in a restaurant surrounded by people I knew from Charlotte, all of whom had since moved up to New York. And looking around the table, it was so phenomenal to me how random the ties between us were.

One I met because I worked with her girlfriend. One I’d met when she was in a play with other friends of mine. One I met at a piano bar when we each overheard the other talking about traveling to Las Vegas a few days later — separately, though with perfectly coordinated timing. Another I met when he started dating the girl I’d hung out with in Vegas, a year or two later.

And then, there was the new guy. Well, new to me, anyway — he’d been roommates with my Charlotte/Vegas friend and thus knew her and her boyfriend well. And just like that, after a few hours, even more drinks, and countless laughs — new friend.

I wonder which social connections I’ll be tracing back to him years from now… Or if Friday night will end up being the first and last time we ever meet.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon. A Dutch friend had about ten hours to kill in NYC in between flights, and came to spend most of that with us. At some point in our time together that afternoon, Sal and I paused to ponder the bizarre fact that we’d met when our friend was dating a woman that Sal was close with… But now, years later, we’re quite close with him, and regretfully I can’t remember the last time we saw her.

Also in attendance that afternoon was a young man who lives in New York, attending his freshman year of college. We’d meet three years ago when he was a high school student in a play with Sal, and I’d managed to piss off a solid chunk of the cast by writing a mixed review of the show in my blog. On Sunday evening, I actually turned to him and wondered aloud if he ever would have guessed that years later he’d be hanging out in Queens with the asshole blogger who’d insulted some of his castmates. (For the record: he wouldn’t have.)

And then finally, I think back to Monday night. A former coworker and current friend is up here visiting NYC and staying with Sal and me, and invited me to join her and two friends for dinner. One had been a college classmate of a good friend of hers, and the other had married him. What could have been an evening full of inside jokes and reminiscing — awkward for the outsider at the table — turned out to be a delightful meal and ongoing quality time until after midnight.

Just like that… A meal with strangers turns into a pair of wonderful new friends. And again, I have to wonder who I will eventually trace back to them with awe and bemusement.

It’s funny how a fantastic (and unexpected) evening can end up helping to yank you right out of feeling sorry for yourself. And I take two important lessons from the experience: first, if you find yourself unhappy with circumstances in your life, resolve to make a change that will lead to happier circumstances.

And second, never turn down a dinner invitation with old friends and mutual acquaintances, particularly if there’s wine and Indian food to be shared.

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