Have You Heard From Anyone Surprising Lately?
The other day, I got an email I could hardly believe…
Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. The text of the email was rather ordinary. It was the sender that blew me away. There, nestled in between promotions from every company I’ve come in contact with for the entirety of my existence, was a name I could just about place. We went on two dates. 14 years ago.
Hi! It said, like this was a perfectly ordinary correspondence. I just wanted to wish you a (very belated) happy birthday and see how you’re doing. What are you up to these days? Can you please let me know you’re alright?
I’m sure that Facebook alerted him to my birthday and helped him recall our ancient courtship. But it was the final line that got me. Can you please let me know you’re alright?
It was certainly not the first correspondence of its kind. In the last few weeks, I’ve received a few blasts from the past, including from people I never thought I’d hear from again.
My good friend hadn’t spoken to her father in years. Sure enough, as soon as the stay-at-home orders were announced, there was his name in her inbox. They’ve now exchanged quite a few emails and have even pledged to see one another once it’s safe to do so.
“No one has reached out to me!” lamented one friend, only to hear from her high school boyfriend the following day.
“My cute electrician slid into my DMs,” reported another friend. “He asked me out, except nobody can go out right now.”
Perhaps you’ve been the one to reach out. My friend made it a whole month before texting the-one-that-got-away, a feat in any circumstances. “It felt safe since we can’t actually see each other,” she said. “Or maybe it’s that nothing feels safe right now. So I figured, ‘Why not?’”
There are so many people I want to contact, but don’t know how. The barista at my local coffee shop. My favorite technician at the nail salon. The not-so-strangers I no longer glimpse now that our regular foot traffic has come to a halt.
Back in the day (how I now refer to any time before March), I was always fascinated by the Missed Connections section on Craigslist, where people posted about the strangers they almost-but-not-quite connected to on subway cars, in shops, on city streets. Maybe they made eye contact or brushed shoulders or were reading the same book.
It’s especially strange to think: right now there are no missed connections, only intentional ones. Or, in another sense, all connections have become missed connections. Because we miss them. When you look at it that way, is there a better reason to say hello?