Thursday, June 14, 2007

The smallest big world

Published May 30, 2007

There's an old saw about Joe from Kansas, who was vacationing in Paris. While strolling down the Champs Élysées, he was astonished to see his stateside next-door-neighbor walking toward him. Joe expected to share a warm handshake, effusive greetings and maybe even a chance to hang out together for a while. But as his cool-as-a-cucumber neighbor strode along, he looked up, smiled a bit, offhandedly said "Hi, Joe," and kept right on walking into the next block and beyond.

Fortunately, when we've come upon Cambrians out of town, their greetings have been much friendlier.

Even casual acquaintances will usually exchange squeals of glee, big hugs and even changes in itinerary to spend time together.

North Coast residents get around, for sure. So having them wind up in the same spot at the same time -- even when they're not sharing a travel tour -- shouldn't be astonishing.

But, somehow, it always is. It's found treasure, the social equivalent of finding a $100 bill on the sidewalk, or pulling into a rare parking space that has lots of time on the meter.

We've unexpectedly found Cambrians at the Orange County Performing Art Center, at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, at restaurants in San Francisco or L.A. and in a host of other far-away places.

I'm sure we've shared more meals out of town with our beloved neighbors Richard and Christine than we have when we've been right across the street from each other. However, our recent chance encounter takes the cake.

We were at a college reception, cheering for granddaughter Kelsey as she received the coveted pin which proclaims that she is a nurse.

We think Kelsey's accomplishment is huge, especially because she and her hardworking husband, Jeremy, have two young daughters.

Years ago, I discovered that studying with two little kids in the house was tough bordering on impossible. Finding bubblegum in the hair or having a baseball fly through a (closed) window is not conducive to concentrating.

And I wasn't trying to learn anatomy, memorize symptoms or keep track of interactions between two obscure drugs. To say we're proud of our grad is understating the situ- ation by a whole bunch.

The college ceremony was long and the chairs hard, but the joy radiating from the proud new nurses more than made up for it.

The keynote speaker regaled the students and the rest of us with poignant and hilarious recollections about being a novice nurse, including her tale of treating her first patient and how she carefully administered a suppository -- into the man's nose.

A couple of the students spoke, including one chipper young man who ended his talk by proposing to his girlfriend. No pressure there, eh, asking her in front of 400 people? I'm sure she knew she risked being lynched if she said no. I wish them well and hope she knows what she's getting into.

After the ceremony, I suddenly felt an arm snake around my shoulders and turned to see our Cambria pal Stan Cooper.

My jaw dropped, and my eyes opened wide. I stammered a little ... "But ... Stan!"

He grinned, then growled one of Humphrey Bogart's most famous phrases: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine."

This wasn't Cookie Crock or Main Street Grill, after all. We were at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, 433 miles from home.

Stan and wife April Benham were at the ceremony to root for the lovely Morgan Murphy, their own granddaughter- nurse-grad. She lives in Reno, but several family members are Cambrians, including great-grandparents Boyd and Hazel Benham, who've lived here for four decades. (Sadly, Mr. Benham passed away Saturday, May 26.)

Now mine is not sharpest mental pencil in math class, but even I can figure those odds are pretty long -- two bright young women graduating in the same class of 30 in Nevada, each having immediate family members far away in the same small town on the Central California coast.

Small world? You bet (don't you dare start humming the Disney theme!).

And thank you, Stan. I'm really glad you didn't give me a Joe-style greeting. Yours was just so ... Cambria.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Talking to myself, you bet, humming even, but on the road, allowing my thoughts to wander usually results in forgetting where I'm going. Just last week I went right past the senior center where I take yoga classes and it was several blocks before I remembered what I was doing! Not a good idea for me to get sidetracked. As for the psuedo cowboy, out here in the real west we tend to call him Big Hat No Cattle!