With more then 6 billion people on the planet, numerous technological conduits for communication, and air travel, which can jet you anywhere on Earth in the span of a single sun cycle, connection seems simple. And yet, I’ve engaged in discussion with thousands of people with whom I will never speak again. To wit:
The girl in Hiroshima whose flowing dress and light-up-a-room smile caused me two exchange fees for plane tickets and a traditional sushi dinner that made staying the extra 24 completely worthwhile; the Nigerian cab driver in NYC who, in 1998, drove me from JFK to Flushing Meadows while relating the tale of his twelve brothers and sisters growing up on rice grains and clad in nothing but underwear; the same Nigerian cab driver who, in an unbelievable 2005 coincidence, told me the same story on the same ride from JFK to Flushing; and the Indonesian fella who traded me his jacket in an act of athletic camaraderie back when that type of thing meant something.
Somehow these people have become memories, photographs in the mind, that bring sentimental moments of joy and happiness and longing. In life, I think we encounter a lot of people that we’ll never speak with again. Maybe those short-term connections can bring us deeper into the humanity’s commonalities. Maybe if we stop to listen to another person’s story, we will see the uniqueness of the individual in such a way as to carry that person with us forever, as though the idea of never speaking to them again wouldn’t be so horrible if we could bring their essence forward for our own lives.
If you knew you would never speak with a person again, would you treat them differently than you currently do? Imagine starting and ending a relationship with absolute honesty. Sometimes I think of people as that proverbial “stranger on a plane,” the one to which you can confess all, trust completely, and never concern yourself with any recompense or vendetta. But in today’s world, secrets are harder to divulge, because life is instantly posted online, via a “penis-tweet,” a “youtube sexpose,” or perhaps just a “quickly-clicked photo” that illustrates for the public the extent to which you defame yourself.
I think what I’m getting at is what we really don’t know – the future. Perhaps this is the last time. Perhaps a heart attack or an earthquake or a lost cell number disconnects you from a person. And maybe they are out there feeling the same way about you. Anyway, it sorta makes meeting new people more interesting.