Last night I spoke to an old friend and former colleague. It was one of those conversations where I picked up the phone, she answered, and the very first statements went something like this:
“I just read that Joe passed away.” “That’s too bad.” “Do you know how he passed?” “No, he must have been sick recently.” “Did you hear about Jenny getting the award?” “I did.” “It was expected.”
And each time one of us spoke, it was one of those back and forth exchanges. I shared something, then she shared something. We never asked how each of us was doing or about our personal lives. You don’t feel you need to when you speak to someone that feels like a neighbor, even if she lives in a different state.
You talk about other people. About the local news. About that new store that opened, and that old restaurant that finally closed. You talk about the curmudgeon who finally retired and wonder what he will do when he’s out living on his own without co-workers to poke at all day long.
You talk about the people downtown that you remember when you both lived in the same town. The guy on the corner playing the electric guitar. The guys at the barbershop, father and son, who have been there since anyone can remember, and the old one-screen movie theater that is only open on the weekends.
You talk about things you feel only you and your friend can talk about because no one else knows these things like you do. Like the time the baker-owner lady won best chocolate at the annual chocolate festival. Everyone was happy for her even though they felt like someone else should win because she had won several years in a row.
Or the time you went to the Christmas parade and it felt like the whole town was there. It was colder than you thought it would be, and there was only one vendor selling apple cider vinegar. We waited in line in what seemed a longer time than the parade lasted.
We talked about that time when there was a big debate on whether the town should ban plastic bags and only go with paper bags at the grocery store. People were really riled up about that one until the ban happened and everyone became used to using paper bags. Maybe it’s in our human D.N.A. to use them. Our grandparents used them too.