The Small Earth Society
Sunday September 20th 2009, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So, picture this (happened a few years ago, but I’m still telling the tale.)  An older couple comes home one day to find, of all things, a mattress blocking their front door.  What on earth?  They hadn’t ordered any mattress!  Oh, wait–must be for that other house again.

It was.

Picture winding roads out a bit from the main suburbia and a street sign that delivery truck drivers sometimes read wrong, with a home to each direction from that intersection with the same house number.

Picture my dad growing up in Carson City, Nevada.

Picture his high school classmate (and there were how many in that class, Dad? Eight?) now living in the one house, on the inadvertent receiving end of that mattress, and in the other…  Our friends V and V.

Don’t you love it when the world shrinks like that?

And just to make it even smaller: when we moved here, the father of someone we knew at church owned a house that was good for entertaining in and would occasionally turn it over to his kids for parties, and we got to go there a few times.  But Mitch’s dad retired and moved away and that was that.

V and V called us a few years ago to invite us over, but mentioned they’d moved. Okay, cool; we got the new address, we’re driving there, and the closer we get, the more we’re saying, Do you think?!… Nah…  *I* think…! And then we pull in the driveway.

Oh. My. Goodness.

Richard knocks on the door, V opens it, and Richard asks if the house still has the such-and-such room down at the end to the left.  V, stunned, goes, How did YOU know?!

Dad’s classmate got a good laugh out of that one.  And we offered to help her with any mattress removals she might need ever after.

What are your small-world stories?

20 Comments so far
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I babysat for my high school English teacher when I was in college. Also ended up working for his wife for a while. Then we moved some 40 miles out of the area, and many years passed and I joined a quilting guild. I got back in touch with the English teacher, meeting for lunch every few years. Then, I made him a quilt. He decided he wanted to hang it on the wall and I explained I could add a sleeve for the hanging rod. His wife decided she could do it, with her mother’s help. Turns out her mother was a quilter. And when she saw the quilt, she said, “I know who made this!” Yes, she and I were in the same quilt guild for about 5 years without realizing the small-world connection. I had great fun telling her stories of the long-ago antics of her grandson, who was now in college himself.

Comment by DebbieR 09.20.09 @ 8:33 pm

My mother-in-law was a teacher at the elementary school I went to – but none of the 4 of us had her. My mom knew her though. I met my husband at a birthday party of my ex-boyfriend (still friends today) about 35 miles away from the school. Comparing stories, we decided that we’d actually met when I was in 3rd grade and he was in 4th. Then come to find out that a woman I went to community college with was the girlfriend of my husband’s boss…

Comment by Kathy in San Jose 09.20.09 @ 8:43 pm

When we were out checking out assisted living places for my mother I heard an “Afton?” and I turned around and there – running the whole sheebang – was a young woman who was my mother’s helper approximately 20 years ago. It was her first job and she was great. Now she does this and she’s great. Somehow, just somehow, the minimal of a 6 months wait for the nicest assisted living place in the whole area was shortened to a little under 1 month. Mom moves in on the 7th. What goes around, comes around.

Comment by afton 09.21.09 @ 3:17 am

My sister is very active with the
local museum in upstate NY
(Kent-DeLord) and they had a raffle
for which I made a silk shawl. I work
in NJ for a family owned company that
makes heating parts (needed in cold
areas!). Got a call the other day
from a guy where my sis lives. I
asked if he supported his local
museum by buying a raffle ticket and
you could hear the wheels turning!
Told him I made the shawl that was
one of the prizes. He said sadly he
didn’t win. Perhaps next year!

Comment by Sue H 09.21.09 @ 5:29 am

I love living in the same small town where both the Knight and I were raised. Lots of stories like that, but I also know the shock of being on vacation, several states away, and running into my shift Captain at the same show!

Comment by Channon 09.21.09 @ 6:41 am

Sorry, Alidot. I’ve read your muse half a dozen times and still don’t understand it. My mind must be thickening in rampaging old age. Oh, and to straighten the record, my high school graduating class from Carson City was 31: 11 boys and 20 girls. It was wartime. Our entire four-year high school numbered about 115.Four years earlier my 8th-grade class was 50 pupils, and that meant there were 50 of us together in every single class. Nowadays that number would have been split into two 25-student classes. Not in those days. Then during our high-school years the class shrunk. Some moved away, some boys went into the military (as I did at 17, although I came back in uniform to be one of the 31 graduating.)
Love, Dad

Comment by Dad 09.21.09 @ 7:16 am

In college, my sister and I traveled 400 miles to serve as bridesmaids in a high school friend’s wedding. She had moved after graduation when her father was transferred and she married a guy she met there. We knew the bride’s family and one other bridesmaid when we arrived and that was all. No other guests were expected from our hometown, so imagine our surprise when we were standing in back of the church after the wedding and a woman we’d never laid eyes on came sailing over, gushing “Oh, you must be the Jones girls. I’d know you anywhere!” Turns out she worked with our father at one time before being transferred with our friend’s father, and she recognized us from the pictures our father kept on his desk. Of course, she had the advantage of knowing that we would be there, since she was a friend of the bride’s family, but still it was very disconcerting. My mother used this story to illustrate why we should always be on our best behavior because you never know who was watching!

Comment by shadylady 09.21.09 @ 8:03 am

I grew up in rural southern lower Michigan.
In the winter of 1976 when I was 14 my family made a long trip in an RV down to Florida. We arrived at the Jellystone Camping Park after dark, and quickly got things set up before falling asleep.
When we woke up and came out for breakfast, there beside us under an orange tree sat the campsite of our neighbors, who lived only a few miles from us in Michigan (in our area, that was practically cheek by jowl). They were on their way home :-}

Comment by Diana Troldahl 09.21.09 @ 11:01 am

“Världen är bra liten ibland” was a phrase a classmate wrote in my going away book when I was an exchange student. Word for word it’s “the world is nicely small sometimes.” I suppose that being so far away I’m glad to be able to keep in touch with family and friends and meet new people so far away. World is smaller. And it is good.

Coincidentally, my aunt and uncle visited last month and told us my daughter might be able to get an internship in their area, just before her school requested work experience applications. Maybe not so much small world (Washington DC to Ireland?) as good timing.

Comment by LynnM 09.21.09 @ 11:50 am

Small world, indeed! Amalie and I went with a group from the University of Santa Clara (where I had received my MBA) to French Polynesia. On Bora Bora I noticed an absolutely beautiful black woman in the dining hall. The next day Am and I took an outrigger ride on the lagoon. I was busy taking photos, and didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I should. So when we got back to the island I asked if I could go again in the afternoon. (It was free). And so I did. And sitting right behind me was this lovely lady! We got to chatting, and it turned out that although she was not with our group, she taught at the University of Santa Clara law school! Here we are — thousands of miles out in the Pacific, and she teaches at the same University from which I had graduated.

I’ve got another “small world” story, but I’ll put that on my blog tomorrow.


This is the story of a very cheap and stingy house painter. It was his practice to bid low on jobs, and once procured, would thin down his paint with paint thinner. Then he won a bid to repaint the interior of a church. This time he thinned down the paint so far it’s a wonder it stuck to the walls. One day he was up on his scaffolding ”painting” the ceiling when suddenly there was a crash of thunder and a bolt of lightening. The painter crashed to the ground, and then he heard a loud, stentorian voice command, “REPAINT! REPAINT, AND THIN NO MORE!”

Comment by Don Meyer 09.21.09 @ 12:48 pm

The brother-in-law of a lady in my mom’s quilting group built the house I live in- in 1966-along with all the other houses on my street. And I never have any trouble remembering when the house was built because it’s exactly as old as I am! This would be less surprising if my mom lives in the same area I do, but she’s in the next state, about 60 miles away.

And I’m always running into people I know in a work context, but that’s because I’m in an incestuously small industry, and after a while everyone knows everyone.

Comment by RobinH 09.21.09 @ 1:53 pm

When I was in the hospital after delivering the girls(I had to stay a couple weeks after due to infection) I went back to the labor floor to thank the nurses that had cared for me while I was there. On our way another couple stopped us. The wife, who was also in a wheelchair, recognized me from the mothers of multiples meeting I had attended. They had just delivered their twins. We chatted & got to know each other for a bit. Fast forward 3 years. We took the girls to Disney right before their third birthday(they get in free before their 3). While greeting the characters in Animal Kingdom, we notice the same couple waiting 2 people behind us. Somehow we always seem to just bump into them, even several states away 🙂 To quote a Disney song, “It’s a small world afterall…”

Comment by TripletMom 09.21.09 @ 3:34 pm

In the early to mid-90s, I worked in employment equity for a municipality and regularly attended conferences for people working in the field. Made friends – y’know, work-friends – with a woman there (let’s call her Mary). Lost my job when the provincial government changed, lost contact with most of the people I’d worked with. A year or so later, met and became fast friends with Susan and we’d been friends for almost a year when she mentioned where her mother worked. Hang on, I said, Mary? Mary G? is your MOTHER??? And we had an extended moment of “Mary’s MARY??”. It got even better when she called her mom and said they had a friend in common and her mother expressed quite a bit of doubt. And then they had an extended “Lene’s LENE???” moment. Awesome.

Comment by Lene 09.21.09 @ 4:20 pm

My youngest dd is a bassoonist and lives in MA, where she was born and grew up. (Right now, she’s keeping the wolf away from her door by waitressing nights in an Irish bar on the beach.)
Susie spent her senior year of high school at Interlochen, a school in northern Michigan that specializes in the arts. One of her friends was a young man from Washington state. They lost track of each other after high school.
Fast forward through college (turned out he went west, she went to Oberlin) plus a few years, and she decided to apply to graduate schools. Expedia booked her into an inexpensive hotel in Cincinnati. She got on a bus headed for her audition, only to find her friend from Michigan/Washington who was also auditioning that day.
When I mentioned serendipty, she said, “Well, Mom, the classical music world is pretty small.” That may be so, but she has many similar stories.

Here’s to small worlds! They always give me heart!

Carol in MA

Comment by Carol Telsey 09.21.09 @ 4:35 pm

After moving to Philadelphia from Russia my Grandfather was looking for a good barber, that would speak Russian. Someone recommended an address. My Grandpa went and was happy to discover that the barber to whom he went for thirty years in Russia was still in business, only now he was located in Philly.

Comment by Henya 09.21.09 @ 5:14 pm

I love these stories! I live on Cape Cod, which I like to call a long, thin, small town. I get teased all the time by my knitting group for “knowing everyone”! One of the young women in my knitting group is a former student, and two of the women are friends from Band Parents, when my son was still in high school. I hadn’t seen them for years (our kids graduated 8 years ago), when they popped into the bookstore where our group meets and, a few weeks later, joined us! They are now regulars every week.

Oh, and I just discovered last week that a classmate in law school (in Boston) is the niece of one of my favorite professors from undergrad — 75 miles to the southwest of here! My small town is expanding…

Comment by Pegi 09.21.09 @ 5:59 pm

Oh my goodness, there’s a challenge.
I came to the US as an exchange student from Germany in 1984 and met new friends, who introduced me via letter writing to a high school friend of theirs who was stationed in Germany at the time. When I got back to Germany after the one year, I met the soldier in person and we became best friends (are still, to this day).

Fast forward to 1987, when I came back to the US again, this time as a graduate student. This is when I met my husband. As we got to know each other and I met HIS college friends, it turned out that one of his best friends and my good friend that I met 2 years earlier went to high school together. In an entirely different town.

Comment by karin maag-tanchak 09.21.09 @ 6:42 pm

I could tell a story about how my cousin, whom I barely knew because he lived so far away, married into a family just across the river from where I lived. And then I went to college and met my cousin-in-law’s brother, and then her sister, who proceded to marry my roommate’s cousin, and then moved to New Hampshire while we were in Boston, and then moved to Palo Alto a little before we moved to San Jose, but I think you already know that story, Alison.

Comment by LauraN 09.21.09 @ 7:07 pm

Lol! I do indeed, I do indeed.

Comment by AlisonH 09.21.09 @ 7:46 pm

I love these stories! I have two. One is where my husband and I traveled from UT to Palo Alto for a vacation, a two-day drive. We liked to look at license plates to see where our fellow drivers came from, and saw on the freeway another UT plate. Now who could that be? Hmmm, chances are, in a state with over a million people, it’s nobody we know, but we look anyway. And there, beside us, also going 65 mph, was my cousin and her husband! We rolled down the windows and called greetings across the way, and it was lovely to see her! Then, on the same trip we traveled south to Disneyland. We stood in line at the Blue Bayou Restaurant, and there, coming out of the restroom, was the mother of the best man at our wedding, who was also there from UT on vacation. And how about the second one, where I was at my LYS, having just discovered how much I love to knit lace. The shopowner put down on the table a newly published book of beautiful lace shawl patterns. I thought to myself, “Hmm, this author has the same name as a friend who used to live here.” (There is another knitting author who also has the same name as a different friend who is not in the least a knitter, so I know these things sometimes happen.) I looked through the book at all the patterns, and decided to buy it, then looked at the page about the author. “Interesting, her husband has the same name as my friend’s husband. And her children have the same names . . .and she says thanks to someone I also know . . . wait a minute, it IS the same person!” (When I knew her, she sewed and smocked a lot, but I didn’t know she knitted, and didn’t knit, myself, so it wouldn’t have interested me anyway. I also didn’t know she wrote a book!) So I came home with the book and looked up her blog, posted a comment with my email address, and heard back from her in less than an hour!

Comment by Joyce in NH 09.22.09 @ 5:46 pm

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