A thousand years ago I was training for my first marathon. I was training to run it in Pittsburgh. That’s right; I was doing destination races long before it was cool. We didn’t call it this back then, but social media was message boards before Facebook came along. Through a running-related message board I picked up a virtual training partner also training for Pittsburgh. This was common in the running community at the time; support each other online through the months of training and then meet in real life at the race.
Switching to email for our daily check-ins and encouragement, we did the getting-to-know-you rituals. He worked in marketing for a large corporation. His job was to study the psychology of product packaging. You know, as in how it relates to consumer choices. At the time I didn’t think this could possibly be a real job but as the 1000 years have gone by, of course I’ve become a believer. It’s a science. It’s a thing. It’s somebody’s real job. Every package I buy is designed to make me buy it. I get that now, but 1000 years ago this was a novelty to me.
We both showed up at the Pittsburgh race but at the last minute he decided not to meet me. He was a local. He had friends and family in attendance to cheer him on to first marathon glory. This cheer crew included a girlfriend who was not aware there was a virtual training partnership going on behind her back. Although it all completely platonic, he canceled the meet-up to keep from having to explain or defend his association with me. I forgave him. After the race was over we kept in touch for a while on the message board and an occasional email. Eventually we lost touch and the old message board became defunct.
Fast forward 1000 years to the present day. To ease the burden of social isolation someone showed up at my house this week to deliver some flowers and the pretty can of beer shown above. Yes, the single use container does violate my previously noted environmental efforts, but a) it was a gift and b) it is recyclable. In between rain showers I sat in the sunshine on my back porch and contemplated the gift of this beer. I studied the packaging, no doubt chosen because the colors are so happy and might lend one to believe she is drinking a can of fun.
The sunny dandelion yellow with a subtle glow. The spunky gradient turquoise blue. The casual cleverness of a low-fidelity logo perch for the glamour gal and her gleefully lifted toast to you, Dear Consumer, for making this damn fine choice in a crisp golden lager. It’s hard not smile, or in my case, laugh out loud.
I thought of my old friend in Pittsburgh. This is not a Pennsylvania brew, but we all know nostalgia is magic. Wonder what he’s up to? Wonder if he’s okay? Wonder if he’d appreciate the good job someone else did at his job? I dug out his old email from my archives and sent a message to check on him. He remembered. It made him laugh that Chick Beer made me think of him. He’s still running. I’m still running. As of today we are both still employed and grateful not to be sick. Good to hear from you. Take care.
And that was that, except three people felt a little less isolated. I am including my gift-giver, of course. And possibly you, if this in any way reminds you that connections are formed and maintained in a myriad of different ways. Even if they aren’t maintained particularly well they may span decades and still be relevant. Even in the most troubled of times. Odds are the person you’ve never forgotten probably hasn’t forgotten you either. Right now we all happen to have the perfect excuse for reaching out that isn’t creepy or weird. I’ll bet a long distance laugh would be good medicine for you too. Or maybe just the memory. Or the story retold to keep it alive.