Feb 162010

Longtime Gypsy Journal and blog readers probably already know that I am fascinated by those small world encounters that we have or hear about all the time.

You know what I mean, those chance conversations with a new friend in a campground, where you suddenly realize that you both worked at the same company 20 years and 3,000 miles ago. Or discovering that the longtime acquaintance you have always nodded to at RV rallies when you cross paths is your second cousin’s brother-in-law. Or pulling into an RV park and finding that the folks in the next site are people you shared a volunteer project with last summer. I call it small world syndrome, and we have had it happen to us more times than I can count.

Among my past publishing endeavors, years ago I put out a racing newspaper. I was standing in the press box of a small town dirt track once and got to talking to a gentleman who was visiting from out of state, looking for a race track to buy, which would be the fulfillment of his longtime dream. He said that now that he was retired from being a school administrator, he finally could get his racetrack. Can you imagine the surprise we both got when we talked a bit more, and discovered that he had been the incoming principal of my high school back in Toledo, Ohio the year I graduated early to join the Army?

Just last summer, Terry and I were helping our buddy Al Hesselbart by playing tour guides to a group from the Heartland Owners Club at the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. One custom built RV on display at the museum has emblems from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York incorporated into the design.

One of the men taking the tour pointed the emblems out to his wife and said that they reminded him of his old days in the Army. I spent a couple of my Army years teaching firearms and close combat at West Point, and after hearing his comment, we got to talking. It turns out that he left the Academy a few years before I arrived, and I had taken over his old job!

It has happened to us more times than I can count. We have pulled up to an intersection and looked over and seen friends sitting in their RV across the street; been filling our motorhome’s fuel tank and had other RVing friends pull in to the fuel island next to us; and stopped in roadside rest areas for a stretch and potty break, and met up with fulltimers we have crossed paths with all over the country. None of these unplanned meetings were expected, they just happened.

We had another small world encounter yesterday. We drove 100 miles north to Cordes Junction, Arizona to meet Bill Smith, head pressman for the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper in Flagstaff. Because there is so much snow on the ground up north, and we don’t have snow tires on our van, Bill had volunteered to drive 100 miles south to meet us halfway and deliver the new issue of the Gypsy Journal to us.

I have known Bill close to 20 years, ever since my newspaper days here in Arizona, and Terry has known him over ten years. Yesterday we were telling Bill about our travels, and he asked if we ever got up to Maine. We told him we had, and about visiting Saint Johns, the old grade school Terry had attended in Bangor.

Bill said he had grown up in Bangor, and then shocked us by telling us that he had gone to the same school! Of course, Bill is so old he has moss growing on his back, and Terry is only a few years out of puberty, so they weren’t there at the same time, but it was still fun listening to them reminisce.

Bill asked Terry what part of Bangor she had grown up in, and she told him that her father was stationed at Dow Air Force Base there, and they had lived in post housing. Bill blew us away again, when he said that when he joined the Air Force, he had been stationed right there in his hometown, at Dow!

I know our experiences are not unique. How many small world encounters have you had?

While we were out making new memories, Bad Nick was home writing a new Bad Nick Blog post titled I Like Arizona! Check it out and leave a comment.

Thought For The Day – Many of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us. Sing your songs now.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  14 Responses to “Small World Syndrome”

  1. Nick,

    Forty years ago I was working for a small company that produced continuing educational audio programs for health care professionals. My first job there was to go visit the head of a hospital in Chicago and convince him to direct us to four or five doctors who would be interested in working with us to develop and record topics of interest to members of their profession. For the sake of this true story, let’s identify this hospital CEO as Dr. Goodcare. While Dr. Goodcare was cool to our idea, I managed to convince him to at least think about participating and pointed out that royalty payments would be paid directly to the hospital or its foundation from all future sales.

    Imagine my surprise when a week later I received a letter with half a dozen physician’s names. The program got off to a good start and was very successful. Although I had no further face-to-face meetings with Dr. Goodcare, I kept him up to date with written monthly reports.

    About a year later I was walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago and I see Dr. Goodcare walking toward me. I step into his path, introduce myself and begin to tell him how grateful I am that he agreed to help get this program started. The conversation went something like this:

    “Dr. Goodcare — how nice to see you. As you know from my letters the program is doing really well. Just last week your hospital reached x-number of thousands of dollars of royalties. I want to thank you so very much for helping us get this program off the ground and that the doctors you recommended are not only brilliant, but a pleasure to work with.

    The impeccably dressed gentleman in front of me had listened with just a slight smile on his face, and then said:

    “George: I am pleased that your program is doing so well. Unfortunately, I am not Dr. Goodcare. So if you will please step aside, I shall be on my way or I will be late for my luncheon appointment.”

    I was so embarrassed that I wanted the earth to open up and let me drop immediately from his sight.

    And, while this true story isn’t one of those Small World encounters, it is still worth a chuckle 40 years later.

    A week

  2. Morning, Nick…

    We haven’t had any small world moments from friends in the past yet but have had several unplanned encounters with RVing friends. Just a few weeks ago, while cooling our heels in Lake City, FL awaiting truck repairs, we took a ride up to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center to check out our campsite for a future visit. Imagine our surprise to see Bill and Jann walking back to their rig. We’d become friends when they sold their trailer to my sister years ago. We were just as surprised to see them there as they were to find us on their doorstep. Then we had even more fun when my sister called then for an unrelated reason and I put Jann on the phone – I blew my sister away – she couldn’t figure out how we were all together. Love this lifestyle!

  3. I come from Detroit and my wife (Cathy) comes from Swartz Creek, population 5000 on a good day. In our 10 years of full timing I have run into probably two people from Detroit (actually from Detroit and not a sub) while Cathy has run into a dozen or more people from Swartz Creek. The only thing I can think of to explain this is that very few people make it out of Detroit alive.

  4. I have a casual acquaintance that I have known for about 10 years in Illinois. For the last 3 years we have been in the same yoga class. We discovered last fall that we were in the same eighth grade class in New Jersey 50 years ago!

  5. Last year in Quartzsite, Gloria Goss (another Escapee that I’ve known for several years) and I discovered that we attended the same high school, Ysleta High, in El Paso, TX and graduated a year apart! We didn’t know each other then, but now we feel a closeness with each other.

    One night I went to a dinner at Pilot Knob RV Park in Winterhaven, CA. I was single then, so I had to find a seat in a crowded room. One of the hostesses directed me to one, and I made my way through narrow aisles to get seated. The couple beside me asked if I had a Montana 5th wheel. I wondered how they knew. They told me we had met at a rest stop the previous summer when we were both traveling through the state of Montana, and he had been trying to outrun me with his Ford truck (I had a Dodge) pulling his Montana 5th wheel!

    In September 2004, I attended an Escapees SOLOs rally in Kendallville, IN. Among lots of other SOLOs, I met Don Del Rosario. I was very attracted to him, but he seemed to have a girlfriend, so I kept my distance. One evening, a long-time friend named Steeve took me to dinner in his custom red BMW motorcycle/sidecar. (His wife stayed home in PA while he brought their motorhome to Elkhart for service, towing his m/c for local driving.) As I was crawling into the sidecar, Don said hello and I introduced him to Steeve. I later learned that Don thought Steeve was my boyfriend, and since they were both retired from the Navy, he kept his distance. Three years later, I attended the same SOLOs rally, arriving a day early. The next morning, a 5th wheel parked next to me, and out came Don Del Rosario! We discovered that we’d both been widowed 5 days apart. We then started traveling together and got married 9 months later!

  6. Nick,

    My story involves one of my Uncles who died on D-Day. His death was so difficult on our family that no one ever talked about it. I only knew my Uncle from the small picture and memorial in my Grandmother’s front hallway. No one would talk about what happened to him in WWII. Year’s later I found many of his war time letters in Grandmother’s attic. I shared these with a cousin who also wanted to know more about him and how he died. My cousin did lots of research and found a man in north Mississippi who had been one of my Uncle’s best friends. From him we learned that our Uncle made it across Omaha beach in the early hours of the landing, but later that night stepped on a mine. When he was evacuated to a ship just off the beach he apparently was killed one of the few German planes that got through to strafe the ships.

    My Cousin told me the name of the man he interviewed. His last name was somewhat unique and was the last name of one of my roommates and best friends when I attended Mississippi State. I called my friend. Sure enough that was his Uncle’s name. My friend called his Uncle and confirmed that sure enough he was my Uncle’s good buddy in WWII. In fact we learned his Uncle had quietly attended my Grandmother’s funeral just a few years previous in honor and memory of that long ago friend from WWII. So we thought it was pretty amazing that one of my college best friend’s and I shared Uncles who had been best friends in WWII. Through my friend’s uncle, a lot of questions were answered at long last.

  7. Nick – While we were at your 1st Gypsy Gathering in Celina we came across a
    couple who had been our neighbors almost 40 yrs. ago. What a pleasant
    surprise. We had a nice visit that evening but they had to leave early the
    next morning and were not at the 2009 Gathering. Maybe we’ll meet up again
    one day.

  8. Gypsy Journal plays a major part in our “small world” event. You will recall a school mate of mine at Ft. Hays State College in Hays, Kansas saw a comment in your paper from Wes and Jan. She contacted you and you put her in touch with us. We have reconnected via the internet and email. We are looking forward to a “personal” visit soon:) Thanks so much!

  9. Nick, a few years ago I was strolling down the “Vendor’s Row” at an Escapade when, low and behold, I came across an older MC8 bus conversion. A quick look at that old beauty told me that I had driven her many times while in the employ of Grey Line Tours. This led to a wonderful friendship with its current owner and driver. We talked for a goodly length of time and he and his wife were gracious enough to allow me to tour their conversion as well as sit in the driver’s seat once again. I believe that the bus has now gone on to smoother highways, but those owners at the Escapade have developed into a couple of my closest friends. DaJaVu all over again. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them in the near future. . . they’re quite busy, but I’m hoping that they’ll be able to work me into their schedule. By the way, Nick, have a great Gypsy Rally. Nancy and I only wish that we could be there. As always, oRV

  10. It really IS a small world. For instance, my daughter was sitting in the Orlando airport when she heard that her old kindergarten teacher had died. Our daughter was a good 1500 mi. from home at the time and heard the news from people who live in the next small town over from us. The teacher had lived less than a block from us and our daughter actually heard the news before we did. The episode convinced me that no matter where in the world I go I will have to behave myself because you just can’t get away from people you know or people who know people you know.

  11. Hi Nick,
    My father was in the military service, so we lived several different places. The second time he went overseas, I was in a small school with two small eighth grade classes. In the class I was in, there was a girl I had been in first grade with (first time overseas–different location) and one I had been in fourth grade with (USA location).
    James and I met at Mississippi State University. Several years later we were married and living in Atlanta, Georgia. I was teaching 7th grade in a middle school where I had wonderful students. I taught at this school two years.
    About two years later, James had a business trip to make and I went with him. While he was in meetings, I enjoyed Pompano Beach(FL). The beach was quiet with not many people, until the weekend. On Saturday it was fairly crowded. I saw a woman who looked like the mother of one of my former students. Walking right behind her, I saw a teen who looked like my former student. I caught up with them and called his name. His mouth flew open in surprise. We were very happy to see each other and had a nice reunion on the beach. They had moved to Florida.
    Somewhere in the conversation they told me that about two or three weeks prior, he had said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we saw Mrs. Thompson on the beach?” His Mother had responded by saying, “…that would never happen.”

  12. I have had a “zillion” of these moments after being on the road half of every year for 17 years and full time for more than 2.

    One year in the 90’s we spent 2 1/2 months camping the perimeter of TX from El Paso to the bottom and up the coast. We kept running into the same woman in a VW bus. The next year I was camping at Ortona Lock and Dam in FL. My uncle had flown to FL from NY to visit my daughter and I while we camped. He took us to LaBelle for ice cream. We were parked in an obscure lot at least a block back from the main road when I recognized the VW bus. Soon the lady bumped into us. It was funny to watch my uncle’s face. He has never forgotten that 🙂

    Some time after 2000, I drove my daughter to her job at Glacier NP. On the way we stopped at a NP in South Dakota. The CG hosts were from VT (same as us). After talking we determined that she had been the nurse for my daughter’s boyfriend’s grandfather in Williston, VT. Then they told us 2 guys from VT had just ridden their bicycles there! As we were in camp, the guys walked up and said Wendy! Heather! We had no idea who they were…teachers from a high school in Montpelier, VT who had brought their classes to my farm for a field trip!

    A loooong time ago we were camping in a LA state park way back on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere. This woman walked up, started jabbering. She had been to school with my father and indirectly knew who I was. Heck, I could write a couple of books of these sort of encounters all over the US, Canada and Mexico. I think it’s mostly because I talk a LOT 🙂

    Once we were on the ferry to PEI. A woman noticed my partner’s shirt with the Men of Maple Corner on it (nude men, but G-rated). She was all excited because she had bought a calendar. Peter had posed in just his top hat…cleaning the chimney of our underground house.

    A bit different…we were in San Cristobal de las Casas and bumped into a woman who spoke English. After an hour, she asked if we would take in her son for a year. A year later he came to live with us.

    You just never know who is around the next bend….

  13. When I came back from Vietnam in 1969 I enrolled in college in Colorado. I dated a nice girl named Tammy for a few months, but it just didn’t work for either of us and we parted as friends. We saw each other around school all the time and remained good friends. A year or so later Tammy called me to ask me to take her visiting cousin out on a double date with her and her present boyfriend. She said the cousin, Jennifer, was recently divorced and needed a night out. She also said she thought Jennifer and I would hit it off well.

    The last thing I wanted to do was go on a double date with my former girlfriend’s rebounding cousin but I finally gave in and agreed. Jennifer was a very pretty, very funny, very nice girl and we did really hit it off just as Tammy had predicted. In fact, we started dating steadily and were married eighteen months later.

    I knew that Jennifer had a brother named Bob who was an Army lifer and that he was stationed in Germany. From there Bob was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and we were living in Oregon by then, so it was only after Jennifer and I had been married almost four years that I finally met her brother. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw any pictures of him except as a little boy. So you can imagine my surprise when we walked into her parents’ house for a family reunion and one of the guys from my old unit in Vietnam, Bob Johnson, said ‘Hello Gary, long time, no see.” We had been in the same platoon for six months and in the same unit for most of my time in Vietnam!!!

    Bob and I had lost contact after I got out of the service, and we were both shocked to learn that I was married to his sister and had been for years!

  14. Nick, I have a small world story for you.

    My wife Janet and I have been married over 35 years and one day a couple of years ago, my mother says to me “You know, I knew Janet and her mother before you did” .

    Say Whaaaaaat ?

    Apparently, when my mom was in the hospital giving birth to one of my sisters, she shared a hospital room with another lady and her new baby girl Janet.

    No Way !

    Apparently, my mom helped to look after Janet in the hospital because Janet’s mom had a stroke about 2 weeks before Janet was born which had caused some paralysis of her arm.

    Janet and I had never met until I was nearly 20 years old and when we found this out, we had been married over 30 years. Now there’s a 50 year old encounter to prove that it’s a small world !!

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