Every now and then, I rediscover what a small world we live in by bumping into someone I know — or used to know — in a place far from either of our homes.
The latest example was on Saturday, May 11. My wife and I had attended a late afternoon ball game between the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers as part of a weeklong vacation that eventually would take us to Minneapolis, where we attended the graduation of one of my wife’s former English as a Second Language students at Ashland Community and Technical College from University of Minnesota’s College of Dentistry.
We had been parked in the garage under Fountain Square Park since early in the day so my wife could do a little climbing on her family tree at the Cincinnati Public Library before the game. After the game, we both were hungry because we had not had lunch and this notorious tightwad refused to pay the outrageous prices they charge for anything edible or drinkable inside Great American Ballpark.
However, a restaurant we enjoy on Fountain Square was packed to overflowing, as were the other downtown places to dine. Thus, we decided to drive to another part of town. We were going to Washington Court House to visit my mother’s grave and have a mini family reunion on Mother’s Day, so I headed north on Interstate 71. I pulled off the interstate at the Montgomery exit with the intention of eating at the Montgomery Inn.
But then we saw the Cheesecake Factory. My wife dined at a Cheesecake Factory while on a work-related trip to California a few years ago and had raved about it. I had never been to one, but I was so hungry by this time, when my wife suggested we eat there, I agreed.
Even though it was nearly 8 p.m., which I consider really late for dinner, the place was packed and we were told it would be 20 or 30 minutes before our table was ready.
So we sat down to wait. While waiting for our name to be called, we starting talking to the couple seated next to us who also were waiting for a table. We made small talk, during which they said their son also was with them but had gotten up to walk around the adjacent mall.
When their son returned, I immediately said, “Hi, Kyle.”
Their son was Kyle Hobstetter, a sports writer here at The Independent. His parents, who are from Portsmouth, and he had also been to the Reds game.
What are the chances of two people who work no more than 30 feet apart meeting in a restaurant more than 100 miles from Ashland? I would say they are extremely long. After all, if we had not been headed to Washington Court House, we would not have been on I-71, much less in Montgomery.
Like I wrote earlier, I have had other chance meetings with people while we were both far from home.
While driving south on Interstate 75 in Georgia many years ago, we stopped at a rest area to use the facilities and stretch a bit.
I was washing my hands in the men’s restroom when I got a brief glimpse of the man next to me in the mirror.
“Ernest?” I asked.
“John Cannon? What are you doing here?” he replied.
“Same thing as you, or so it would seem,” I said.
Ernest had been an advertising salesman on the tri-weekly paper where I worked before coming to Ashland. While there certainly is nothing unusual about stopping at rest areas when traveling, the odds of seeing someone you know at one are certainly remote.
While my wife and I were on a tour of Mammoth Cave with our two youngest children many years ago, a woman who was part of our tour group came up to me and said, “I have to ask you something. Are you John Cannon?”
When I replied in the affirmative, she said, “That’s what I told my husband. We have been arguing this whole tour about whether you were John Cannon.”
As it turned out, the couple was from Raceland, and the woman recognized me from the photo that accompanies this column. I shook hands with the couple and introduced them to my wife and children. We completed the tour and I have not seen them since. Nevertheless, our meeting is memorable because of where we met. I just wish I could remember their names.
There are more than 7 billion people in the world, give or take a few million. The vast majority of those people I have never seen and will never see. But every now and then, when you least expect it, you meet someone who reminds us that this old world is not so big and impersonal as we think.
I find comfort in that.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.