Thursday, February 19, 2004
We met at the University of Wyoming on a cold and windy, late afternoon when there was nothing to do but stay inside. For no reason at all, and for my first time, I walked into the philosophy club meeting and took a seat. Minutes later, two drunken guys from the wrestling team came in and took their seats.
They were smarter than they looked, and by 5 p.m. we were at an all-time, brain-buzzing, pretentious high.
We walked into the hall and introduced ourselves, the wrestlers and I, and went across the street to a coffee shop to continue our conversation.
At 20, we were into Ayn Rand and Kurt Vonnegut. We wrote all our scrambled thoughts in wire, and we were happy to have met one another.
He was a business major but hated everything about his life. He wanted a Volkswagen bus and some tie-dye. He wanted to leave school and wander. But he wouldn't.
We kept in touch for years but soon the handwritten letters turned into phone calls. The phone calls turned into two or three sentence e-mails and then, years of silence.
Then, he Googled me.
By typing my name into the Google search engine, he learned that I was living somewhere in Colorado, working at a newspaper.
He sent an e-mail.
He is a stockbroker now. He lives in Phoenix with his wife. He gave me the link to his blog and I read through pages of his day-to-day life.
He and his wife like to go to restaurants. They like sprinkles on their ice cream.
He wrote about the cigarettes he smokes and the money he should invest -- the amazing power of compound interest. He loves his wife. He's a wrestling coach.
It was like running into someone on the street that you hadn't seen in years. There was the same level of small talk.
"I'm happy to hear from you." "Wow, it's been a while."
"A lot has changed."
After two or three exchanges, the line went silent again. Just two people passing on the Internet.
But it didn't stop there. Once he Googled me, I realized that there were people I might like to Google.
So I typed in a name and, within the first page, found someone I hadn't seen in more than a decade. I Googled another person and another -- people from high school and childhood and all the years since.
I didn't want to reconnect with these people. I didn't send a single e-mail the way my blogging friend had done. I was just Googling through a quiet voyeurism of my past.
I was flipping through a book with my thumb, catching glimpses of the pages as they sped past.
Then, a friend revealed that she had a similar Googling addiction.
I stood behind her as she typed in another name -- this one of an ex-boyfriend -- and we watched as the picture of a balding, stock-car racer who looked nothing like the boy she once dated appear on the screen. We laughed.
And he will never know.