I have a problem. I run into people all the time. All the time. I see them in Target. At the grocery store. 3rd Street Promenade. The movie theater. I even ran into an ex at the airport once… and his newlywed wife of three months. That was super fun.

Not really sure what I’ve done in a previous life to deserve this torture, but that’s exactly what it is. Torture. I consider myself a fairly social creature, but I hate being caught off guard. Hearing “Anna?” from around the corner. Getting that unexpected tap on the shoulder. The sudden locking of eyes while flipping through O Magazine at Barnes & Noble.

This wasn’t such a problem back in Chicago, perhaps because everyone is seeking shelter nine months out of the year. Totally different story since I moved to California, though. It got so bad that one of my very dear friends simply would refuse to go out with me from time to time because she didn’t “feel like running into someone” that night. It was that predictable.

I think people generally don’t take into consideration how we continually prep ourselves for social interaction. It’s not just wearing the right outfit or making sure you have enough cash. It’s entering a situation guided by the knowledge of accepted public protocol; you should yell and get hammered at a Blackhawks game, but quietly watch and politely clap at Miss Saigon. Hell, even meeting someone for coffee comes with expectations and a certain frame of mind. How long has it been since I saw her? Is she still dating that guy? Should I ask about it if she doesn’t bring him up?

Needless to say, your defenses are down when stripped of any mental preparation. If I just want to zone out and do some therapy shopping for a few hours, it is a Bummer – with a capital B – to run into that guy you forgot his name but he was at that party that one time where maybe something might have happened but there’s no need to go into that at the moment and oh hey I guess he has a girlfriend now but she is totally eyeing you like you just killed a kitten. Awkward.

However, it’s a completely different scenario when I run into somebody while with another somebody. Specifically, Friend #1 who doesn’t already know Friend #2. I find it fascinating when two people from two different parts of my life meet. Blame my control issues, but as my life is somewhat regimented, it’s like watching a science experiment take place. I make the introduction and then stand back to see what happens next. Will they get along? Will they become friends? Will I really regret this in two minutes when Friend #1 tells Friend #2, “Anna and I have known each other since junior high. She once passed out while presenting her seventh grade science experiment. How do you know her?”

Okay, I’m a jerk for complaining about this. If anything, the tragedy would be to not have anyone in your life to run into at all. I suppose this comes back to the whole “glass half full” debate. I could look at these unexpected interactions as something really great – the universe is trying to remind me of all the wonderful people in my life. On the other hand, it just may be the universe telling me that I am bound to be continuously put into uncomfortable and embarrassing situations because what else do I have to write about? Point taken. Here’s hoping I run into my childhood crush tomorrow.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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2 Responses to “When Worlds Collide”

Well said Anna, we are funny creatures aren’t we?

March 10th, 2010

You are cursed, that’s what I think. It’s an odd sort of curse since, on occasion, you run into someone you’re actually happy to see. I’m glad I read this and know it’s still going on – I can mentally prepare myself for running into the strangest breed of ex-friends when I come visit you in a few months. I’m ready!

July 29th, 2010