Connecting

(Essay)

Incident 1:

One Friday in August, Bharati went to our local medical center to give her blood sample as ordered by her doctor. It took her a long time to get back.

She explained that after she finished the lab work, she noticed they were giving the flu shot. Then she noticed that there was an eye wear sale going on in the lobby.

“And, you wouldn’t believe it, I liked some of the frames, and they were offering a twenty percent discount.” She added.

“Was there a line for the shot?”

“No. There was no none. I recommend you go there right now. And, if you want, do take a look at the frames on sale.”

I took her advice. Why wait when it would get crowded later.

After I filled out the paperwork, I was asked to go to a partition where a young, cheerful nurse welcomed me. It took less than five minutes for me to get the shot. We did some small talk. Then I walked over to the vision center to take a look at what’s on sale.

The eyeglass frames were displayed on three large tables outside the vision center. People were sampling and asking questions to the representatives. I saw one pair that had an unusual shape that I liked. I asked the price, and the man looked up and quoted some figures in the neighborhood of $300.

“You will get a 20% discount,” He said.

“I like these, but I’m not ready to buy anything yet,” I said.

“The sale is only for today. And you should go inside and see what the final price would be after they review your insurance. And, remember, most people buy a frame for use in the future.”

I went inside, where the technician spent a few minutes on the computer.

“What’s it going to be,” I asked.

“Twenty-seven dollars,” He said.

I was excited and immediately went to the lobby and called Bharati.

I convinced her that she should also come over again and buy the one she had liked. She did, and hers came to ten dollars less than mine.

The vision center rep had said that we should get the frames in five to ten days. A month went by, and there was no call. Finally, I called to inquire about the status of our order. I wondered if they had misled us, and there was no sale. The receptionist checked our order.

“Yes, they are here.”

“Then why didn’t you call us?”

“We did, Sir. Two weeks ago.”

“No, we didn’t get any call.”

Anyway, there was no use arguing, so I told her I would stop by shortly.

As I was walking to the vision center, I heard someone address me. I turned.

“You want a flu shot, Sir?”

It was the same lady who had given me the injection a month ago. Before I could say anything, she looked at me.

“Oh, you had the shot,” She said.

“Yes, you are the one who gave it to me.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Now, I didn’t know how she remembered me having a shot. Surely she must have seen many people since then. And, for Americans, in general, all Indians look the same. In an encounter not even lasting five minutes, what was it that made her remember me? I will never know. The fact is that I remembered her too.

Incident 2:

Many years ago, I took my teenage nephews, Go-Go and Vi-Vi, to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Northern Virginia. The museum is a huge hanger with antique (pre-1920) and modern airplanes, the Enola Gay, the French Concord, and the Space Shuttle. One can see the museum alone or take a guided tour. As we strolled, we noticed a group huddled together and a guide giving the brief. He had his back towards us. He was a tall, baldish man wearing a dark suit. He was animatedly telling the story. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t remember his name. Then he turned and looked at me. With a beaming smile, he raised his hand and waved at me as he said with the microphone on:

“Hi, Ash.”

I waved back, embarrassed at my name being broadcast over the loudspeaker and not remembering his name.

When he finished his tour, he walked up to me and extended his hand saying,

“I’m Bob. Don’t you remember we worked together?”

“Yes, of course. How long have you been doing this?”

“Oh, since I retired. I always liked planes. The Smithsonian trained us.”

“Good for you.”

“Yes. Gives me a reason to get up from my bed three times a week.”

We talked a while and departed.

Reflection:

I am curious to know the ways we connect with people. On the one hand, we may meet someone for a brief period in a casual environment and remember that person after a few weeks or months and Vice a Versa. On the other hand, we may spend months and years with someone, getting to know them well. Over time we may get detached for a reason such as a retirement or moving on to a different place. What is interesting is that if perchance we come across this person, especially in an unexpected place, we are at a loss to remember his/her name. Worst yet, we feel miserable and embarrassed if the other person remembers our name. Now I am not talking about short term memory versus long-term memory. I am talking about human nature.

 

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