A little while ago I overheard someone talking about the 200 friends who turned up to his recent birthday party. 200. I am not sure I even know 200 people. I wonder how many ‘FaceBook friends’ he has? Probably thousands. I have 26. And some of those are friends-of-friends. Now, if I could ‘Acquaintance’ people my numbers would undoubtedly soar . . .
I am not a very social animal. I have never felt the need to constantly surround myself with people (even online) and am happiest maintaining only a small group of good friends who know me well enough to not be continually offended by my propensity for spending most of my leisure time alone. Although my close friends may be few, a recent odd encounter in the supermarket suddenly brought home to me the fact that over the years (and almost in spite of myself) I have actually managed to amass quite a large circle of acquaintances.
These acquaintances range through various levels. First there are the ‘nodding’ acquaintances—people I see almost every single day, and have done so since I moved to the area. We nod, we smile, we occasionally say hello—but I don’t know any of their names. (Nor do they know mine, although they might think they do. I am ‘Sue’ to one old fellow and ‘Sandy’ to another.)
This group includes people like ‘the sock guy’ (he always wears all black, except for wildly fluorescent coloured socks—this morning they were canary-yellow) . . . or the ‘lady with the hair’ (rain, hail or shine when out walking this woman always has a perfectly made up face and her hair immaculately done up in a French pleat topped off with a massive silk flower) . . . or the ‘grumpy old sod’ (need I say more?) And I imagine if they were ever to have to refer to me I would probably just be ‘the lady with the three scatty little dogs’ . . .
Then there are those people I bump into on a semi-regular basis and whose names I actually know. People I stop and chat with when we meet—like my neighbours in the street where I live . . . or regular students who come in and out of the college . . . or Pat and Frank who live around the corner . . . Jo, Mary and Bob who I often see at the movies . . . or Di, who used to be ‘the lady in the flowery hat’ until we finally got around to formally introducing ourselves a couple of weeks ago . . .
And, of course, there are all our ‘doggie’ acquaintances, who are many and varied. Old Harry and his tiny dachsund Rosie (she is half the size of my girls, and always manages to emanate an air of supreme indifference every time we meet). Harry and I met years ago, started chatting and have continued to go on slow rambling wanders around the park with our dogs ever since. (And, to again prove that this is a very small town, in conversation we discovered that I now live in what was once Harry’s brother’s house.)
Paul and his dog Zoe and I met very early one summer morning when we rescued a young Tawny Frogmouth which had been injured in a storm the night before. (In truth Paul rescued the bird while I kept all the dogs from trying to eat it.) Then there’s Sue and her boy Caesar-the-German-Shepherd, whose feet are bigger than Mabel’s head and whose booming ‘woof’ is loud enough to blow Maudie’s ears back from across the street. Merv, Narla and Ty. Bill and Jessie. Phil and Rosie—and too many more to mention here . . .
And, going back to that odd encounter in the supermarket, it appears I even have acquaintances I didn’t know I had. I had gone into the supermarket to pick up a few things and was stopped by a woman who, smiling brightly, proceeded to tell me all about the fabulous cruise she had just been on. We had a really nice chat. Lovely—except for the fact I had no idea who she was. (‘Who IS this person? Do I know her? Should I know her?’) I was at a complete loss. (Did she think I was someone else perhaps?) I racked my brains. Nope. Nothing. We carried on chatting for a good ten minutes and she then went on her way, still smiling, and hopefully, none the wiser that I really had no idea who I was talking to . . .
Although somewhat bemused by the incident it did make me stop and think about all the people in and around my life. (Perhaps I really do know 200 people after all.) Although I cannot claim to know many of these myriad acquaintances well (or even at all it seems in some cases) I do now realise that every one of them, no matter how ephemeral, has value to me. They are part of the fabric that holds my day-to-day life together and my life would be a sadder and lonelier place without them. For that alone I think perhaps they deserve more of my attention and consideration.
I’m going to work on that . . .