Small world

When I was in Pensacola, FL, while attending one of the many schools the Navy sends you to after boot camp, I met a guy from Sauk Rapids, MN, with whom I shared a recruiter.

A dozen years ago I was stationed in Homestead, Florida, and - while on a smoke break - had a conversation with a NY acquaintance. The guy from NY had previously been stationed in Panama, and was good friends with a guy “…from one of those M states. Michigan, Missouri, Montana. Which one are you from?”


“Ya know, I think that’s where he’s from. C’mon, let’s go talk.”

Turns out the guy from the M state was, indeed, from Minnesota, and the nephew of my family’s long-time insurance agent.

A while back a new person started frequenting Straightdope chat. We gpt to know each other a bit, and it turned out he graduated from college with the son of my high school trig teacher.

Early this morning I was talking with a fellow board member, and he mentioned he was looking forward to meeting with a chick from MN. I asked him where she was from. Turns out she is from my home town and likely either graduated with my little brother or the year after.

I don’t even live in a city, let alone a town. I don’t really know a lot of people. But I have, over the years, had four (at a minimum - may have had more but don’t remember) odd connections. Anyone else have such things happen?

Freshman year in college, 1200 miles from home at a small liberal arts school where I am the only person from my hometown. In my dorm, the RA for the bottom floor had an aunt who taught my best friend and two of my cousins in 2nd grade.
There have been others, but it’s too early to think of them right now. :slight_smile:

If you think about this, it would be more odd if there werren’t these kinds of connections, but actually going through the trouble of talking to people enough to find that kind of information out is the cool part.

I live in Japan and very rarely expect to find people from back home.

I ran into a guy that worked at the microbrew where I learned to drink copious amounts of beer as a teenager. He had come here to set up a microbrewery in this fine city as well.

I also ran into the guy I sold my car to before moving here. He got in a wreck with the thing, and used the insurance money to get here or something weird.

While running for a flight at O’Hare, my mother and I were stopped by a woman, who by the way, niether of us had previously met. She wanted to know if my mom was “Lola’s daughter.” Which in fact she is. The lady had lived next door to my grandmother when she’d lived in Nigeria and thought my mother looked too much “like Lola” to not be her daughter!

I’ve been thinking to start a thread like this for a while, but didn’t think I had enough interesting stories.

But now that’s started, I’ll keep it rolling … :smiley:

The Place: Fort Collins, CO., approximately 2000 miles from home.
The Occasion: Graduation of my sister-in-law from vet school.
The Event: Department picnic for the graduating seniors.

I am wandering around, since the only people I know are other family members. Stop by the grill, where a little conversation starts with one of the professors. She asks where I’m from (good conversation starter). I reply that I’m currently living in NJ.
“Oh, I grew up in New Jersay”
“Oh, where” (just to keep the conversation ball rolling - I am a polite boy.)
“Mullica Hill”
“Really, my uncle lives in Mullica Hill”
“What’s his name”
“George xxxxxxxxx”
“Oh yeah, I was in band with his son Gary.”

The next one is really my friend’s, but I am involved.

So anyway, I became good friends with a guy at work who shared my sense of humor (not easy) and so I invited him to a party one weekend. While there he met some of my friends.

A few weeks later he goes to a Mensa Convention in Cape Cod. On Monday in the office, he stops by my cube.

“Remember how once I told you that everyone I know knows everyone else?”
(me) “Uh-huh”
“Well this weekend I met a woman who had just spent the previous weekend visiting Tom (someone he had met at the party)”

A side benefit of living in Delaware is that we are so small that everyone is connected to everyone. Especially my son. I’ve run into people from his school at the gas station, K-Mart, Sears Hardware. The woman who provided labor support for the birth of our second son, her boyfriend did web development work for my previous firm. It starts to be ridiculous after a while.

After thinking for a second, I realized I did have one of these …

I work at West Point. Last year, I had to set back my wedding day by a week due to the graduation ceremony for the cadets.

A weeka nd a half later, my wife and I are on our third stop of the honeymoon. We are in Toronto.

We walk around the town, going to the art museum, seeing sights, eating chinese food, and stopping off in bars.

Sitting in this great bar here they have one of my favorite beers (Warstiener), so I’m sittin gback and enjoying, listening to a bunch of younger guys who are being rowdy at the bar.

Afer a couple minutes, we overhear them mentioning the area surrounding our home town, so we walk over to chat. Well, the bunch of us are good and drunk, and we start talking about our homes in PA.

Turns out that these five guys are from only a couple miles away from us.

Then we started talking about what we do for a living. The one guy askes what I did and I tell him about my job in the service.

He askes my rank. I tell him and we talk about this for a moment before he says he’s just made second lieutenent. I say, “Oh. You go ROTC?”

He says, “No. I just graduated from West Point last week.”

Damn. It is a small world.

Heck, I’ve got a couple…

A few years ago my mom and kid sister moved to Lead, South Dakota. Lady Chance and I go to visit them.

Somewhere between Lead and Rapid City I see a sign for a cave. We decide to visit.

It’s 20 frickin’ miles of dirt and gravel road to this little two-bit no account cave (that’s federally funded, nonetheless). Me, Lady Chance and my 17 year old sister.

I am wearing a concert shirt from a local band here in Virginia called Emmet Swimming.

Suddenly a man comes up to me and says, “How do you know Emmet Swimming? I lived across the street from those guys for a few years!” Zoinks!

Or another one closer to home. I’ve told it before…

I’m at Evecon (a local game convention) two years ago (2000, I guess) with a pal. I’m sitting down to play ‘History of the World’ and I look up and one of the guys across the table’s name badge says, “John Corrado”.

Imagine my surprise. One of the few Dopers who could be identified from both name and Board handle.

Small world, what?

My ex-roommate’s friends got married and we attended the post-nuptial party. Who else was there? My 6th grade boyfriend and my mother’s best friend. I found out that I had visited the groom’s grandmother, with mom’s friend, at least 15 years before I met him.

I went to Florence, Italy a few years ago. The first people I said hello to, other than hotel/restaurant staff, spoke flawless English, with nary an accent. It turns out they lived just a few miles from me.

Surely y’all have heard of this:

There was the game popular in Hollywood of linking Kevin Bacon to any othe movie star by saying he played with X in a movie and X played with Y in another movie and Y played with Z. The point of the game was to make the closest connection.

There is also the fact that if you have a group of 24 people there is a very good chance that two of them will have the same birthday.


That’s the common assumption.

From the description of the Small World Study at Columbia University

(emphasis mine)

Background History of the Small World Experiment has more description about the experiments. The author researched Milgram’s papers at Yale and found many things that weren’t reported in the popular press, such as that the groups of “starters” were not randomly selected, and the number of chains that didn’t get to their target.

It’s interesting reading, as academic papers go.

You can register for the project here

The summer of my 18th birthday I went mountain climbing in Colorado (I’m from Texas). On top of Mt. Elbert, the third-highest peak in the continental US, I met a fellow my age by the name of Garan.

We started talking, and it turned out that when he lived in Singapore, he dated a girl there that I’d recently dated in Houston!

I think it was at that point that I decided that there were really only six people in the entire world.

Slightly different situation… just before my senior year of high school, my uncle took me on a trip to LA for a vacation. Of course we went to Disneyland. While in line for Space Mountain, he ran into a guy he knew who was coming home from a trip to Australia.

More on topic… my father grew up in a small, East Texas town. He became a high school science teacher in a town on the Gulf coast of Texas for a number of years, before moving to Arkansas, where my brother was born and I grew up. 20 years later, my brother is majoring in Aerospace Engineering and applies for a work-study job at Johnson Space Center in Houston. They go down for the interview, and it turns out one of the muckety-mucks in human resources was once a student of my dad at that high school.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I was island hopping in Hawaii and on one of the flights I ran into my elementary school music teacher. Yes, it is a small world.

Athens, Greece, 1990:

I was in a travel agent’s office, buying ferry tickets. There’s a group of people ahead of us, and I hear them mention something about Michigan. When they’re done, I chat with them a bit. Turns out they’re a group of students, there with a guy I graduated from high school with. He had just left Greece a day or two before, and I’d just missed running into him.

When I was in college (Penn State), I was quasi-involved with a guy that I absolutely adored but who was seeing someone else. Call him “J”. He told me one time about how he and a friend used to sit at the gate to the campus when they were in high school and rate the guys passing by. I lost track of him after I dropped out and moved back home.

Fast forward to six years later. I’m going to school at the Job Corps Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. One woman who had started a few months before is standing outside the dorms talking about her friend J that she used to sit at the gate to the campus with and rate the guys passing by. I was only peripherally involved in this conversation until she said this. It turns out that she was J’s absolute best friend in high school.

She and I must have talked about State College and J and many other people for HOURS after that. Her boyfriend at the time was somewhat p.o.'d at me for monopolizing her… :slight_smile:


Two examples:

1987 – I’m moving from Iowa to California after graduation from university. About 150 miles from my destination, my car breaks down quite fatally just a bit outside Ludlow, CA (a smallish town in the middle of the desert). I manage to get a tow into town – the guy running the service station I ended up at was an old friend of my Dad.

1989 – I’m living in Sherman Oaks, CA, and some friends and I are going out to see the movie Heathers, which had just come out. While waiting for the theater to clear, we were watching the end credits when I noticed the name of a girl I knew back in high school. I looked her up, and she was living two doors down from me.