January 11, 2013

Vast City of Forgotten Encounters

As much as I'm glad I'm no longer living in New York City, I do miss its small town feel.

Sure, it's a raging metropolis, but regardless of where they live or work, New Yorkers are literally on top of each other, all of the time - on the subway, on the sidewalk, in the grocery store, at the bar. All right to personal space is lost. And the same people tend to see each other, over and over again.

It is not so in Los Angeles. In this metropolis, which sprawls horizontally instead of vertically, you usually have plenty of room to yourself. Even when the freeway is a parking lot, you're unlikely to recognize the driver in the next car over, or in your rear view mirror.

And even if you do encounter a person more than once, an Angeleno is likely to forget the first time - and all prior times - and say that it was nice to "meet" you.

But alas, you have met before.

You have had coffee.

You were on the same tour together.

Perhaps you kissed.

And yet, all is forgotten.

I was at a gallery opening tonight with a friend, and as we were chatting about the photography exhibited, I spotted a dapper-looking gent with a hat walk in. I interrupted my friend, saying, "I know that guy."


"I don't know how I know him, but we've met."

The man in question must've felt me staring at him because he looked at me and started walking towards me.

"Hi, I don't remember where or when but we've met," I said to him.

"Oh really? I'm Daniel."

"That's right," I said. "Do you hike? Were we walking somewhere?"

"I'm an architect-" he said, as I overlapped with another "That's right," my memory jogged. "What do you do?" he asked me.

"Nah, it wasn't through work," I insisted. "We walked somewhere together and talked for a while. I totally remember you."

Though it was clear that Daniel did not remember me at all, and couldn't even recall where he might have met me despite all of my suggestions - LA River? The Big Parade? Sierra Club? - we made small talk for a while, until I realized I'd ditched my friend. So I excused myself, handing him my card and pointing him to my blog, as I often do, and rejoined my companion.

"Did you score some digits?" my friend, who'd clearly made himself scarce, asked me.

"What? Ew no..." I said. Daniel has a great look, but I was after that.

It's so rare for me to encounter the same person more than once in this town, I hoped to reconnect somehow. Maybe it wouldn't be meaningful per se, but at least it would be a connection that bears repeating.

But of course I'm certain he'd forgotten me, and he'll forget me again.

After all, Los Angeles is too vast to remember every person, every experience. Would even I be able to recall any of it if I didn't document it so fastidiously?

For this reason, I often say, "It's nice to see you" - when customers walk into my store, when I take a meeting, when I sidle up to the bar and order a drink. Because you never know when you've met someone before, and when you'll hope to meet them again...

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