Friday, February 18, 2011
If you were actively looking for me on the Veolia line today, you were probably disappointed. I can explain, though:
As the Mini-Boss at my workplace, I deal with a lot of sales people. They're a pretty friendly lot, and always happy to help out with some problem or other. Of course, the catch is they want you to buy your stuff from them, so it's all an interesting charade--you want to get the best price, and they want to sell you stuff, so everybody's excruciatingly nice to each other. A few months ago I met a guy who worked for Another Biotech Place, who'd helped me get in contact with the people who could help me troubleshoot one of our experiments (in science, it really is all about who you know).
So I was on my way out when I ran into the ABP guy--we had a small chat as I was waiting for the elevator, me and my HEMA bag full of shoes, and I revealed that I was on my way to Nijmegen. He offered me a ride, as Nijmegen was on his way, and I arrived at my apartment a full hour earlier. This is in part because he was speeding like a maniac down every stretch of open road he got, but largely because there's no 10-minute pause in places like middle-of-nowhere Boxmeer. We had an interesting conversation: he offered to help me buy a €100-car (no joke, no missing 0). I thought he was kidding, but he was so serious that he only desisted when I told him I didn't have a license.
At the end of the drive, I started to feel as if I'd made another friend. Part of this may have been that he's a very good sales person and being friendly is just who he is. But it's hard to have a conversation for ninety minutes if there isn't some kind of connection. It's strange, if you think about it, how little it takes to actually know someone. I'd been a virtual friend with a another guy in Boston for a few years before we finally got to meet up--and when we did, it felt more or less exactly like reading his posts. I keep up with most of my friends digitally, but even if I don't hear from them for a long time it's easy to pick up where we left off.
What is it that makes total strangers of long-wedded couples, and perfect soulmates of the just-introduced? What makes some relations shrivel when a week goes by without contact, while others can stand years of neglect? Humans may have just lost to computers when it comes to connecting the facts, but I very much doubt that computers can make the sorts of connections that just don't make sense.