Monday, February 22, 2010

Old friends

"So how was your evening?" asks the black taxi driver, once I've told him where I want to go. His accent is immediately recognisable. He's Chinese.

"I just had supper with an old school friend who I hadn't seen for more than 25 years!" I reply.

"Amazing," says the cabbie, "did you just meet him again in the street?"

"It was through facebook actually! I suddenly got a friend invite from this guy who I used to be friends with when I was 11 years old :-). I wouldn't have recognised him if I'd just seen him in the street."

Seeing him smiling at me the mirror, I realise that this is quite an unusual situation.

"You're Chinese aren't you?" I ask, changing the subject.

"Yes, why?"

"I don't think I've ever had a Chinese black taxi driver before. And I take a lot of taxis!"

"There are a few of us around :-)."

"So are you from Hong Kong?"

"Yes, originally," he replies, "but I live over here now. Of course, I've still got family back in Hong Kong."

We chat briefly about London and Hong Kong but soon, perhaps because we're getting on quite well, he asks me another question.

"So are you married?"

"No, but I've got a boyfriend :-)," I answer casually, "and actually, he's Asian!"

He seems slightly surprised and excited by my answer, and soon we're chatting about gay life in London.

"Do you ever go out?" he asks, rather cryptically.

"You mean to gay venues? Yes sometimes! We went to Heaven last year :-). But we don't need to go cruising, so when we go out we don't usually feel the need to go to gay places!"

"Actually, my brother is gay," he says finally, explaining his interest. "He asks me what the gay places are like over here."

"Well I think that London is quite a good place to be gay :-)."

"So why didn't you take your boyfriend to meet you old friend tonight?"

"Well, after 25 years I wasn't sure whether we'd still get on with each other!"

"And did you?"

"Yes, mostly, although we don't have very much in common any more. And he smokes :-(. I hardly know anyone who still smokes these days. But it was interesting that he thought I hadn't changed much. I'm not sure whether after 25 years that's a good thing or not, I mean, I'd like to think that experience has made me a better person than I was when I was 11! Anyway, has anything like that ever happened to you, meeting up with a very long lost friend?"

"Not yet," replies the cabbie, "but maybe it will. I joined facebook recently!"

We continue chatting casually for the rest of the journey, but soon we're back at my house and I'm paying the fare.

Later it occurs to me that suddenly meeting up with old friends like this won't happen to the generation of my nephew and niece, because as long as facebook is around, they'll all be permanently connected with their school friends. My nephew already has over 700 facebook friends and he's still at school!

Perhaps it'll be better like that, because if your old friends are always available online, one won't suddenly feel the need to meet up with any of them again. In my case, although it was absolutely fascinating, it was also slightly difficult because we'd grown apart a lot.

Do any other readers have any similar experiences, meeting up with old friends after 25+ years?


Steve said...

I'm Australian but lived in Germany for many years. One year, while on a whirlwind trip home to visit my family, I was walking through the city when I recognised an American guy I had spend a year with when we were both exchange students in Thailand over 20 years earlier. This guy was just visiting Australia for a week and I happened to recognise him. I stopped him in the street and we chatted and he ended up visiting my family overnight. It was good to see him, but you know what...I have not heard from him since! But I did always wonder at the coincidence of us running into each other in that circumstance after all those years.

the immigayrant said...

Wow, stories like these make my heart warm and my cheeks plump.

Gives me a glimpse of hope for "friends forever".

Jason Carwin said...

While Facebook is an immensely powerful tool for staying in touch, it still can be difficult to keep contact with old friends.

I have a group of friends with whom I moved away from about 2 years ago. I loved them all, but I still find it difficult to keep in touch. We try to plan reunions every now and then, but even those are difficult to arrange. Facebook makes it easier to keep in touch, but it still requires investment from both parties.

That said, I've noticed that Facebook is a somewhat impersonal way to keep in touch. I know that after I get off the phone with an old friend, I am filled with immense happiness. Facebook does not do the same for me. "Liking" someone's status does not give me pleasure, and nor does reading a wall post or going through their pictures to see what they've been up to.

In the end, a good, old fashioned phone call still does the trick.

Art said...

I'm not a Facebook fan, GB, but years ago I had left my job to go back to school (I was a zookeeper at the time) and I was visiting London for the very first time. I was in a matinee (a Sherlock Holmes show)sitting near the front row, looked back before the show starts, and there is this guy from Canada sitting there with his girlfriend. We made eye contact and talked afterwards - he was there for a conference. Last time I saw him was then. Still I find it fascinating that one can be around the world, and end up in the same theatre, in a big city like London...

Shawn L said...

Did you just disclose your real age GB....11+25=36? Or maybe it was disclosed long time ago lol?

Anyway facebook is indeed a great tool to connect with old friends. I found my old primary school friends (who moved to Canada) through facebook and met up with her in person when she visited Asia again!

Sometimes social networking sites could be quite additive though.... I have been spending hours on it every day and finally decided to take a break from it and focus on school work ;)

GB said...

Actually Shawn, 36 is only a lower bound on my age, if you think about it!

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm not on Facebook because I don't want people I've lost touch with to contact me. If I really cared for them that much, I never would have lost touch. I do, however, type some names into Google and see their Facebook pictures, and maybe some hints about their current interests. Acquaintances have friended me, so I reply to tell them I'm not interested, but also ask how they're doing. I get a short answer back, supporting my belief that they won't make good friends (in the real world use of that term.) I've also known people who've been de-friended on Facebook for no known reason. How rude.