Having been born and raised in Quincy, I grew up without expectations of anonymity. Whenever I go shopping, or to the movies or anywhere in town I expect to run into at least a handful of people I know.
My wife, Amy, has gotten to dread grocery shopping with me and makes fun of how long it takes me. Last week I ran to the store to buy a head of lettuce and some cheese for dinner, and eventually returned home an hour later. I find it hard to see people I know and not engage in some sort of conversation with them.
When we lived down in the Bay Area my wife and I used to play a guessing game every time we visited Quincy where we tried to predict who would be the first person we saw when we rolled into town. Familiar faces abound, which partly makes Plumas County a fun place to live.
That being said, it constantly amazes me how there are so many people in town I don’t know. On almost a daily basis I meet someone new.
The rate of fresh introductions has certainly increased since taking this job, as well. As my co-worker Debra often points out, “If you want to meet new people, get a job in journalism.”
Though it’s never quite like a city, there does seem to be a constant supply of new people to town. Similarly, there always seems to be people who have lived here for years that I simply haven’t met yet.
About two years ago I had an unexpected experience that surrounded me with new faces.
I had just proposed (and she surprisingly said yes) and my new fiancee and I were at the beginning stages of wedding planning. We had the bridal party picked out, but no location yet.
My friend Johnny was the best man and his sister Katie the maid of honor. The two of them decided to throw my fiancee and me an engagement party.
Well any reprieve from planning and city life sounded great, so we packed up our rental car (neither of us drove in the city) and headed to Quincy.
Johnny told me the party was going to be a formal one, and requested I dress nicely. I had my suit dry-cleaned and got a haircut before we left the city.
Traffic was rather bad getting out of the bay, so I called Johnny to let him know we were going to be a little late. He assured me that was no problem and that the guests might get started before we showed up.
We ended up getting to Johnny’s house right around dusk. I changed into my suit at the rest area before the tunnels down the canyon. Cars lined both sides of the street and Johnny came running out of his house to meet us.
“Hey guys, how was the drive?” I remember him asking with a bit of nervousness in his voice. I shot him a curious look as I got out of the car and stretched.
“It was fine,” I replied as I grabbed the suitcases out of the trunk. We started walking up to the front door and Johnny looked increasingly shaky.
We opened the door and there was certainly a party going on; we just couldn’t tell it was for us. The house was crowded with people we didn’t know. I gave Johnny a befuddled look and he shot me a sheepish grin right back.
“Uh,” Johnny stumbled. “Happy engagement!” I could immediately tell Johnny hadn’t meant for this to happen.
“You just got engaged?” asked some random hippy-looking guy. “Congrats, bro!”
I spent the rest of the night wading through the crowd, making introductions and explaining why I was dressed in a suit (apparently no one else was informed it was supposed to be a formal event). In all fairness I knew about one-third of the party, but there was still two-thirds to meet.
Johnny and Katie were so preoccupied planning out the engagement party that they apparently forgot one little detail: to invite our friends. In a last-minute effort, our mutual friend Brett invited a bunch of his buddies whom we had never met.
The evening ended up being a lot of fun. At one point a toast was made that doubled to inform people of the reason for the party. Calls were made and a good portion of our friends showed up as well.
By the time the party ended, not only were my oldest friends there, but so were many of my new friends. Me and that hippy-looking guy are actually neighbors now, and we hang out fairly frequently.
Now, the tables have turned. Johnny recently proposed and I’m planning his engagement party for this weekend. We have all the booze, appetizers, music and decorations picked out, but I still feel like I’m forgetting something (like perhaps inviting a bunch of random people). Oh well, I’m sure it’ll work itself out!