In case you’ve never heard of six degrees of separation here a working definition:
Six degrees of separation is the theory that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.
Over a recent weekend at a blues festival in Wheeling, WV I experienced a version of it on two occasions. When we first arrived my son, Mike, said to the couple in front of us, “Can we be your neighbors?” The man said certainly and introduced himself as Walt. I asked where he was from and the answer was Pittsburg. I told him I was from near Hillsboro and he immediately responded that he was very familiar with this area. Walt had been in the linoleum and flooring business and his customers included several Mennonite builders in this area. He rattled off a couple of names that I wasn’t familiar with and one of them had the surname of Weaver. I said I know a Weaver that owned a produce market and he said, “Oh yeah, Fred and Velma outside Rainsboro, I know them well.” Damn, how many degrees was that?
On the next day, we had changed locations in the venue and I got to talking with some neighboring ladies. Between music sets, we got to chatting and one of the ladies mentioned she was from Maryland, right where the Susquehanna River emptied into the Chesapeake Bay. I asked what town and she said, Perryville. I responded that I knew it well and that I’d been stationed there in 1960 while attending Radioman school at the nearby Bainbridge Naval Base.
We got to telling stories about the old White Horse Inn and the nearby town of Port Deposit. Also, she had worked on the base so we swapped a few stories about the Enlisted Men’s Club and other area attractions. Again, how many degrees? Fewer than six!
An interesting backstory to these women was how they met and formed a friendship. One of them was wearing a Delbert McClinton ballcap and I asked if she was a fan. Turns out that was the key. Almost twenty years ago, not knowing each other, they had all gone on a Delbert McClinton Caribbean cruise. They met became friends and decided to do it again the next year. In the interim, they get together several times a year at various music festivals.
It’s also interesting in that they come from all over the US. Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Florida, and California were the states I heard mentioned. This fall they are planning their twentieth Delbert cruise.
The key to all this friendship and me meeting up with all I’ve mentioned is what Walt said. We learned about our degrees of separation because we are people who are willing to open up and talk with strangers.
CLOSING NOTE: Yesterday morning I took a young Amish neighbor to Weaver’s and mentioned to Velma that I met this linoleum salesman named Walt. She immediately recognized the name and said, “Yeah, he’s been here many times. Very jolly man.” Yet another example of degrees.