This past weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion. This was the first reunion I had ever attended, and I believe Kim was right, that had it not been for Facebook, I likely would have not bothered to load up the car and make the arduous 7 mile journey back for this one. Connecting beforehand on Facebook with at least a few people made the crowd seem a little more familiar. I wasn’t going in blind.
Still, I was more than a little anxious beforehand as the prospect of hours of small talk was rather daunting. If you want to talk politics, religion, Apple vs. Microsoft, or Star Wars vs. Star Trek, then I’m your man. “Hi, how’ve you been?” usually leaves me vapor locked. But I had Kim with me, and she has a talent for sensing when I’m about to perform a social face plant and jumping in with something appropriate. It’s likely also true that I wouldn’t have gone without her. So I ventured out with all my safety nets in place.
Being recognized upon arrival did much to put my irrational nerves at ease. Then the girl at the registration table whom I hadn’t seen in three decades ran out from behind it with her best Fran Drescher stutter step and threw her arms around me while apologizing profusely to Kim for the intrusion, which hit the rare trifecta of sweet, funny, and disarming. It was duck soup from there.
Until I got my name tag. I was counting on the name tags. There are days I have trouble keeping my kids straight. I needed name tags to avoid all those embarrassing greeting moments. However, they handed me this large white tag with tiny 4pt type on it and an adhesive that was clearly a factory reject from the Post-It Note plant. It curled up on contact with clothing. This meant that everyone’s tiny name was hidden in the curl or they spent all night with their hand on their heart as if they were flattening the tag or trying to recall all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. Either way, I was doomed.
Although it turned out that no one else remembered everyone’s name either. Paradoxically, the tags actually turned out to be a feature because you had to get ridiculously close to see them, and by then you were inside the mandatory greeting zone, so you had to shake a hand and say, “Hi.”
At this point all the standard reunion cliches applied. Some people hadn’t changed at all, some had changed dramatically. People tended to fall into familiar roles. The girls danced with each other. The boys stood around and drank beer. The wallflowers hung back, and the extroverts took turns at the mic. And we all posed for pictures.
I spoke to several people that evening more than I probably did all through school, and reconnected with a couple members of my old middle school posse. It was fun. I’m glad I went. I’d even think about going to another one. Although by then we’ll probably all just have our avatars meet in a virtual world dance club and rock the night without ever leaving the house. Although in that case, I’ll bet we’ll all be thinner and less gray. Not to mention how handy it would be to have names hovering over everyone’s head.