There was another couple at the pool last week when we went for our dip. In their late twenties or early thirties, they were experimenting with new snorkeling gear they said they’d bought on EBay. They practiced getting the fit right, holding their breath for dives to the bottom of the pool and clearing their masks and snorkels. We asked where they planned on using their equipment as there wasn’t much to see in our little pool. They told us of wanting to go to Hawaii, past trips (for him) in the Caribbean, how fun it is to feed the sting rays while standing on a sand bar, miles away from any “land” and how you position your hand like you’re feeding a horse, but it feels like a vacuum cleaner sucking at your palm. The four of us floated around and talked of many things: jazz and who was really genius versus the merely great; the film industry and how he loves to write and direct movies which, sadly, we have never seen; how we are all orphans with no parents among us still living and how that feels… She reminded us we needed sunscreen. I had forgotten to bring any. She had us use hers and supervised us getting all the parts of our faces covered the way you help a small child who, nevertheless, wants to do it herself. Gil got chilled and we moved to the spa to warm up and our conversation flagged. Before we left for home, I asked their names and told them ours. First names only.
When we used to take our granddaughter Aiden to the park she always made friends readily. They would meet and greet and move forward together, talking, playing, getting drinks of water, laughing and expressing tender concern if one got hurt on the equipment. She could tell me their favorite color and how they smelled when I’d ask her about her new friend on the trip home, but she could never tell me their name. It seems that wasn’t an important piece of information to share and they never got around to it. She was surprised I’d asked about something as inconsequential as a name.
When we walked back from the pool to our home, I realized that I wished I hadn’t asked that couple their names; it actually felt friendlier before I knew.