I Saw You.

For Liz 06.04.11 (c) C. Quintana 2011

When I lived in London I became obsessed with the London Paper’s “Missed Connections.” For those who don’t know, “Missed Connections” (under various aliases everywhere), is a column in various publications, mostly daily newspapers, and now, websites, that allows people to attempt to re-connect with someone they passed on the street, shared a look, laugh or a smile with, etc.  What I find particularly intriguing about these is that they usually don’t work. As a matter of fact, statistically speaking, it’s exceedingly rare that someone actually re-connects with the person in question. But that certainly doesn’t stop people from trying.  As a matter of fact,  craigslist actually started a “Missed Connections” section of its website when administrators noticed that “I saw you” ads were repeatedly popping up in the personals section.

What’s that quote about insanity I love so much? Albert Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We’re all insane– in the best way possible! How awesome that despite the fact that the odds are against us, we say damn it, it’s worth a shot! I love that about people. We’re stubborn beings. And why not? Who’s to say it won’t work after the 49th or 57th time?

I’ve never actually posted a missed connection ad in my life, despite my love of the concept, but I am working on a new play that involves the idea and I’ve been doing my research.  Sometimes the “missed connections” are recent and sometimes, not so recent.  I found one that involved someone who’s been searching for a woman for six years. You’d think after six years they would have run into each other again, but this is New York City and there’s what, 8 million of us?  Apparently the two decided to meet up in the same location the next night and he stood her up– hmm. So maybe it’s some kind of epic karma at work here?

In any case, the first scene of the play involves a series of silhouettes and the voices of several “missed connections.” I’ve lovingly tweaked some of my favorites that I’ve found in various places– you’ll notice the “six year” one I referred to in the previous paragraph.

(We see the silhouettes of  a man and a woman, one after another, each a different person.)

MAN
Look, you were wearing a green shirt and you were kind of cool, at least that’s what I got from your face– which I also thought was alright. I was the hipster kid reading on the train this morning. I bet you know exactly who I am.

WOMAN
You: brown uniform, cute handwriting, kept stealing glances at me. French braid, short, big eyes. Me: short hair, black hoodie. I had a falafel for dinner. I wish I had spoken to you.

MAN
Ann-Charlotte, you came into Fossil. I helped you, then told you I would look you up on Facebook. Unfortunately, I was not thinking and there are hundreds of Ann-Charlottes from all over Europe… All I need is your last name. Or your phone number.

WOMAN
I really appreciated your help and kindness during the cab ride frenzy this morning! You were heading downtown– wish we could have shared the ride.

MAN
We’ve worked in same building for years, but the only time we make eye contact or talk is in the elevator. Haven’t seen you in months, and before that, even longer. Drink?

WOMAN
You’re caucasian with dark hair. We walked past each other on my street, I had big headphones, a black coat and a backpack, we did three double takes but neither of us stopped. I didn’t know I had such cute neighbors.

MAN
Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting and you bought a ticket I was selling and you sat next to me. We had a conversation and you said to meet you there the next night and I didn’t take you up on it. Been looking for you for six years…

I keep thinking about the words of those various ads that turned up on craigslist: “I saw you.” In this city of many, what does it mean for someone to really “see you”?  In any city, in any context, what does it mean for someone to see you? One of my favorite moments in Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love is when the character Kathryn chastises her husband Bradley for not “seeing her.” I wish that I could recall the quote off the top of my head, but alas, I am mortal.  There’s something beautiful–and so important– about being noticed in the day-to-day. We all deserve it. We deserve to feel special, for lack of a better word. So even if 90 percent of the other halves of those missed connections never see their messages, it’s been put out into the universe. For all we know, there’s at least one “missed connection” out there for each and every one of us.

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