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Karin Fuller: Small-world connections

September 2, 2018

In a recent column, I mentioned the sort of overlaps West Virginians seem to routinely experience. The very next day, my daughter returned home with a story from her first evening working in an Atlanta restaurant. She said she approached her first table and shared that she was in training, adding how she had just moved to town.

“Where from?” asked one of the women.

“West Virginia,” said Celeste.

The woman smiled and put her hand to her heart. Beneath her hand was a pendant. In the shape of West Virginia.

It got me thinking about some of the small-world experiences I’ve had, like the time I picked up a New York City man at the airport in Charleston and drove him to a conference in Ripley. Over the course of a single weekend, the man ran into three or four of the people who were on his same flight, seated right by him.

One of my former Gazette co-workers, Mary Wade Triplett, said when she visited New York City she ran into someone from Charleston three times on the same trip. “I never saw him that much in Charleston,” said Mary Wade.

This last I learned because of a question I posted on Facebook, asking for similar small-world experiences. There were more than I expected, and while I hope to share others at a later date - and I’m open for more - below are some of my favorite experiences.

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Libby Kozak Tolley, of Belle, said one of her friends, who works for Kanawha County Schools as a bus mechanic, was on vacation when he saw, of all things, an old school bus - with “Kanawha County Schools” on the side. He was in South America at the time.

“I just can’t get away from those things,” he said.

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One of my former Nitro High classmates, Leigh Shell-Thompson, a private investigator, shared one of her favorite small-world stories.

“About 10 years ago, I received a call from a client who was living in Texas and looking for her birth sisters,” said Leigh.

The girls had been born in a shack on Hix Mountain in Hinton, West Virginia. Two were later abandoned at a Virginia orphanage and the other left at a convenience store.

The woman who hired Leigh had already spent thousands and found nothing, and since the orphanage had burned, leaving no records, Leigh had to find a different angle.

“I traveled to Hinton and looked for an 80-something man anywhere on Hix Mountain,” said Leigh. “There’s an octogenarian in every city who knows ALL the biz.”

She found one and chatted him up - and, sure enough, got the information she needed. Within a week and a half, she’d reunited the sisters. But wait, there’s more.

The client who had called Leigh lived in Texas. And her sister? She lived right around the corner in the same Texas neighborhood, and had for about 15 years. The third sister had remained in Virginia.

The sisters got each others’ names tattooed on their shoulders so they’ll never “lose” each other again.

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Moses Zegeer, another one of my former co-workers as well as one of my favorite people ever, wrote about a time in 1987 when he was on the final day of an Asian business trip and saw a man he thought he knew.

“My traveling companion said, ‘You don’t know him. You’re 5,000 miles from home.’”

But the man looked at Moses and Moses looked at him and he said their lights clicked on at the same time.

“It was one of my better friends from Charleston whom I had not seen in over 15 years,” said Moses. “We found ourselves having breakfast in Taiwan.”

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Laura Mahony wrote about a time she and her son were on the beach in Maui, watching the sunset, when a man walked by and asked if they were locals.

“I told him we were from West Virginia and he said he was from West Virginia!” wrote Laura.

“Turns out he was from Hinton and we had a mutual friend there. Small world.”

It sure is.

And I’m homesick for a certain sliver of it.

Karin Fuller can be reached via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.

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