Degrees of separation

Melissa Stagnaro

I think I was in fifth grade the first time I visited Walt Disney World. I’d flown to Florida over Spring Break to visit my Aunt Kathleen and the two-day excursion we took to the monumental theme park and neighboring Epcot Center were the highlight of my trip.

Space Mountain and the Pirates of the Caribbean were by far my favorite attractions, but ranking right up there as well was “It’s a Small World.”

I know some people find the ride disturbing. But not me. I loved the leisurely boat ride, with its twisting and twirling figures garbed in costumes from countries around the globe, all singing its signature round in cheerful harmony. So much so that I was practically mesmerized by it.

The ride is, of course, designed to make us feel like we have much in common with the rest of mankind no matter from which country they hail. More often then not, however, we use the phrase from it most often for an entirely different reason: To signify how ridiculously interconnected we all are.

When faced with evidence of how “small” the world really is, my reaction is less the euphoria of my youth and more a Twilight Zone-esque feeling of paranoia.

I had one of those moments yesterday when during the course of a casual conversation I realized that there were far fewer than the typical six degrees of separation between myself and Jennifer, a friend and former co-worker.

We ran into each other after the dairy rally in Coventry, as we both stood trying to resist the hot chili and hot dogs being provided by the event’s organizers. As we chatted about this and that, I mentioned my plans to do a bit of hiking in the Shenendoahs later this month.

The ensuing conversation went something like this…

“Who are you going hiking with?” queried Jennifer.

“My friend Ed,” I replied.

“What’s his last name?” she inquired.

When I replied, she responded that she knew someone with that same last name.

“Well, he’s from the Albany area originally,” I said, heavy on the implication that the chances were slim to none that she would know him.

“So is Roger,” she added.

Cue the Twilight Zone opening musical sequence, please.

You see, Ed has a younger brother named Roger. The same Roger, as it turns out, who happens to be one of Jennifer’s husband Nate’s best friends from college.

Now, what do you think the odds are of that? While you’re contemplating, feel free to join me in the chorus…

It’s a small world after all.
It’s a small, small world.