Happy Foursquareth of July

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”~Leo Buscaglia, American writer

How apropos today’s WordsOfWisdom is. I met another Foursquare friend today.

Once upon a time, there was a location-based smartphone game app called Foursquare. I was a part of the Foursquareverse, checking in to places I visited and shopped at. Doing so captured my movements, daily events, new places and good food, all while earning fun fake points and silly badges along the way. Many of my friends were not media-active that way, fearing shadow stalkers and evil minions, so I was alone in the electronic space.

I was not alone for long because the app suggested friends for me to stalk–I mean, to follow–and adventures to experience. After exploring their stats and making sure they were safe strangers–as in, not Mayors of strip clubs, gun shops or a place called “N-Town”–I followed them. They followed me back, and thus we traveled together throughout the days…from New York to Rome to Chicago, from pizza shops to coffeehouses to steakhouses, from museums to concert halls to thrift stores.

One day, a Foursquare friend caught my attention. Her checkin at the Detroit airport with the comment “Las Vegas, baby, here I come!” was followed by a checkin at a local hospital. What happened? Was she okay? She missed her flight to Sin City vacation, and I was sad for her. I followed her recovery as her foot healed and she once again regained the throne at her local Starbucks store. I was Mayor of my local Starbucks store–I had attended the grand opening and the ribbon-cutting ceremony–so I felt an instant coffee bond with her.

Years passed as she traveled with me to Philly, Disney, Penn State and my cute little local grocery store. I watched her kids play, travel, achieve martial arts belts and so much more. She liked my checkins, and I liked hers. We knew each other through photos and tips, but we never met each other. All of which leads us to today.

My husband and I had morning coffee at her Mayoral Starbucks; he and I like the Clover Reserve blends there. We played our usual game of Yahtzee, but this time with a twist: we played three games, not our usual two, which completed our score sheet. I decided to get a coffee-to-go refill, something I rarely do because I usually do not finish my drink. There was an additional issue with the order, so getting the coffee took longer than expected. As I collected my patiently-waiting husband, I saw a notification on my phone: “(Your friend) has checked into Starbucks.”

Really? She was here? Oh frabjuous day! Or would she think meeting me was creepy?

“Yeah, go meet her if you want,” my husband said as we walked through the store. He sat down at a table and said, “Just don’t take an hour.”

My ears perked up listening for the sound of female voices. My eyes darted around the store. I looked again at my phone. The checkin occurred five minutes ago; if her habit was to checkin when leaving a place, would she even still be here?

And then I saw, in the far corner, a boy I’ve seen playing with Legos…a girl I’ve seen smiling…and a woman who’s avatar looked oh-so-familiar. The Mayor was in the house.

“Excuse me,” I said, my eyes glancing at this group I knew more well than strangers should. “Are you (name)?”

Of course I knew the answer, but I waited for her to inquire with a “Yes?”

Now what? I felt awkward as I had the first time I met a Foursquare friend, a male who was Mayor of another coffee shop I was in. I introduced myself as “Diana,” and he had to ferret out which one of his Foursquare friends I was. Shades of Gary, how do I introduce myself this time?

Reverse psychology. “Hi, I’m (insert screen name)”

“Oh, it’s wonderful to meet you,” she said as she launched into an old-school hug.

My ever-patient husband waited while she introduced me to her family. “Hi family,” I said, waving. She congratulated me on my recent book, and we talked about families near and far, about phone apps, travel and coffee. And then, she asked the question I should have, but did not, expect:

“What is your real name?”

Oh. Right. My real name is not my screen name. I was tickled that she asked me that, and I felt stupid that I had only introduced myself by that screen name. So I told her, rolling my eyes at my lack of manners.

With that we parted, hugs again and lofty plans to meet again. The two friendly strangers were no longer strangers but simply friends in a strange way.

And they lived happily ever after. For now, at least. That was enough.

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