In this age of Facebook and other social media influencing the way we communicate and define friendship, an old-fashioned yet refreshing method of face time was on display Sunday in the Columbus Public Library.
It was a “speed friending” session. And although only two participants attended, both deemed it worthwhile.
Whether they will remain friends is unclear, but they certainly spent a pleasant hour together and provided an excellent example of folks from different demographics finding common reason to converse.
Charla Barry is a 40-something graduate of Spencer High School, class of 1992. She works at Wade Cleaners and at the Fort Benning AMC movie theater. Charla went to the speed friending event, she said, because her mother encouraged her after reading about it in the Ledger-Enquirer.
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“She knows most of my friends have moved away and I lament about being lonely,” Charla said.
Geraldine Goodman, 77, is a retired math teacher, serving for a total of 32 years in Talbot and Muscogee counties until 1993. One of the schools in which she taught is Spencer, but she wasn’t there when Charla was there. Geraldine went to the speed friending event, she said, because she attends as many library programs as she can.
“I like moving forward,” Geraldine said.
Speed friending is like speed dating but without the overt pursuit of romance. Participants have a certain amount of time to ask another person questions before they rotate to another person. At the end of the event, they can exchange contact information with those they want to connect with again for a possible relationship.
Of course, with Charla and Geraldine the only participants in Sunday’s session, they didn’t rotate – but, remarkably, they stayed for the whole hour.
Geraldine is black; Charla is white.
Jillian Weaver, the library associate conducting the event, gave them a list of icebreaker questions, which they didn’t need. They chatted and chuckled as if they’ve known each other for years.
Their topics were as repulsive as flesh-eating disease, as thrilling as zip-lining and as calming as adult coloring books, as puzzling as Sudoku, as practical as wearing tie-on shoes on your flight in case your plane crashes, and as preposterous as whether you actually can befriend somebody in the grocery store.
Then they indeed tried some of the icebreaker questions. Charla cracked about the “What’s your favorite color” question, “That doesn’t really lead to any further conversation.”
Like a good sport, Jillian didn’t take offense.
“That’s OK,” Jillian said. “Icebreakers are just that; they lead you to other things.”
And they did. Charla and Geraldine kept on talking. They discussed movies, the generation gap and the reliance on electronics for entertainment.
When the hour was up, Jillian politely interrupted and told them, “Well, ladies, thanks so much for coming. Please feel free to have another cookie. We’ll definitely get something else scheduled, and hopefully we’ll see you again.”
Jillian expects the library to conduct another speeding friending event, sometime in early 2018.
“We have a lot of programs that are very well attended, and we have programs where one or two people attend,” Jillian said. “We never know how many people to expect, but we put the same effort into it.”
Geraldine and Charla appreciated that effort.
“I met a friend,” Geraldine said. “That was the purpose of being here, and I met a friend.”
“Human interaction is good,” Charla said. “Because I live alone and unless I pick up the phone and call somebody, I don’t talk to anybody. I mean, I have cats, and I talk to them, but they’re not much for conversation, so it’s nice to get out from time to time and just talk to people.”