Googling an old friend and finally hitting pay dirt
I somehow knew I’d find Sherry at a National Public Radio (NPR) station. In some strange way, when I finally located my oldest friend, it just seemed appropriate that she would have ended up – as they sang in the theme song to the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati – “living on the air” in Indianapolis hosting a show called The Art of the Matter.I believe it was more than just a coincidence that I’d been listening to KUNC, one of the local NPR stations we tune in here in Summit County, when something triggered a memory in my jumbled subconscious, and Sherry’s image popped into my head. Even though I’d tried to locate her several times in the past, it was this image that sent me back to my computer for one more try.Sharon Gamble was my junior year high school English teacher back when I was an immature kid in Indianapolis. And as teachers sometimes do, she became a mentor and a friend to my small, slightly offbeat group of friends – a group, I might add, that needed all the friends it could get.Sherry instilled in me my first real understanding and love of poetry and literature, and even today, more than 20 years after the last school bell rang for this old boy, I can still picture myself sitting slack jawed in one of her classes as the sheer power of new ideas snapped into my head.
Over the next few years we became close friends. We took fencing lessons together, and I was even a groomsman at her wedding.Unfortunately for Sherry, however, she was a superlative teacher in a Catholic school where academic excellence was ignored in favor of athletic prowess, and after butting heads with a dim-witted administration and even dumber students she gave up the teaching gig for good. During my periodic trips back home, while I was attending college, I always made sure I’d set up at least a lunch stop with Sherry. When you find a person who not only knows more about music, theater, literature and art than most college professors, but also someone you consider a lifetime friend, it’s smart to keep in touch. Which, when you move around as much as I have, has not been an easy thing to do.The last time I saw Sherry was 13 years ago on my wedding day, when, in a surprise move, she made the drive from Indianapolis to Nags Head, N.C.Why anyone would make that kind of an effort for a goofball like me is beyond my comprehension, but that was Sherry for you.
Unfortunately, I was in no condition to receive visitors with any aplomb. At the time of my nuptials I was still trading in my young-man bad habits – like binge drinking – for my adult bad habits – like snoring.A rough night before the wedding cost me any quality time I could have spent with her. That night also changed my drinking habits for the next 13 years and influenced the naming of my second daughter. But that’s another story.Over the years, I’ve periodically Googled Sherry’s name into my computer system without results. It was only this past week while listening to the radio, however, that it finally struck me as to why I couldn’t find a woman I knew had to be on the Internet. Sherry has been computer savvy since the early ’80s. It seems that I’d been searching for her under the wrong name. I’ve always called her Sherry, and it took me this long to realize her real name was Sharon.(Hey, I’m not very bright, but I can lift heavy things. Just ask my wife.)
So, armed with this correction, I finally tracked her down.Even though I’ve never been a big fan of computers – my hate being exacerbated by the poor Internet service and lousy phone lines I deal with living above 10,000 feet – I have to admit, for all the electronic stress they have caused me over the years, there are benefits to these information age gatekeepers. And the benefit that tops my list is that with the Internet, and a bit of luck, a fool like me who has lost touch with an old and dear friend can find redemption.In my opinion that is about as noble a purpose as a machine can have.Andrew Gmerek writesa Friday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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