Small World

My world has always been surprisingly small. I know; a lot of people say that, but I don’t think many match mine for compactness. I submit for your approval:

I grew up in a small rural community on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio, and joined the Navy right out of school, to see the world and never come back. I ended up on a Trident submarine and got to travel around the Atlantic Ocean quite a bit, but the only ports-of-call that I saw were Groton, CT; King’s Bay, GA; and an occasional liberty stop in Port Canaveral, FL.

During one of those PCAN port calls, we took on a new crew member, and put to sea for seventy-two days of strategic deterrent patrol (aka hiding missiles from the Russians). One night, on the midwatch, we found out The Newbie was from Cincinnati, too. Turns out, he and I had both lived in the same little one-horse town, where his stepmother was a teacher. I gazed at the name sewn above the pocket of his coveralls, and remembered that my fifth grade teacher had later married a man with that same last name.  As we realized that his father’s wife was my all-time favorite grade school teacher, Machinery 2 grew deathly quiet – sailors love a good omen, and chance meetings like this are real harbingers.  She was a wonderful and effective teacher – I credit her with my love for math.  That’s why I get totally juiced when someone wants to know how fast we can cool something down with a Vortex Tube – or a Super Air Knife – or which one’s better for their application.  Or when questions arise about ventilating a space with an Air Amplifier.  And it wasn’t just math – she just flat-out made learning fun.  I suppose that’s the mark of a quality educator, and it seems that some just have it, and some just don’t. 

Fast forward twenty years: I left the Navy in 1991 and, despite some valiant efforts to keep my vow to never return, I had ended up living in Cincinnati, married to the girl I took to my senior prom, settled comfortably in the ‘burbs with our two young sons.  My boys and I were out one crisp fall day in 2009, participating in that great Boy Scout tradition, the door-to-door Popcorn Sale.  As we canvassed the neighborhood, we came to a particular house in a cul-de-sac, where we found out the owner was a recently retired school teacher.  It had been over thirty years since I’d seen her, but some people you just don’t forget.  After meeting her stepson 400 feet deep in the middle of the Atlantic, she’s now my neighbor!  Small world indeed.

Maybe it’s coincidence.  Maybe it’s fate.  Perhaps it’s a little of both.  But I consider it a unique blessing that someone who meant so much to me in my youth is back in my circle.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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