People like to make fun of Facebook: it’s a time-waster, a marriage-killer, it’s been taken over by your mom (that last one’s probably true) but for me, it’s been joy. Facebook came into my life by accident. I was that mom who got an account because my 13-year old son had one and I needed to keep an eye on him. Little did I know that my accidental account, acquired a few months after moving across country, would become my lifeline to home. My ability to keep in touch with my family and friends in California has allowed me to adjust to life in Minneapolis much more easily.
Twenty-seven years ago, when I was a broke California college student, on exchange from Oregon State University to the University of London, I walked into a suburban pub where Simon Le Bon had worked before he became Duran Duran (!) and asked for a job, since in the states, I had recently helped train on the same computer system this pub and restaurant just acquired. I had no legal right to work in Britain, no papers, no whatever numbers the Brits have that equate to a social security number, nothing but the drive to continue to shop in the new city I called home that had, in my 22-year old mind, the best shopping in the world. The world, I tell you.
Sure, the world wasn’t that large to me at the time, only having been to the western states, but San Francisco and LA have decent shopping, right? Not like London. London was like Heaven to a clothes-horse girl. I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing the first time I walked around Knightsbridge, but I digress (as usual).
I looked at the older women kvetching over the computer and scratching their heads in confusion (it was 1987, this was a big deal) and getting madder and madder and I knew I had this job. I could feel it. I’d been working with older women and computers since I was 14. I asked if I could show them a few things and told them not to be afraid. I found that’s what always worked the best when dealing with computers and older people. “Don’t be afraid. Show it who’s boss. It can’t do anything you don’t tell it to.” That usually works for most things in life, doesn’t it?
I got the job on the spot. Not only did they save my behind (when I maxed out my credit card the day before and told my father, he was very quick to remind me that I was to be paying my own way on this gig and I better figure it out on my own) by giving me that job, it turned out to be the second best thing (next to the wonderful family I lived with) about living in London. They worked around my travel schedule (still had places to see), my theater schedule (was a liberal arts student – it was part of school) and they made me feel at home. It was like Cheers, with bad teeth. I was the Yank, the token Californian that they loved to make fun of. They thought I had an accent. It was then I discovered that I used “like” entirely too much and people outside of California didn’t say “Omigod” every three seconds like we did. I had always thought Californians were the only people without accents. I thought California was the center of the universe. I thought everybody knew that.
They didn’t get that memo in England and they let me know that often.
I was taught how to properly “pull” a Guinness. This took many tries of wasted Guinness that seemed heartbreaking to the regulars. Sometimes I thought they’d cry if I pulled another bad pint. I was taught how to use the crazy Queen’s measurement of hard liquor with the upside down bottles that pour exactly the right amount. Thank God, the people of England do not drink frou-frou drinks in pubs. I never had to learn how to make anything fancy. How can you be fancy when you don’t even refrigerate your beer? The first time I had to take a bottle of lager (what they call beer) off the shelf and serve it to someone at room temperature, I was horrified. They were just as horrified that I needed a glass full of ice to drink anything, regardless of how freezing it was outside.
I was a novelty and embraced as one of their own for just the three short months that I worked there. Two of my sisters came to visit during my last few weeks there and traveled through Spain with me. We went back to London before returning to the states so they could meet my exchange family and my pub family. My pub family gave me a pen and ink drawing of Pinner High Street that everyone signed and it still hangs in my dining room today.
A few months ago, I found out that my exchange Mum passed away. Through that horrible news, I was reunited with my exchange Dad and brother on social media. That got me thinking, “What about that great guy who gave me a job? Wonder if he’s on Facebook?” This afternoon, I heard from him. After 27 years, I’m back in touch with someone who probably doesn’t think much about me, but was significant in my life.
All because of Facebook.
While Facebook can’t keep me warm during an endless Minnesota winter, it continues to surprise me and connect me with people who before, were just distant memories.
Thanks Facebook! And Per Hogberg, I look forward to catching up with you on Facebook and someday, we’ll have to have a pint. You should pull it though. Pretty sure I’d ruin it.