Yesterday I went to Paris for the afternoon.
Okay, not really, but doesn’t that sound divine?
My friend Téa and I went to an enjoyable French cooking class together yesterday. While we were chopping fresh vegetables, the teacher/chef had some French music playing, and I was channelling Julia Child. (Hey, a girl can daydream can’t she? If you really know me, you’ll know that I’m certainly NO chef in real life) It was a wonderful afternoon of delicious smells, nice chatter and learning some of what “Les Français” do in the kitchen. I really felt, if only for a moment, I was cooking in Paris!
It was an intimate setting for a cooking class. There is a lovely lady in Toronto who conducts small classes out of her mid-town condominium. There we six students, the teacher, and her assistant – 8 bodies in total, shuffling around her condo unit, all busy in her makeshift cooking stations, creating some wonderful French dishes. It was a perfect amount of people and space to make the experience intimate, yet not cramped. It was my first time ever doing anything like that, and I think I’ll be doing it again soon!
Aside from the delicious meal we created, (which was the consumable reward at the end of the class), I have to say the most interesting part of the whole experience was the group of people that was brought together for the affair. We had all met each other that day, brought together by our interest in French food, cooking and (my main motivator) eating. While I’m generally not uncomfortable in new situations with strangers, this setting was a little different. We were in someone’s home for the first time, about to prepare a meal with strangers for our own consumption. If I felt a bit uneasy at first, how did the teacher feel? We were complete strangers who now know her address, the buzzer code for the condo and where she keeps her sharpest knives.
We were all there for our own reasons, and I’m glad I had Téa was with me. As the morning moved into the afternoon, we all got to know each other a little better and something amazing happened. All eight of us clicked. Not in a “You’re my new best friend” sort of way, but in a “Wow. You’re interesting, I’m comfortable with being in this situation with you right now” way. There was the chef and her helpful assistant, myself, Téa, an adorable young couple, and a pair of lifelong best buddies who, along with the teacher, really had a comedy show going on. (And this pair happened to come from the same area of Eastern Canada where Téa is from, small world!) There was instant camaraderie and comfort between all of us: the teacher was playfully being “extra nice” to Justin, half of the handsome young couple. She teased Téa about having hidden culinary talents and even tried to set me up with her son! (She didn’t realize I was married and 10 years older than him!) There was lots of energy, giggles, and playful jabs taken at each other. I was amazed at how complete strangers could suddenly be like old college buddies, or like a big family, cooking together in Auntie Sharon’s condo. It was really amazing. And really nice.
So nice, in fact, that one of the lovely ladies in the group (one of the “East Coast best buddies”) felt very comfortable with telling us intimate details about her life. Sure, it may have been risky, but I guess the afternoon bonded all of us somehow. We all offered her differing advice and comments from our various life experiences and backgrounds. It also helped that during these conversations, there was wine being sipped and delicious home cooked French food being eaten.
At the end of it all, it was sort of sad to leave. This little group of 8 people really connected and felt really close after spending 5 hours together in close quarters. Of course, there were some awkward moments during the “good-bye” process. Do we exchange contact information or we were all alone in thinking that we all genuinely connected? Do we hug each other, shake hands, or just say “Take care”? Do we all wait for each other to ride the elevator together or do we just leave on our own in our “pair”? We also had to tip our new friend the Chef/teacher and her assistant (very awkward, in my opinion).
The teacher made it all easy for us by giving us great hugs announcing that this was one of the best groups she’s ever taught. She also hoped we’d do it altogether again sometime. As eccentric and quirky as she was, Chef Sharon was genuine, lovable, and yes, I think I just may go back someday soon.
But that’s not the end of my story. I ended up riding the elevator with the pair of lifelong buddies, one of whom was the woman who did a lot of sharing. We chatted briefly and turns out she works as an HR Manager. Having once held that role myself, I quickly moved into “work mode”, we were “talking shop” a bit and I ended up asking her for her business card, which, I thought, was a good way to end the day. She gave me her card and I did the polite and customary reading of it. (Etiquette reading, remember?)
It turns out this woman is the HR Manager for the parent company of the workplace my husband had just resigned from. What an unbelievable coincidence! I had to make a quick decision of whether to tell her or not – the company is small and while I have never met her, she and my husband may know each other. I decided, since she shared information, I may as well too, not really putting too much thought into how she should react. When I told her, I realized it may have been a mistake. She very briefly had a look of shock, then surprise, then back to her bubbly self (I think). We said our good-byes and I said I would keep in touch (which I really do plan on doing).
On the subway ride home I wondered if she was regretting the reveal of some of the details of her life. I was worried that my new friend would be upset all weekend and uncomfortable going into work on Monday, for fear that people may know too much about the HR Manager. Or maybe not. I truly hope she thinks that I take my Human Resources commitment of confidentiality seriously and won’t go home and tell my husband details about her life. I wish I could somehow tell her this, but my thought right now is to just to send her a “Nice meeting you” email, not really mentioning the one degree of separation we just discovered we had. I hope she’s not fretting.
The lesson? It’s obvious, right?
The world is small and its inhabitants, amazing. I love how we can sometimes be reminded at how different we all really are from each other….but in reality, we are somehow the same and somehow, connected. Put a few strangers in a room for half a day, they can come out as best friends.
You really never do know who you will meet. Or who you will find you are connected to.
So we may as well be kind to one another. Always.
Have a great week, everyone.