My New Best Friend

Today I made a new best friend. Her name is Liz. It all started this morning when I called an 800 number that was connected to a skin care products company. I wanted information about their products. It was about 9:30, my time.

The very cheery and friendly female voice at the other end of the line introduced herself as ‘Liz.’ From the start it would have sounded to anyone listening in that we were old pals checking in for our usual Monday morning chat.

As it turned out, Liz was in San Diego, so it was only 6:30 a.m. her time. Nevertheless, she was as bright and cheery a conversationalist as one could imagine–full of giggles and pronouncements of what was “really cool.” She sounded nice. I liked her. And what’s more, after giving me her company’s website address where I could probably see instantly most of what I wanted to know, she promised to send me additional printed information.

The conversation ended on an appropriately jolly note, considering all the good cheer that had been flowing between us for the past three minutes. And when she was signing off, Liz called me ‘Nance’–a nickname normally reserved for use by family and best friends…but isn’t that what Liz had already become? I didn’t mind the instant familiarity–it was somehow just all so pleasantly buddy-buddy. This is such a uniquely American approach to the world that it makes me smile.

My experience this morning reminded me of the telling of a similar story, but with a slightly different reaction on the part of the recipient–the wife of a nationally syndicated weekly radio talk show host. Her husband recounted her experience on his show.

Apparently the talk show host’s wife (let’s call her Mary) had recently been shopping in a large department store for which she held a store credit card. She had purchased something—supposedly a small item and not significant in terms of dollar value, but the key is that she had used her store credit card–which she had not done for some time previous to this purchase.

About a week later Mary received a handwritten note in the mail. Upon opening it she found a note saying something to the effect of how wonderful it had been to see her the week before, that it had been such a long time, and that the note’s writer hoped that she and Mary would see each other again soon. The note was signed with a first name only–let’s say it was ‘Laura’–and only on reading what was written beneath did it become clear that the note was in fact from this department store.

In reality, ‘Laura’ had never even met ‘Mary,’ but I guess all of that was beside the point of all the good will the store hoped to be transmitting by the sending of this chummy note. (I could just imagine a whole roomful of Laura’s–perhaps recent college grads out on their first jobs–diligently churning out chummy notes by the basketful to anyone and everyone who had recently reactivated their store credit card.)

Mary took this opportunity to send a note in return. The gist of it went something like this:

Dear Laura,

I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to receive your note today. Really, it has made my day. Until it arrived I was feeling so forlorn, forgotten and totally out of touch that I was becoming suicidal. Your note has changed all of that and now I feel valued, cared about, and worthy…and I know I have a real friend. I can’t wait to see you again either. How about tomorrow? Are you free for lunch? What about dinner? Are you free this weekend? Next week? Please call me as soon as you get this–my very life is hanging on your response–and availability.

Your best friend,


Maybe I should call Liz back and see if she’s free for lunch tomorrow–if I take the red-eye to the west coast tonight, I could make it in plenty of time.

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