Merb and One Degree of Separation


At IBM’s East Fishkill West Campus 310 Building, I would often visit the vending machines in the break area for an afternoon snack. My office was on the third floor, and the vending machines provided milk in the small cartons. The second floor vending machines did not provide milk; hence, Maureen O’Reilly and I met one afternoon because of her milk drinking

As I walked east down the hallway I noticed another young woman walking. I introduced myself and Maureen and I learned that we both were from Maryland. East Fishkill is a good 5-hour drive from Montgomery County, Maryland, where we both grew up. So we both shared delight in finding another Marylander. The introductory comments probably went along these lines:

Where are you from? Maryland.

Oh. What county? Montgomery. We have narrowed it down to the NE suburb of Washington, DC–how close can we get?

Where did you go to high school?

Maureen: The Academy of the Holy Cross. Anne: Magruder.

Maureen: Oh, Magruder! I know people from Magruder from the swim team at Montgomery Country Club. Do you know…

  • Pat O’Brien I nod my head; he also went to junior high with me at Redland
  • Joe Bilik I nod my head; he also went to elementary school with me at Candlewood
  • Janet Buyer I nod my head; high school only
  • Marianne Billleter I nod my head and say “Oh you mean Merb!”

My response blew Maureen’s mind; she smiled and said “I was going to say Merb, but it’s such an unusual name that I didn’t know if I should use it.”

I smiled back because, indeed, Merb was an unusual name, and probably not the one the teachers in school knew. I had known Merb since we were juniors in Girl Scouts. My mom led the troop for five years and Merb was one year younger than me. We went on to both be in the same Cadet troop, with Mrs. Wood being the leader. While I swam at the Rockville City Pool, I never swam competitively.

One degree of separation via multiple people between Maureen and me. However, both of us knowing Merb—well, that sealed the deal. Maureen and I began a friendship and, to this day, we both revel in sharing small world stories with each other.

Have a Productive Day,

Anne Meixner

Dear Reader–please share your comments and stories that are sparked by this piece. For instance, did you meet someone and find out you only had one degree of separation? See Contribute for how you can share a story at The Engineers’ Daughter.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle Mitchell says:

    Hi Anne,

    I enjoy your writing because I completely relate. Thank you! I had to stop and comment because your salutation is one I’ve used for decades. This made me smile.

    May you have a productive day! With that… I’m off to work!


  2. Anne says:

    First I appreciate your compliments to the writing.
    Glad to learn that you have been using the same salutation. I started it in the past 5 years. Makes sense to me to be more precise at what “good day” is, at work I want to be productive!

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