MOUNTLAKE TERRACE, Wash. -- They gathered in a Mountlake Terrace kitchen, marveling over a friend's new refrigerator that plays music via Bluetooth speakers. The scene spoke volumes about what it means to be "connected" in our culture, and how we so often take it for granted.
The group of friends have known each other for over 40 years, but lately haven't been together as much as they'd like.
A recent arrival changed all that, however.
"I couldn't believe it when I looked in my mailbox," said Bob Huffman.
It started with a bottle found by JoJo Lynch on the beach.
It was the 4th of July. Lynch and the group of friends were on one of their annual trips down to Westport on the Washington coast. On whim, they decided to put a bunch of messages in that bottle and launch it into the sea.
"We thought it would be fun for the kids," said Lynch. "We never expected this."
They dug up a pen, some Post-it notes and got to writing.
They included their names and addresses. Huffman included some words of wisdom.
"I wrote, 'To ball is to live. The rest is waiting,'" he said with a laugh. "If you were a baller that was cool. It's kind of embarrassing now, but it made sense back then."
"Back then" was 1999. Before the iPhone. Back when America''s biggest concern was Y2K.
Sixteen and a half years later, someone found that bottle and did what the notes asked – to return them.
They arrived in the mail last week, postmarked Manila, the Philippines, some 6,600 miles away.
"I can't believe it actually made it there," said Lynch. "I figured it ended up in that big garbage patch in the Pacific."
"I thought it would've ended up back on a beach in Oregon or something," added Huffman.
The group sat reading the notes they penned all those years ago. Some of them were written by their children, who have kids of their own now.
"I still can't believe it," said Pam Sheridan. "It brought back lots of fond memories."
It's an early Christmas gift for these friends who haven't been back to that beach together in years.
"It's just perfect timing," said Lynch. "It's bringing everyone back together."
It's a modern day long-distance connection made without the help of Facebook, or email, let alone a Bluetooth fridge.
More than that, it is a re-connection of old friends who now say they all just might get together this summer and head back to the beach…maybe even launch another bottle into the sea.