Coincidences, Part 1

28 April 2014

I’m not someone who can put scientific theory to work to explain a random concurrence of events…coincidence. I also don’t subscribe to some mystical, Deepak Chopra, we’re all connected, Devine plan explanation either. Probability theorists can prove that random events are more predictable than we might imagine…(in a group of 23 people, there’s a 50% chance that two will have the same birthday.) But I prefer the more quixotic notion that things we don’t expect, just happen.

There is a formulaic probability that someone’s birthday will be their zip code, as mine is. But I don’t want it explained to me, I just want to say, isn’t that weird?, and get some OMG response like, you’re kidding me.The same when reacting to living at two numerical addresses of 165 and three of 99. I had a friend in 6th grade in Springfield, Massachusetts. I moved and we never communicated…but he and I showed up in the same freshman class at college. More random, a good boyhood friend (we were 10) in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with whom I also lost contact, tapped me on the shoulder more than 30 years later at a Tufts University graduation. Our daughters were both graduating that day.

A number of years ago, when the Holocaust Museum in Washington first opened, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law wanted to take my wife, Brenda, and I to it (they lived near Washington), but tickets weren’t available. Undeterred, as if she could command the stars, Gail (my sister-in-law) insisted we go there anyway. A long line of ticket-holders had formed. Three of us hung back, while Gail, brazen as a trumpet, walked inside to the ticket counter. Do you have tickets for Bill Scher, she asked (why she used my name and not hers we’ll never know, but that’s part of the coincidence). The agent, looking through envelopes with will-call tickets asked, Phil Scher? That must be it, Gail said, someone must have heard Phil and not Bill over the phone. That must be it, said the agent. Sweet reason and a smile made the con complete. We pulled our coat collars up like thieves, got on line with other ticket-holders and hoped the line moved before Phil Scher showed up. The odds were none to slimmer than none that we’d get in that day. And Phil Scher, if by coincidence you read this, just remember, sometimes you do the right thing…and it still doesn’t work out.

And the last in this first installment of coincidences…a friend knew father and son contractors who put a small cement pond in a pet store. As the contractor’s son did the work, the father played with a puppy that was for sale in the store. Years later the father and son, still contracting, went to a home for a job estimate. As the client opened the door, a large German Shepherd bounded out, leapt up on the father. The client, heart-in-his-throat. thinking liability, was amazed to see the dog licking the father…its paws on his shoulders. I never saw him do that, said the client. It turns out, as you’ve no doubt deduced, that this was the puppy in the pet store…a kindness remembered…and repaid. Shaw’s morality tale Androcles and the Lion is alive and well.

There are more coincidences to come. Tune in.