Sunday, August 7, 2005

MH - Life's Little Coincidences

One of my favorite authors, Paul Auster, likes to point out how strange, unusual things happen to him all the time - so often, in fact, that to him they have ceased to be strange or unusual. For example, a woman in Minnesota who corresponds with him regarding his writing mentions that she will be in New York soon, and wonders if it would be possible to meet. Apologetically, Auster regrets that he already has an engagement planned, a meeting with a friend. While he is waiting in the restaurant for his friend, a woman in the next booth over turns around at the sound of his voice. It is the woman from Minnesota who has been corresponding with him. Of all the restaurants in the city of New York, she just happened to choose the same one in which Auster sat, waiting for his friend.

As I mentioned, Auster says this kind of thing - call it coincidence, fate, an accident of life - happens to him all the time, and probably does to us too, if we would stop and think of it. I always had my doubts about that, but now we've had one of those occasions, one that I think Auster would like and appreciate.

Hadleyblogger Kristine was over here the other day helping us install a new light in our condo. After a grueling day of painting and electrical work, we decided food was in order, and called up Pizza Hut for a delivery. When the delivery woman knocked at the door, she was already shaking her head. It seems as if her fiancee lived in the building, or at least had been visiting someone who lived here (I wasn't sure which), and while he was in the building an accident had happened, he had somehow flipped over the railing on the balcony of an upper floor, and had fallen to the concrete surface below. He had survived but was badly injured, and she had moved from California to Minnesota to take care of him, and had taken a job as a driver for Pizza Hut. What a coincidence to find that she was now delivering a pizza to this very building at which her fiancee had been injured.

All the while she was telling us this, Judie had been listening carefully. Now she suddenly asked the woman if her fiancee's name had been John Smith (for example, or some such name). Yes, the woman replied, surprised. How did you know?

Well, it seemed as if a few days prior to this, we'd received a letter in the mail from an attorney's office. It was addressed to "Building Management," with no unit number, and had somehow found its way to our mailbox. Being as how there are about 400 units in this condo, that in itself was no mean trick. We opened the letter to find out who it was meant for. It turned out to be a letter from an attorney's office regarding an injury claim they were handling for someone who had been injured in an accident in the building. Clearly it wasn't meant for us - the accident had occurred before we'd even moved into the building, and so Judie brought it down to the management office, and they thanked her for passing it along.

Of course, you've guessed by now that the injured party in the letter was none other than the same John Smith who's fiancee was now standing in our doorway holding a hot pizza while Judie made out the check for the delivery. As Bogart might have said, of all the condos in the world she picked ours to walk into. It was an incredible story nonetheless, and afterwards the three of us were left asking ourselves what the odds must have been on something like this. While Minneapolis certainly isn't as big as New York, it's not lower Podunk either, and it seemed as if the entire series of events - the injury, the letter, the pizza delivery - were just too much to be passed off. I almost hoped that something would come of this, that we'd find out that we had something else in common with the woman, or that Kristine and her would have been long-lost school friends, but that was it. Just an amazing coincidence and a hot pizza. But it makes you wonder, doesn't it? And maybe we all should think about how often these kinds of things happen in our lives. It's often said that where God is concerned, there is no such thing as coincidence, and since God is involved in everything, it still makes me wonder.

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