I tend to avoid blogging random bits and pieces of my personal life, but this one is too much fun to ignore plus it made me think of something special from my past so here it goes. Over the years, I’ve had amazing luck running into people I know in the most random places from the streets of Paris to New York City’s subways. Such a fun encounter happened yesterday in Cambridge, Massachusetts, my home for this academic year. I’m going to give you a rather long version of the story to emphasize how incredibly random it was for this encounter to happen.
In case you don’t have time for the longer version, here’s the summary: I ran into a college friend of mine yesterday on the streets of Cambridge. I hadn’t seen her in probably over a decade (although on occasion we’d been in touch on email). But allow me to give more detail to emphasize the low chances of this meeting.
Having just gotten back from Europe, I was pretty jet lagged on Monday and had been up since 2:30am. I had planned on taking a nap in the afternoon. I had just finished a late lunch with a colleague and was extremely tempted to walk home for a nap instead of going to the office. I stopped on a street for almost a minute figuring out how to proceed. I rarely do that. I usually do contemplation of that sort while walking. But going home vs going to the office required very different routes so I needed to stop and make a decision. I finally decided to go to the office.
There I was, walking in Cambridge (crossing the Common to Massachusetts Avenue) on my way to Harvard Law School. I was about to cross a street when I saw someone I knew so I called out her name and stopped to chat with her. As I was talking to her, in the corner of my eye I noticed that someone stopped nearby. She was looking at me a bit puzzled. It took me about two seconds to realize who she was. Marjorie Victor. Marjorie is a friend from college, the year when we studied in Geneva, Switzerland together. I probably hadn’t seen her in about a decade (if not more).
Although Marjorie used to live in Cambridge, she now lives in Toronto and her work often takes her to Ethiopia. She barely comes to Cambridge anymore so what are the chances that this encounter would happen?! Wow. I was and am still overwhelmed by this wonderful coincidence.
This all reminded me of the last time I saw my very dear paternal grandmother. The day before she died, I was on my way home from school (eighth grade) and was deciding whether I would go stop by her place to show her my midyear report card. I was on a tram and was undecided. The tram pulled up to the stop where I would have had to get off if I was interested in going home rather than visiting my grandma. I was still undecided when the tram doors suddenly closed in front of me. That was it, the decision had been made for me, I was going to my grandmother’s. To this day I remember standing there thinking: well, that was easy. What I didn’t know at that moment was that this allowed me to see my grandmother one last time before she passed away.*
Although yesterday’s encounter doesn’t carry the same weight, it reminded me of that story. Of course, when we decide to take the route that doesn’t lead to such significant encounters, the moment is forever lost having little significance. But those few moments of this sort that lead to something special can stay with us for a long time.
* I posted three tweets on the 100th anniversary of her birthday this past summer that I’ll replicate here since Twitter messages disappear after a while:
1/3 Thinking about my amazing Grandma born 100 yrs ago today. Her husband was killed in a labor camp in WWII.
2/3 She herself was in a concentration camp with her sons & other relatives in Vienna. Then came other hardships back in Hungary.
3/3 But she remained a most amazingly kind & thoughtful person &although she died 20 yrs ago, to this day she continues to teach me so much.