Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000
Serendipitous Synchronicity: Chance Encounter
We suffer hardships from time to time that appear to be nothing more than random inconveniences we would rather have done without. Occasionally, however, serendipity and synchronicity unite into deeply moving experiences. At these times, all of the suffering endured seems somehow wonderful and meaningful. (For those of you who might be a little tired of Al throwing around five-dollar words all the time, think of "serendipitous synchronicity" as "accidental cooincidence" which means pretty much the same thing but lacks the cool alliteration.)
It snowed hard yesterday. The parking lots weren't plowed until this morning, and what work was done was done badly. I took my car to the shop last night, forcing me to use the CATA bus for transportation to work this morning. Usually, that's not a big deal, but the CATA buses won't come down my street with all the snow. One got stuck there yesterday. It took me fifteen minutes to walk the quarter mile to the plowed curb where I waited for the 8:00 bus to take me downtown. I arrived at 7:50. The bus arrived fifteen minutes late at 8:15. After forty minutes of standing or walking in the morning cold, I was frozen to the bone. The bus itself was only slightly warmer than the air outside. I shivered in silence, anticipating that soon I would be at work, warm and comfortable.
I arrived at the bus terminal about twenty minutes later. With only three blocks of walking to go, I started marching toward the office. All I needed then was a cigarette. After eight years of quality service, my Zippo just wouldn't light, and my numbed fingers could not rectify the problem. Alas! If only I could find a fellow smoker to aid me in a moment of distress. Luck was with me. Another smoker was walking a few feet ahead. I asked him for a light. I handroll my smokes.
"Is that a doobie or a handroll?" asked my benefactor.
I laughed, "It's a handroll."
"Y'know, you look kind of familiar. Do I know you?" he asked.
"Maybe," I said.
"What's your name?"
"Do you spend much time in Gaylord?"
"I'm from there," I said, flabbergasted.
The "stranger" was a native of G-Town on his way back after an aborted misadventure to Colorado. He was stuck in Lansing with a twelve-hour layover until his final bus departed for Grayling (note that no buses actually go to G-Town. Grayling is as close as you can get). I had met him briefly a few times at Shangrala or one of its previous incarnations. Always willing to help a fellow G-Town All-Star, I showed him where in downtown to get the best breakfast grub, explained what buses to take for easy access to East Lansing, and provided him with phone numbers and a map locating other G-Town natives who are mutual friends and are living in the area. He left my office happy, and I must confess that it felt good to be able to lend my assistance to him.
Any number of things could have prevented that meeting. My bus could have been on time. My lighter could have worked. There are about one hundred thousand people in the greater Lansing area. That smoker could have been anyone at all. It seems meaningful to me that circumstances came together as they did. Forty minutes in the freezing cold. Twenty minutes on a freezing bus. It no longer seems like much of an ordeal in light of that serendipitous encounter. Psychologist Carl Jung would have called such an event synchronicity. As a confirmed atheist, I should just rack it all up to chance. I am free to interpret these events in any way I choose. The interpretation that I choose is that it happened and it was wonderful.
One more day. One more connection.