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Monday, 4 March 2013


I've just listened to the Coincidence episode from This American Life and I SO wish I'd had the opportunity to contribute! I have a metric ton of them - growing up as a global nomad, running into people at unexpected places in random countries, etc... But this one's a doozy.
It's too late for TAL, but I decided it deserved an airing anyway.
I graduated from a high school in Papua New Guinea in 1988, with 26 people (of 8 different nationalities) in our graduating class. Over the next 7 years, my best friend in the USA keeps track of everyone as best she can (pre-Facebook); then she gets married & sends all the notes and Contact slips to me in Australia.
So in 1998 I'm organising our 10-year reunion, to be held in Dallas, TX. One person in particular I've lost completely, and his surname is a common one; but I have a contact slip from 3 years prior, saying that he's in Philadelphia and marrying this girl with a very distinctive Polish surname. I call Information and there are two listings in Philadelphia - Charles Jr & Charles Sr. I call Jr, get an answering machine, leave a message saying "I'm looking for Paul L, he married this woman and was she by any chance related to you? If so, please ask him to ring me." Then I call Sr, talk to the guy, he has no idea who Paul is. Dead end - I write off the other number as well.
A week later, my phone rings - it's Paul! So I'm excited to talk to him but also a bit confused about the chain of events - I ask him, so how did you get the message?
* He says, what do you mean - didn't you leave me a message?
* I said, well, yes; but how did it get to you?
* He says, I got home and played it...?
Confusion reigns.
Took a bit longer to get to the bottom of it, but - turns out: he'd split up with his wife (she of the distinctive surname) 6 months earlier, and rented a random apartment where the phone was already connected. That phone? was the one listed under Jr's name. He literally came home & pressed Play.
I've had the chills over that, for 15 years!

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