Saturday, January 23, 2010

Connections and Coincidences

I'm a person who hasn't learned my lesson about coincidences. When they occur, I make the assumption that they are related to omens; that because I made some strange connection, there must be some meaning behind it. And because the coincidence gets your blood rushing, there must be some good that will happen from it.

For example, I was in Heidelberg, Germany once for a business meeting. It was the second time I was ever in Germany, and I really didn't want to be there. But I was asked to attend a meeting to listen in on some far-fetched business relationship being proposed between my bank and a giant software company, and so I went.

The company headquarters was in Heidelberg, so hence the reason to meet there. I had heard it was a nice town, but I had arrived at night after landing in Frankfurt and driving the hour or so to the sleepy town and didn't get to see anything.

I had a cousin who had once attended the university there, but beyond that I had no interest sticking around. Some of my relatives were not welcomed in the country for a period of time some years ago, and I suppose I still hold some grudges about that.

The hotel I checked in to did not seem too welcoming, either. It was a structure built in the 1800's, almost castle-like, typical Bavarian architecture. The inside looked like an alpine ski lodge with wood beams, tall ceilings, and strange medieval crests hanging on the walls. I'm sure Mr. Himmler and his friends thought it was all the rage in during the Reich, but I just wanted to find a nice modern Holiday Inn.

The hallways were long with high ceilings as well and big wooden doors to your room. I felt like I was the only one in the hotel. Picture the movie, "The Shining", and you'll get a sense of what I was thinking.

The giant room, with high ceilings, was sparsely furnished. The bed was low to the floor, like it didn't have legs at all, and the lighting was quite dim. Perhaps, because the single light bulb was so high up in the ceiling???

It wasn't cozy, but I figured I could make it through the night, get up the next morning, have some breakfast (I could only wonder what wonderful cuisine was on the menu), go to the boring meeting, grab a taxi back to the airport, and fly home to civilization.

Of course, I couldn't sleep. I kept wondering what types of ghosts were wandering around the halls. Was I in some type of Hamlet story. Oh yeah, that took place in Denmark - same difference.

On the night table was a book, a history of the hotel. Of course, it was written in German but at least there were pictures. There were photos of the hotel's original construction in 1860 and a time line accounting for each decade of growth after that. In 1890 a new wing was added. In 1920, a swimming pool was put in. In 1932, a spa. In 1950, a new restaurant. In 1970, tennis courts. And, wait a minute, they skipped the late 30's through 40's. What was going on in the hotel then? Surely, some activity occurred.

I looked around the place and thought about what type of person was sleeping my room around in say, 1941. Did he hang his hat on the door hook over there? Were his boots next to the bed over here?

Okay, enough of that, back to the coincidence.

The next morning, or was it just a few hours later, I went downstairs to get breakfast. As I walked past the check-in desk, I did a double-take. Standing at the counter, paying his bill was I guy I knew - not from business but from my home town, a guy who I was fairly friendly with. My wife and I had gone to dinner with he and his wife a few times, their kids were the same age as ours. We had always been cordial even though we didn't see much of each other around town.

I couldn't believe it, though. Of all the places to see him now, this is where I had to run in to him? What did it mean?

It turns out he was also here on business. He's in advertising and his big client is the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. He comes here once a year for an annual review meeting and this just happened to be the time.

I called my wife after saying goodbye to him and told her who had I just seen. It was six hours ahead at home. She told me she had just run into his wife in the supermarket that morning. What a coincidence. It must be some strange connection, some interesting meaning.

Another recent coincidence happened the other day. A friend, Andrew, who I grew up with and hadn't seen in about 3 years, called me. He was doing a day's worth of freelance work and wanted to meet for dinner when he finished crewing on a TV commercial being shot in the next town. Sure thing, it would be fun to catch up.

We went out to a diner that evening and while eating we both got phone calls at the same time. Of course, we answered our phones because that's what you do these days in the middle of a meal. My call was from a friend/ work colleague, actually my boss. He wanted to tell he had just come from a get together in the city that he decided to attend at the last minute and had run into a mutual friend of ours, Scott - someone we were just talking about out of the blue earlier in the day.

My friend, Andrew, also got a call from his boss, Greg. It turned out to be a Greg that is a mutual friend of ours. We all grew up together and I hadn't heard about him in about 5 years. He was offering Andrew more work on a TV commercial for the next day. And all these calls happened at the same instance.

After that coincidental connection, I did the same thing I did when I got back from Germany and after many other strange incidences I seem to come by. I went out and bought lottery tickets. And you know what happened this time? Nothing! Absolutely nothing each and every time. Nada.

Because when you're living in hell, there are no such things as meaningful connections or coincidences.


  1. I'm thinking that the bar for 'living in hell' is getting pretty low if it consists of not winning the lottery.

    Not that you need to go visit Port au Prince or anything...

  2. is a strange, strange world we live in.

    No wonder "The Matrix" was such a popular movie series...