In the middle of the night, waiting for dogs to go out and in, I read an article but couldn’t find it this morning. Smiley2 piped up and said, “You mean this one? Here it is.”, like Smiley2 was sitting on my shoulder. It started me thinking about personal connections, over miles, and people who just seem to fit together, and how is that possible among so many people? Destiny? Fate? As if there is a plan when we know there cannot be? Matrix? Hand of God? What are the chances of such freak events?
And yet, it does happen to all of us.
Whenever I fly through Atlanta (cuz if you die and go to heaven or hell — you HAVE to go through Atlanta, first), I run into someone I know. What are the chances? When I left the south and moved to Manhattan for a brief stint, I ran into an old high school teacher (from New Orleans), the couple who lived across from us when I was a kid (Chicago burbs), and the guy who used to babysit me (from Mississippi). Not planned, not called and arranged, sheer chance.
We went through a few months, while we were renovating the B&B, where I was constantly in some kind of peril. It happened 3-4 times, wasps after me, an overloaded truck which “burst”, a flat tire on an interstate. Every time, it was the same elder fellow who rescued me. I haven’t been “in peril” since, and rarely was, but what are the chances of the same man, being in the same place…… to rescue me….. over and over again? He became my human angel. For years, when we would run into each other, he would touch me gently on the elbow, “You, okay? Just checkin’ on you.” He had crystal blue eyes which could see straight through me. I loved that man.
And then there are the weird things which happen, which turn out surprisingly well. When Big T and I were still dating, we took off to the Ozarks after Christmas for a few days. We went up and down mountains and hills, all over Missouri and Arkansas. On the way home, Friday night before New Year’s Eve, the car began shaking like San Francisco earthquake. I was barely able to control it and the acceleration died……. I barely coasted into a parking lot on the side of the road — an AutoZone parking lot. What are the chances?
At Autozone, an incredibly helpful young man looked at the car, and said, “transmission fluid”. We bought some, poured it in, an it came straight out the bottom of the car. Dead Minivan. I looked across the top of the car at Big T, to begin to decide what we should do……… but over his shoulder…… across an empty lot…… was a Ford Dealership. We spent the night in Searcy, Arkansas, and bought a car the next day…….. for which we got a great deal…. since it was New Year’s Eve. Made it home in time for fireworks.
Then, there are the really strange, kizmit occurrences, where one thing leads to another. The following story is pretty odd.
About 15yrs ago, I did business with a Chinese salesman in Xiamen. We became friends over several years of regular orders. One day, I received a frantic phone call from him and a plea for help. He wanted “me” to help “him” save a large order which had nothing to do with me. “Why would I help him with another order?”, I thought, “Not my place, and I’m halfway around the world.” Yet, he sounded so desperate and urgent, I stopped to listen to his plight.
The order was worth several million dollars to his company, about 1.5 million sq.ft. of pavers for a large city square in Cyprus. The son of the Mayor had been sent to the Stone Show to finalize the deal. For a few days, everything was fine as my guy escorted the Mayor’s son all over town, spending a lot of money on restaurants and bar bills. Yet, the son had been seduced by a young female/attractive hooker/stone salesman who was willing to do anything to steal the order. My guy, learned they planned to leave the stone show for the competition’s factory in Hebei the following morning……. he could see his order slipping away…. and he worked on it for almost two years. I could hear the tears in his voice. Hard thing for any man to do… to cry to a woman.
Changing tone, he railed against the stone color in Hebei, which I already knew was wrong for the order. In his fury, he sent me a photo of the Mayor’s son, and the hooker/stone saleswomen, wound around each other at an expensive restaurant. I told him to let me think, and I would call him back, which I did in about 20 minutes. He was convinced the order was lost, and anything I could do to save it was fine with him.
The Mayor’s son and hooker had recently left the restaurant, late evening in China. I picked up the phone and called the Mayor in Cyprus to rat out his son. Yet, the Mayor already left for the day(4-5hrs time difference). If I waited until morning to talk to the Mayor, the son would be gone. Undeterred, I called the Fire Chief of the Town in Cyprus…… cuz the Fire Chief can always get a hold of a Mayor, right? That’s kind of a universal law between Mayors and Fire Chiefs, right? Through broken English, I found the Mayor at home. We spoke briefly, then he called me on Skype.
I spoke to the Mayor as a mother of “another fine family” who cared for their sons. His son was shaming their family name and all of Cyprus. People were laughing at his son. He was drinking too much and “easily fooled by loose women of bad reputation”. I laid it on thick. I had sons as well and this kind of behavior was unacceptable when representing the family AND his country. Of course, I also included the info about the Hebei stone, which I knew well, and that the stone he would receive in Cyprus would be all wrong, and bad for the town…. which would embarrass him. I did it in the kindest possible terms, and attached the photo of his son, compromised. Because I was talking to the Mayor from home, his wife was in the background. She was upset. I understood why.
Well, all hell broke loose at the stone show. The contract went through for my guy, asap. My little Chinese stone salesman was convinced I could do ANYTHING (not hardly). The factory owners called to thank me, profusely. The Mayor in Cyprus and his wife called me back, thanked me. The SON called me to apologize. Over the next year of the contract, I sent OUR team in to supervise the quality of the stone delivered to Cyprus. It was perfect… cuz OUR name was on it, the Americans, and I did it at our expense. The brownie points accumulated lasted me for years.
Over the course of the contract, the Mayor and I became friendly. We did business together for other smaller things through the years. Flash forward several years …… my own son was turning 17, between Junior and Senior year of high school. He worked hard, was fairly well set for college, and desperately wanted to spend a month on a beach….. somewhere….. like he did when he was little and we had the beach cottage. Yet, I couldn’t leave for a month, and he was at the age where a vacation with parents was not what he had in mind. A month away, for a 17yr old, was incredible expensive and I couldn’t justify it… unless there was some kind of miraculous added value.
We thought about it. He was almost done with his pilot’s license. I would consider sending him to a beach in Pensacola for 7-10 days if he finished. Yet, he was already involved in a program through his school and scheduled to finish anyway. Florida changed their laws and he couldn’t check into a hotel unless age 25. He asked about a diving school. Maybe if he spent a month, somewhere, he could pick up several certifications and make it almost to master diver. Okay, I was listening, but not committed yet.
Gunner came back to me with a proposal for a PADI school in Mexico, where he could work at the scuba shop and also dive. Maybe getting 4 certifications in a month. Not enough for me and not fond of the location within Mexico. Where would he live? He found another one at the northern tip of Sardinia, Italy, which guaranteed him to get all the way through Master Diver Cert – in 6 weeks – for about $20K. Well, that was out. Too rich for my blood. Other locations in the Caribbean were expensive and we might fight hurricane season. Gunner was frustrated and still looking. On a lark, I picked up the phone and called the Mayor in Cyprus, at home. I helped him with his son, and now I needed a favor for my own son.
The Mayor knew exactly what to do.
The Mayor hooked me up with a guy named Pericles on the island of Kos who was an old friend of his. We went back and forth several times to make arrangements. Pericles was former Greek Special Forces, about 65yrs old back then, built his own extraordinary 85′ diving ship…… and worked with Jacques Cousteau to map the floor of the Mediterranean. Could I possibly find anyone better to influence my son? Um, yeah, that would work. What are the chances?
Pericles, his wife and daughter ran a PADI cert school on the southwestern side of Kos. Gunner could work with Pericles and other crew, on the boat, every day except Sunday, live with the family, and Pericles would make sure Gunner went all the way through Master Diver in 6 weeks. BUT….. Gunner might have to help all those pretty little northern European tourist girls on vacation with their scuba tanks along the way. Oh, my……. poor Gunner.
Total cost, the airplane ticket and a little bit of spending money, about $2500-$3000 in total, and he had half of it already saved to kick into the kitty. How could I refuse such an opportunity? For months, Gunner dreamt of freedom in the Greek isles (with a guy who reminded me of Ernest Hemingway only shorter) at the height of tourist season, sea spray in his face, ready to explore the oceans. As the day for departure grew closer, he packed, he bought “stuff”, extra clothes, bathing suits, dive knives, equipment, etc. The suitcases were open in his room for two weeks. He was excited.
But it didn’t happen.
Gunner was scheduled to leave about July 6th, and the “migration” began a few days before. Greece was in crisis and the local banks/ATM’s were shuttered. It looked REALLY bad. No way I could send my 17yr old into what looked like a revolution. He stayed home and was SICK about it. Still angry.
Flash forward. I just received an email from the Mayor in Cyprus. Haven’t spoken to him in 5 years. His youngest grandson has decided to attend Ole Miss University. He’s sending his grandson to me. He’ll be here for fall semester. And of course, his home is open to us anytime we happen to be in Cyprus.
Might be a while……
Bottom line, we never really know who we will meet on any given day. We have no way to forecast times of “peril”, a dead minivan, running into an old friend in a distant city, simple thing like a flat tire, or a connection that might lead to working with an incredible man in the Mediterranean.
Life can be most exciting, if we let it happen.
So, be kind and take a moment to listen. If you are able to, help. Embrace the idea of chance meetings. You never really know where it will lead, but it will make life colorful, rich, and worthwhile.