Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Its A Small World

It's a Small World After All

Driving home last night I found myself listening to a show on NPR about "coincidences". They had asked listeners to submit their stories of coincidences and after receiving thousands of submissions they were telling the more interesting ones.

The bigger question was; Do coincidences have any larger meaning or are they just happenstance?

There was a story of a guy who asked his friend, a girl, to text him a picture he could use as a sample screensaver for his new phone. She sent him a picture of herself as a 4 year old child from 18 years earlier. In the background of the picture was this guys grandmother. The photo was taken on the other side of the country where the girl was vacationing as was the guys grandma. Small world.

Another story involved a guy who was interested in asking a girl out. He randomly noticed a dollar bill he found with her name, Esther, written on it. He framed the bill and gave it to her on their first date. She looked shocked but said Nothing. Turns out Esther had previously, a few years earlier, been frustrated in love and decided to write her name on about a dozen bills with the thought that one day her soul mate would find one of the bills and return it to her. They've been married for 14 years. She only told him the story after they were married.

Finally there was a young couple planning their wedding. The groom to be was showing his future mother in law his old family photos. The mother in law said nothing but had realized she had once been engaged to the boys late father but turned him down because her father had arranged her marriage to another man. This happened to be an immigrant family where this wasn't that unusual.

There were other stories, but this report got me thinking about coincidences of my own.

I recalled a particular evening I once spent in New York City. I experienced a pair of rare coincidences that night. The thing about "the city" is that its huge and there are gazillions of people, pretty much all of who are strangers. Years ago I once ran into an acquaintance at a New York deli. Also, one time we were heading to a hockey tournament in the San Fernando Valley and as we pulled into our hotel parking lot we ran into friends who were visiting the Guggenheim Museum. Then there was the time last summer we were driving back from a hockey tournament in Phoenix and I bumped into an old friend at a gas station in the middle of the desert.

But New York City?

About seven years ago my business partner, Scott and I went to New York. We were being recruited by one of the major wirehouse brokerages firms. First class accommodations. They put us up at the W Hotel in Times Square.

The first evening we had drinks at the bar in the W. Scott, befriended the doorman. Pretty quiet night.

We had our meetings the next day and decided to head downtown for dinner. We caught a cab and took the forty block ride. I forget the name of the restaurant, but it was a fun place, buzzing with energy, good food and I recall it was noisy. I got a phone call from my wife early in the meal. In order to hear her over the din I took it outside to the sidewalk. (I just recalled the restaurant. It is Balthalzar on Spring St. In lower manhattan.

A cab pulled up and a woman got out and inadvertently hit me with the car door. It was no big deal. It was really just a nudge but she was so sorry. She got out and profusely apologized. I let her know I was fine and it was no problem. We crossed paths a few times during the remainder of the meal and I would pretend to duck each time we crossed paths.

The meal ends. Scott and I decide to walk back uptown toward Times Square. We walked to Little Italy and had cannolis for dessert. Scott went to a tarot card reader and was given some interesting advice. Something about the letter M being very important to his future. Morgan Stanley was the firm recruiting us at the time. We took this as a sign. We ended up going with UBS.

Eventually we hopped a cab for the remaining twenty some odd blocks back to Times Square. We got to the hotel and went upstairs to the bar for a drink.

Remember, we are forty blocks away from the restaurant and it was three hours later. Near midnight. In New York City.

We get out of the elevator to enter the bar and who do we run into? The lady from the restaurant who hit me with the taxi door.

Small world. We say hello, have a good laugh and go our separate ways. Now I'm married to her. No wait, that's not what happened. I never saw her again. Or if I did I wouldn't recognize her anyway. So that was the first coincidence of the evening.

Scott and I headed downstairs. The W Hotel has a club downstairs. You have to go down to the street then go downstairs from there to enter the club. We get in line and Scott recognizes the doorman from the previous night. The one he'd "befriended" at the bar upstairs. The doorman recognized us and waved us ahead. So now we are in. He says he'll take us to the VIP section. Yay. Never been to one of those. He leads us through the dark club to an area cordoned off by a velvet rope. It was really dark.

It's midnight. In the basement level at a hip club. In the middle of New York. It's very dark. My eyes are still adjusting. The music is pounding. The only thing I recall seeing was the ample cleavage of a lady standing in line in front of us as we were entering the VIP section. As my eyes adjusted to the light I lifted my view to realize that the person attached to the cleavage was the (now ex-) wife of a good friend from San Diego. I looked to the left of her to see standing next to her was my buddy, a hockey pal. He was also my dentist and my son's roller hockey coach.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, they walk into mine.

So we all had a good laugh at the coincidence. Turns out they had a cruise scheduled with their teenaged kids but none of them wanted to go so my friends decided on a quick getaway to Manhattan…to come see me I guess.

So, there it is. It's a small world after all. Two coinkydinks in the big apple on the same night. I don't see any larger meaning in any of this other than having this story to tell. Cue the music. "It's a small world blah dee blah". Have fun getting that tune out of your head.

1 comment:

  1. I just got an email from a friend(relative?) reminding me of an earlier coincidence. I was working at Merrill Lynch in downtown San Diego. It was the late 80s or early 90s. I called a mutual fund company requesting information. They asked my name, which is of course, Steve Balaban. The agent responds, "Steve Balaban at Shearson in Dallas?". No, that's not me...Is there such a person? So I looked up the Shearson office in Dallas and gave them a call. "May I speak to Steve Balaban please?"
    The receptionist responded, "Who may I say is calling?".
    "Tell him it's Steve Balaban"...

    The other Steve Balaban was the manager of the Shearson office in Dallas. We hit it off and have stayed in contact over the years. He was out to San Diego for a conference once and we got together. We've never been able to identify if or how we are related, but whenever I run into other Balaban's it turns many of us originated from the same Russian Village. Sometimes we can trace our lineage to see a relationship, and others we can't.

    Steve and I both have older siblings named Mike and we both have a 3rd sibling who's name begins with an "R".