We’ve all been there, I think, on the telephone discussing something important to us or with someone important to us… and no one else is home, when the doorbell rings, or another call comes through, with someone equally important, or both at once.  Now, it doesn’t matter that no one has called or rung the doorbell for the previous two hours and no one will for another hour or two.  What is it about the universe that ensures that, in so many cases, too many things occur at the same time?

I’m not talking about those which aren’t random, but can be predicted, like the political calls that occur from five or six in the evening until eight o’clock, or the charitable solicitations that are timed in the same way [both conveniently excepted from the do-not-call listing]. I’m talking about calls and callers and events that should be random, but clearly aren’t.  Sometimes, it’s merely amusing, as when daughters located on different coasts call at the same time.  Sometimes, it’s not, as when you’re trying to explain why you need the heating fixed now, and your editor calls wanting an immediate answer on something… or you’re discussing scheduling long-distance with your wife and you ignore the 800 call that you later find out was an automated call, without ID, informing you that your flight for six A.M. the next morning has been cancelled… and you don’t find out until three A.M. the next morning when you check your email before leaving for the airport… and end up driving an extra 60 miles to the other airport. There’s also the fact that, no matter what time of the afternoon it is, there’s a 10-20% chance that, whenever I’m talking to my editor, either FedEx, UPS, or DHL will appear at the door [upstairs from my office] needing a signature… and we don’t get that many packages [except from my publisher] and I spend less than a half hour a week on the phone with my editor.

I know I’m not alone in this.  Too many people have recounted similar stories, but the logical types explain it all away by saying that we only remember the times these things happen, but not the times that they don’t.  Maybe… but my caller I.D. gives the times for every incoming call, and when I say that there haven’t been any calls for two or three hours, and then I get three in three minutes… it doesn’t lie – not unless there’s a far grander conspiracy out there than I even wish to consider.  And why is it that I almost always get calls in the ten minutes or so a day when I’m using the “facilities”?  No calls at all in the half hour before or after, of course.

This can extend into other areas – like supermarket checkout lines. The most improbable events occur in all too many cases in whatever line I pick.  The juice packet of the shopper in front of me explodes all over the conveyor belt.  The checker I have is the only one not legally able to ring up beer, and the manager is dealing with an irate customer in another line.  The register tape jams.  The credit/debit card machine freezes on the previous customer, just after I’ve put everything on the belt.

Now… to be fair, it sometimes works the other way. There was no possible way I ever could have met my wife.  None [and I won’t go into the details because they’d take twice the words of my longest blog], but it happened, and she’s still, at least occasionally, pointing out that it had to be destiny… or fate.  Well… given how that has turned out, I wouldn’t mind a few more “improbable” favorable coincidences, but… they’re pretty rare.  Then again, if all the small unfavorable improbabilities are the price for her… I’ll put up with them all.


13 thoughts on “Coincidences?”

  1. rehcra says:

    I don’t know if thats sweet or if your kind of blaming your wife lol

    After a quite morning alone husband sits at the computer to finish a last revision to his book due latter that day.

    Phone Call

    Husband gets up answers it.Hangs up mildly annoyed.

    As he sits back down another Phone Call.

    Gets up answers it.Hangs up still mildly annoyed.

    Walks slowly back to his chair. Looks at phone before he sits down. Sits down and looks at phone again. Turns to write. Phone call.

    Answer call mildly annoyed. Hangs up with fully pissed off force. Rants about it being his wifes fault for all of these coincidences and not being here to answer phone.

    Didn’t hear his wife get back but wife hears his rant. Husband realizes he has messed up and knows its to late.

    Husband: It’s your fault you got here right then.

    Wife walks away because of the deadline.

    Husband no longer annoyed sits back down to finish writing.

    Looks at phone. Runs to phone scared and calls editor.

    Husband: Um… I am going to need a few more days before I can turn this in.

    Husband hopes new deadline gives enough time for wife to cool down.

    It wont be.

  2. Thank heavens I’ve never had that kind of problem!

  3. Gary in Salt Lake says:

    There is a school of thought that this is some kind of variation on Murphy’s Law. That problems not only will occur but will do so at the most inconvenient time and in the worst possible order.

    Having events piggyback in an otherwise, event free day is definitely a manifestation of this concept.

  4. Robert The Addled says:

    Rather than blame my wife, I tend to blame the cats. It’s generally safer.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      * pro: cats probably don’t know you’re blaming them, and probably wouldn’t care anyway, as long as they remain firmly in charge

      * con: cats have claws, and like to use them just when you least expect it

      Coincidences…hmm. Perhaps many people have similar ideas of when the best time is to call…not just the political and charitable solicitations, but individuals, too. Or maybe there’s some sort of resonance or synchrony that just draws certain events together. The human brain cannot _possibly_ transmit a signal any significant distance, but how many times does someone call exactly when you’re thinking of them? And with people that are very close, even know more than they reasonably could about what’s going on? I’ve heard of such things operating halfway around the world, from people I’m inclined to believe. Not thoughts, but frame of mind. I think I’ve experienced it, and it can be a little frightening…feeling something, and not knowing why, until you recognize that whoever it’s happening to is dealing with it, better than you would! Until the moment that it only makes sense that it’s happening to someone else, it feels like it’s happening to you.

      Some physicists think that quantum effects play a role in the functioning of the brain…and at that level, who’s to say what’s connected somehow?

  5. Derek says:

    Random question, because you mentioned a cashier who couldn’t ring up beer… was the beer belonging to someone in front of you in line, or was it yours? If yours, what’s your preferred brew?

    1. Actually, the beer was mine, but not for me. I’m one of those rare individuals who’s physically allergic to ingested alcohol in any form.

  6. Tiffanie H. says:

    Could be like rolling the dice. Sixes seem to come and go in spurts, or ones or twos…
    And what of perspective? A man who has just won the lottery might not care whether a juice packet has exploded in front of him on the conveyer belt. He may smile generously as the checker tells him that he cannot legally ring him up for having beer and that the manager is unavailable. Our lucky winner may decide at this point to skip to another store where he runs into a long lost friend and counts himself fortunate in his initial inconvenience.
    Conversely, it can be oh-so-frustrating when you’re already having a bad day and everything seems to snowball…
    As for connections among people– especially those who are close. There is so much about our universe that we do not know or– in our limited capacity– even see. Who’s to say that there isn’t another force that is unaffected by distance, a sort of messenger for strong human emotion? Death is one of the strongest ‘connectors’, I think. I’ve been around it and I’ve seen some miraculous things: whether it be knowing of another’s death without having to be told, to a person knowing– beforehand– that they are going to die.
    As for blaming cats… They have feelings too, you know. Don’t you ever read Garfield?

  7. Brian Kelman says:

    For me, when I’m alone in the house, the phone always seems to ring when I’m using the ‘facilities’.

    A few years back, I bought a new flat screen TV. Since I was recovering from surgery, I could not lift anything. The store manager agreed to deliver it to me on his day off. He arrived at 12:20 p.m. At 12:30, my nurse arrived to change some bandaging. Never before that day nor after did the nurse arrive at 12:30. To his credit, the manager hooked everything up in my absence and patiently explained everything when the nurse left. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

  8. Sam says:

    On the topic of Murhphy’s Law I’ve just finished reading Princeps and while I wasn’t shocked it was interesting to see how many little mistakes slipped through.

    Whilst I wasn’t keeping count I’d guess there were at least half a dozen.

    In this day and age with computer spellcheckers, editors, proofreaders and not having to worry about the typesetter at the printing press making a mistake it’s funny how these things still slip through.

    One mistake I noticed towards the end of the book that I can see how it might slip through was an instance where a character’s name was misspelt as Voltyt in one sentence when it should have been Voltyr. Since it’s a made up name a computer spellchecker isn’t going to know the correct spelling and an editor unfamiliar with the name could miss the mistake as it’s not a word they’re accustomed to spelling.

    I don’t really use spellcheckers but I wonder if as a writer when you create a character or place name you could customise your spellchecker to look through your work for words similar to your made up names to make sure they are spelt correctly throughout your work.

    For example could you add Voltyr to your spellchecker then search through the document for any similarly spelt words, and in instances where there is a similar word that might be a mistake or might not correct it if neccessary?

  9. The effort required would be enormous, and would change for each book. Not only that, but after even just a year or two there would be problems with the number of books I write.

  10. Wine Guy says:

    And we still wonder if karma/kismet/fate exists…

    Or if God (in whatever incarnation it is) has a sense of humor.

    The answer is there, staring us in the face.

  11. Terry Baker says:

    Coincidences are unexpected situations that can create positive or negative situations. It happens to me sometimes. Thanks for sharing this fantastic article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.