dilluns, de gener 31, 2005

Synchronicity I (English)

Synchronicity, the world seems full of it. One place in particular, or at least one person in particular with whom I associate a great deal of synchronicity is my friend Barbara Martin from New Orleans. She runs a small B & B in uptown New Orleans, and by itself, it doesn't attract a lot of attention. By virtue of it's small size, it can't really attract a tremendous number of people either. Even so, the connections between the people who come to her house, and the connections those people end up having with Barbara are uncanny.

Our minister, Russ Savage, once gave a sermon on the topic of "It's a Small World," which in fact denied that notion at all. He explained that really it had nothing to do with the world getting smaller that, for example, while travelling in Spain, waiting for a transfer in Madrid, we might spy someone we know. In fact, there are relatively few Americans who can travel outside of the country, and of those who have the means, even fewer who do. It is simply that some people in the same general subset of the population move in circles whose geographic boundaries are relatively large.

Still, there are things in life that are just plum odd, their likelihood just so slim that it makes you wonder. Here are some examples:

About four years ago, I was staying in Barbara's house between Christmas and New Year's to attend the Modern Language Association conference. Four of the other guests in the house were also attending the conference. This is not surprising. All four of them had studied together. While we were conversing over breakfast on morning, they revealed that a friend of theirs had recently begun working in Upstate New York. As it turned out, their friend and I, not only work for the same institution, but were hired in the same year, in the same general department. Two of these four friends, Jon and Kim, were quite outgoing, so I decided to offer to take them out into the countryside. The day was enjoyable, and we exchanged emails. For my kindness, Jon and Kim extended and open invitation to me that whenever I should be in Washington, D.C., I should look them up. Of course, as these things go, I never took them up on their offer. Just last spring, however, I got an email from Kim saying, "We might be neighbors." As luck would have it, she had applied for a job at another local community college. One of more than a hundred applicants I'm sure, the chances of her being selected were relatively slim. Serendipity or synchronicity, whichever it was, she did in fact get the job. Now she and Jon live only a few blocks away from their friend from college, and only one town away from a kind stranger whom they had met in New Orleans four years prior.

Now, as luck would have it, two Kim's new colleagues impinge either directly or indirectly on my life, even though they work at a different institution. The first of those is Sandy. Sandy was my landlady my second year on the job at my college. The way I found her apartment is another great tale of synchronicity. When I first came to work here, I was living an hour away, in Latham. I had begun looking for apartments in Schenectady in order to be closer to work while at the same time, not far-removed from the life I had already begun building in the Albany area. My search, however, was in vain. I was, at first, determined to find corporate owned housing since going the private route can sometimes lead to unwanted encounters with insane or slovenly landlords, but everything I saw in Schenectady was much more expensive than what I was paying in Latham.

At the same time as I was undertaking my search for a new home, I was serving on the Board of my church representing one of the governing councils. At a certain time, our council was supposed to throw an all-church luncheon, but unfortunately, our council chair announced at the very last minute that she would not be able to organize anything, and I was forced to go to the Board and admit her incompetence and total lack of responsability. This would not have been so bad were it not for the fact that this sort of thing was a habit with her. Needless to say, I was not happy with her. The day of the all-church luncheon came, and thankfully or council chair (we'll call her Lady X to protect the innocent and avoid any letcherous libel), had miraculously arranged for an on-again-off-again member of the council to provide a lavish ethnic meal for us. Moreover, Lady X had arranged to actually show up for it as well. I had two choices: either I could light into Lady X for being a royal pain in my ass, or I could discuss banalities with her and maintain a thin social veneer of camaraderie. I chose the latter. While chatting with Lady X, I divulged my conunrdrum of not being able to find a suitable domicile in Schenectady, and she responded, "Why not come look at my flat; I have to move out, and Sandy would love to have someone like you as a tenant."

So it was decided, I would meet Lady X later that afternoon to inspect the flat. By the way, calling them flats is not my attempting to sound pretentious; it's what we actually call apartments in this region that are in up-and-down style two families where the apartment actually occupies one entire floor of the house. At the appointed time I arrived at the flat on Park Place. Sadly for Schenectady, its Park Place is more like Baltic Avenue - ok, on a good day Oriental, but still, it's no Boardwalk. The neighborhood looked dodgy, but still I took a gander, and in fact liked the place very much. I decided that if Sandy, a middle-aged English and Theater professor could live there unscathed, as could Lady X, then I really didn't have anything to worry about. Later on that week, I informed Sandy I would take the flat.

The following week I was in church, and Lady X and I chatted a while. I asked her, "Why are you giving up this great flat?"

"Well, I'm moving to be closer to work," she said.

"Oh," I said, "where are you moving?"

"To Clifton Park," she replied.

For those of you unfamiliar with our local geography, Clifton Park is an expansive suburb between 15 and 20 miles north of Albany, with traffic it can take a good 45 minutes to arrive in downtown Albany where Lady X worked. Schenectady, on the other hand, was even on a bad day, at around 10 miles, not more than 30 minutes with heavy traffic. I smelled a rat.

I didn't bother calling her out on her obvious lie; I just filed it away for future reference.

However now for the rest of this convoluted story, we must go back in time to 1999...