You can travel the world and still run into people from home

Don't Abandon Small Businesses in the Energy Crisis


Time, they say, is a flat circle. And space? Space is the inside of an old golf ball: a jumble of rubber bands twisted together tightly, the random segments touching each other in the confines of the tightly packed orb.

How else to explain the small-world coincidences readers keep sending me? For example, just this past June, the District’s Dorsey Davidge was among dozens of people waiting for the ferry to a tiny island off the coast of Portsmouth, NH, called Star. She’d never been to the island and had no idea how long the ride would be. She asked the person next to her. He had no idea either.

“We started chatting,” Dorsey wrote. “He said he was a professor at Penn State. I said, very randomly, ‘Oh, a close friend of mine’s ex-brother-in-law is a professor there. Do you know Eduardo?’

“He replied, astonished, ‘I am Eduardo.’ ”

Let us now travel from New Hampshire to Egypt, which Patricia and Joe Howard visited 40 years ago. One day they dutifully trooped to the Great Pyramid and joined the line to get in. But once they had entered the dim, narrow — and crowded — passageway, they changed their minds and turned around.

“We couldn’t buck the flow of people coming in so we moved to the side, where an alcove offered a place to wait for a chance to go outside,” wrote Patricia, of Mitchellville, Md.

Two other people had sought refuge in the same alcove.

“We couldn’t see one another in the dim light, but the other woman said she was from Seattle,” Pat wrote. “I said I used to live there.”

They continued with the back and forth until the woman said she had managed a city recreation area in West Seattle called Camp Long.

“I was floored,” Pat wrote. “I used to work there during my senior year in high school in 1954.”

They exchanged names in the sepulchral darkness and realized they had worked together.

“Once we got out into daylight, although it had been many years and we might not have recognized each other in a lineup, we knew we were friends and we hugged in amazement!” Pat wrote.

Suzanne Beerthuis grew up in Cowles, Neb., a small village outside of Red Cloud. On Saturday nights, her family would drive to Red Cloud to shop, socialize and visit a produce vendor to get paid for the eggs and cream his truck had picked up from them during the week.

At the desk would be someone Suzanne held in total awe: the owner’s daughter, a beautiful redhead who was a majorette in the band.

“I always looked forward to the encounter but was too shy to start a conversation,” wrote Suzanne, who lives in Alexandria now.

Years later, at the University of Nebraska, Suzanne dated a dental student whose roommate was from Tempe, Ariz. “Once I broke up with the dental student, I never saw him or his roommate again,” wrote Suzanne.

Why did I bother to mention the dental student’s roommate? Because a decade later, while teaching in a Department of Defense school in France, Suzanne took a trip to Berlin. On New Year’s Eve, she checked out the scene at the Officers Club, which was adjacent to Tempelhof air base.

“As I walked through the lobby of the base, I couldn’t believe it: the redhead from the produce station in Red Cloud!” Suzanne wrote.

The woman recognized Suzanne. A split second later, Suzanne saw that Tempe roommate rushing up. What were the odds of these two disparate people popping up at the same place at the same time?

Then the man said: “Hello, Suzanne! We’re celebrating our fifth anniversary! But we are about to miss our plane!”

And off they ran, leaving Suzanne to wonder how they met.

In 1987, Keith Bickel and his girlfriend, Suzan Onelhad just finished a vacation on Cape Cod before heading off to their separate graduate schools.

“While waiting for the train to DC we struck up a conversation with a wonderful couple who turned out to be no less than the parents of Peter Wolflead singer of the J. Geils Band,” wrote Keith, of McLean.

Three years later, Suzan and Keith were at a tiny trattoria in Florence, where they were celebrating their honeymoon.

“We were sitting at a communal table and got to talking with the woman across from us, only to discover that she was the mother of Danny Klein, the bassist for the J. Geils band!” Keith wrote. “To this day, we talk to any stranger while on travel in the hopes that we meet yet more band members’ parents.”

A few years back, Noell Sotile went to the Toronto International Film Festival. On the flight back, she exchanged pleasantries with the woman seated next to her. Wrote Noell: “When she asked me where I lived and I replied Silver Spring, she said, ‘So do I! Where?’ ”

When Noell described the location of her house, the woman asked, “Are you Bilbo’s owner?!”

It turned out the woman knew Noell’s dog, an amiable rescue from Kosovo who loves hanging out in the backyard, watching the passing scene and greeting people through the fence.

Wrote Noell: “I frequently find folks greeting him when we are out walking — people I have never met but who know my dog ​​from walking past our yard! My dog ​​has more friends than I do.”

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