Now I don’t normally think about this sort of thing. In fact, I don’t really know what I’m insinuating with the use of the word “thing.”
I think we can all agree that life, in general, is like an endless row of dominoes which wind their way over the landscape of our lives, a persistent chain reaction that was kicked off when the doctors pulled us out of the womb way back (for some of us, wayyyyyyyyyy back) and this steady unfolding of events persists right through this very moment, a chain of events which has brought you to this blog, this post, this word and when you’re done here, you will hop onto the next stepping stone that will lead you to yet another mini-chapter of your life.
Some chapters are large and life-altering, others, trivial and miniscule and even random…but these steps, when summed and tallied and latched together, form your life. Form the events that bring you to any one point in time.
My point being that each moment is a congruence of an infinite amount of variables, in your life and the lives of others, a moment which is the mathematical sum of all and every. A specific moment represents all and each and their union, now. Of infinite values dictating time and space and energy, coalescing over days, weeks, months, decades…to bring you to this spot you are in now, sitting at the computer, waiting at a traffic light, falling off a bridge, inseminating a girlfriend…INFINITESIMAL.
Portrayed as such it sounds fiercely impersonal and random.
Disparate elements coalesce and merge by chance. That is my belief.
But what of those moments which seem too perfect, too fitting, too mysteriously harmonious as to refute blind chance? What do they tell us about the nature of existence? Or, in a purely random world, they tell us nothing except that even randomness can bring about occasional perfection. It’s the Law of Entropy. Theoretically a pot of water can unboil. Theoretically. Theoretically strange baffling shit can happen. Even if it’s only strange and baffling from our limited perspective.
Case in point and the reason I’m going on about this:
Today my son had a bowling tourney in West Covina, approximately 20 miles east of here.
The plan was that after bowling, we would go see Paranormal Activity (of all movies) at one of the local theaters in the West Covina area in order to make full use of our Sunday time. I’m efficiency-minded that way even if my plans usually turn to shit.
There were quite a few showings in the West Covina area and I printed them out and carried around the folded printout with me, confident beyond a doubt that we would be watching that movie in West Covina. The only question was the time. It depended entirely on when the bowling was over, and as it turned out, bowling was over at 12:50 or thereabouts. I studied my printout and the perfect choice once we packed up and made the drive was the Edwards West Covina 18 where the movie was showing at 1:50.
I am familiar with the neighborhood (or so I thought) but I made the mistake of asking around and received some helpful responses which only served to plant confusion and doubt in my mind. If I had not asked and simply gone with my gut, I’m sure I would have found the theater; as it was, I became turned around. Very turned around…as in hopelessly lost.
My son watched in disbelief as I began roaming streets we had never seen, streets I bragged about knowing; he watched as the clock raced forward. Not only did we miss the 1:35 showing, we missed the 1:45 showing, the 1:50 showing, a multitude of closely-spaced showings in the area simply because I could not find one single street I knew. After 30 minutes of driving I found the 605 freeway.
Good news, I knew where I was; bad news, I was miles from West Covina. I’d literally fucked up the plan and my efficiency was foiled once again.
Trying to make the best of it, I smiled and shut my mouth. I called information from the freeway as I headed home (it was about 1:40 I guess?) and the operator told me that Paranormal Activity was showing at the Pico Rivera Krikorian Theater at 2:50. OK, once again, in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, I smiled and told my son we would go see the movie in Pico Rivera at 2:50.
Pico Rivera was south of there, by a good 10 miles, down the 605 freeway. Let’s eat lunch at Chili’s I suggested; should give us just enough time to eat then catch the 2:50 show. But the damn drive was longer than I expected…by the time we reached the vicinity of Chili’s it was about 1:50 and we weren’t even parked or seated yet. This comedy of horrors was just beginning, apparently.
Waiting at the light, I spotted a Der Wienerschnitzel on the right. After all that driving and confusion I sadly realized that there is no way we would be able to eat a full sit down meal at Chili’s and still have time to make the trip to the Krikorian theater, about 10 minutes away, in time for the movie.
My son was sighing. How about we just grab something at Der Wienershnitzel I groaned. Partly due to resignation and boredom and amazement and most of all, hunger, he agreed haltingly. It will give us more time to make the movie I offered helplessly and slightly humiliated. I pulled into the parking lot.
We ordered our food, sat down with it and laughed at the afternoon, at the mess I’d created and the sheer volume of tiny mishaps that had befallen my plans. As we started to eat I thought to call my mom with the gruesome details, thought she’d appreciate the train wreck (especially since she was at the bowling alley and listened while I hashed out the movie plans). Within moments of her picking up the phone and beginning of our conversation, my jaw dropped, for walking through the door of the restaurant were my uncle Tony and his wife, Rosie. Tony, my mom’s brother; my mom who happened to be on the phone with me.
Now my uncle Tony does not live terribly close…it’s not like we live in the same neighborhood and run into each other all the time at the grocery or video store. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever run into him out and about. I see him at birthdays and holidays and other family events, but I don’t keep in constant touch. And the area of Washington and Rosemead, where the Lowe’s he was headed to is located, is packed with eateries. Packed with them. Der Wienerschnitzel is just one of many unlikely dining possibilitiesy to run into a relative you don’t see terribly often, even when planned.
Curious? Hell yes.
I find myself considering the many possibilities and routes that led to our encounter. The simple twists in fate which brought us here to this most random of restaurants in the most random of cities at the most random times of day. Beginning with the bowling tournament and a succession of events which unfolded directly and indirectly and which brought me and my son to this spot where we run into some relatives we usually don’t run into. And he appears within moments of my phone call to his sister.
And I got to thinking…there really is nothing to separate or distinguish this meeting other than the fact that I happen to be related to the man and woman who walked through the door. Anybody can walk through any door at any time of day in any location who you might theoretically have a previous connection with. Does it signify anything? Do we lend value to happenstance merely for easily comprehended and conscious awareness of certain attributes which tie us together?
If John Doe walked through that door to buy a hot dog, would I have any inkling, would he have any inkling, that perhaps we passed each other in the aisles of a Sears back in 2004?
There is a whole strata, a layer, of hidden reality and knowledge which eludes our awareness yet which might tie us all together, a mass synchronization which loses any sense of awe-inspiring connectedness simply because it’s invisible to us. A sublayer that does not emerge into awareness because maybe I don’t ask for directions which is more normal for me. It could have been as simple as that. I don’t ask, I go with gut instinct, I find the theater and we watch the 1:50 showing of Paranormal Activity in West Covina while my uncle strolls into Der Wienerschnitzel in Pico Rivera without my knowledge or awareness, the sublayer of our shared reality, the branching road of reality which we did not share.
And we missed the trailers and the first 2 or 3 minutes of the movie because the operator said 2:15, not 2:50.