Friday, February 13, 2015

My Most Mind-Blowing Coincidences Ever

A heavy sense of foreboding caused me to cough up money for a more expensive refundable airline ticket--the first and only fully refundable fare I've ever bought.  Check out the travel dates below and see if you don't get goosebumps.

In this series I've been telling you about some of the strange coincidences I've had over time.  After the premonitions and flashes I experienced in Texas, there followed a very long dry spell.  For me, this in no way unusual.   What I had no way of knowing was that the most spectacular "coincidences" of my life lay ahead.

But even the dry spell was interesting.  During this time, minor little coincidences or “flashes” did continue to present themselves to me from time to time.  Mainly those took the form of incidents where a word, name, phrase, or image would pop into my head and stay there, leaving me to wonder why this thought had suddenly occurred to me—and then a short time later, I would read it in a book, magazine, or newspaper, see it on television, or have someone bring it up in conversation.
Screen cap from the Danny Rolling Wikipedia entry

Here is an example of what I mean.  This incident is from much later, but I happened to record it, and it’s indicative the kind of thing I’m talking about.  One afternoon, for no apparent reason, the name “Sonja” popped into my head—Sonja with a “J.”  I didn’t know anyone named Sonja.  I gnawed on it off and on all day, wondering what had propelled this unusual name into my consciousness.  The next day, I picked up the morning paper, and there it was, in an above-the-fold story.  Sonja was the first name of one of Danny Rolling’s 8 serial murder victims, for which he had just gone on trial.  Skeptics will argue that, being in the news business, undoubtedly I’d heard the name before and had simply forgotten about it, but then one day it bubbled back up from my subconscious mind.  Okay.  I won’t argue.

Screen cap from a news article about the mauling
Here’s another example of what I’d call a “minor” flash of that type, recorded at about the same time.  I had a dream that I was in a house where some kind of party was going on.  Someone brought in large cat, the size of a Florida panther or a cougar.  The cat was going from person to person, jumping into people’s laps, etc.  In the next day’s paper was the following headline:  “Girl, 4, mauled by captive cougar at birthday party.” 

Aside from incidents of that nature, which have occurred every so often throughout my life, nothing
major happened until I was about to turn 45.  By this point in my career, I was a news director.  Nearly every year I would attend the annual Radio-Television News Directors Association convention.  But as I began to make plans for the next one, I started to experience a feeling of foreboding, bordering on dread.  A pervasive sense that something really awful was about to happen weighed down on me.  It was quite oppressive, and I couldn’t shake it.  I had no idea what the incident might turn out to be, but I felt it would be massive, a major news event with national ramifications that would preclude me from attending the convention.  I was so convinced that something along those lines would occur that I put off making travel plans.  Finally, as the deadline loomed, I went ahead and booked my flights.  But my forebodings were so strong that I did something I’ve never done before, and have not done since.  Even though it was more expensive, I bought fully refundable airline tickets. 

My scheduled date of departure:  September 12, 2001. 

I’m sure I need not tell you what happened or why I never took that flight.  On my departure date, the only aircraft flying in the country were military jets.  The convention had to be canceled.  I don’t know if I was the only news director in America to have bought a refundable ticket for that event.  But if there were any others, I’d bet long odds there were damned few, and none that did so for the same reason I had.

And by the way, here is an interesting postscript that may raise an eyebrow for you.  It certainly had that effect on me.  The latest personal coincidence connected with that canceled convention came to my attention just this very minute.  Just before typing this paragraph, I did a quick Internet check to confirm my recollection that the RTNDA convention had been scheduled to start on 9/12 of that year.  A article popped right up from an author recounting his experiences on the morning of 9/11, detailing exactly what happened to those who’d already arrived for the convention and how they dealt with what was going on.  I was surprised to note that the posting date of the article was just two nights ago, relative to the time I am typing this.  I began outlining this installment of my series in my mind—guess when?— two nights ago (as I type this).  The article was a reprint, which the RTDNA (as it’s now called) website had just reposted.  There was no obvious reason for the timing of the repost, and none was given.  This year’s 9/11 anniversary is still more several months away as I compose this.

Interesting, is it not?

Now on to the mother of all coincidences.  Buckle your seatbelt.  This one involves not just me but my wife.  In fact, I’m not sure whether it directly involves me or not, given that it started with her dream.

In early 2008, because of a family crisis, my wife Deborah and I had to make a trip to San Diego. 
One morning Deborah woke up and said she’d been having a dream about the rock band America.  Deborah very rarely mentions her dreams to me.  Why she would feel compelled to tell me about this one, I don’t know.  But apparently it had been a pleasant dream.  The band had been playing one of her favorite songs.

Later that morning when we got into my sister Amy’s car, Amy popped in her IPod, and what do you think would come out of the speakers but an America tune.  The coincidence was remarkable, if just barely.  But it did cause Deborah to mention her dream.  And then we chatted a bit about the band.  America is one of our favorite groups, and previously Deborah and I both had a chance to meet them during a concert in Tucson, by virtue of the fact that Deborah worked for the concert venue at the time and had helped promote the band’s appearance.  In fact, she’d met them on two occasions, to my one.  In the course of discussing all this, I checked my sister’s IPod and noticed that she’d happened to play the one and only America song she owned, which was just one of several hundred tunes on the device.  Interesting.  Not earth-shakingly so.  But interesting.  But not something I would have remembered, if not for what was about to take place.

The next day, we flew back to Fort Myers.  The airline lost our reservation, and to make up for it they wound up sticking us in first class at no extra cost, to which we raised not an objection.  On the second leg of the flight, I couldn’t help but notice that the two people sitting behind us were talking in terms that made me suspect they were roadies for a rock band.

Can you guess what’s coming?  I turned around.  There, just two seats back, sat Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, two of the three original members of the band.  America was on the plane with us, on the way to a concert in south Florida.

After we landed, my wife and I couldn’t help ourselves.  We approached the two of them at the baggage belt and introduced ourselves.  Both remembered Deborah.  We explained the strange coincidence.  They were quite nice about it, and then as soon as they politely could, they beat it out of there, moving as fast as their feet could take them without breaking into a trot.  (A typical reaction that explains why, when something like this happens, most people tend to keep it to themselves.)

So what are the odds of all those things lining up at once?  To recap, the sequence was as follows: 
(1) A dream about America, which led to:
(2) A conversation about America.
(3) An America tune being selected out of hundreds for playback, which led to:
(4) Another conversation about America.
(5) A lost reservation, leading to
(6) A first class seating assignment placing us two rows from America, which
(7) Just happened to be on the same plane, which led to:
(8) Us conversing with America, instead of about them.

I tried to figure the odds for this once, and came up with a figure of something like 1 in 30 quadrillion.  (Some of the values that went into the calculation were fairly arbitrary, though.  For instance, how do you figure the odds that someone will have a dream about a particular thing on a particular night?  I used a number of 1 out of 365.  Since she’d never had such a dream before, I could just as easily have divided by the total number of days so far in Deborah’s life, as opposed to the days over the past year.)  Such long odds seem impossible.  But then again, so does winning the lottery, yet it happens all the time.  In fact, it’s been said that stating any probability less than zero is just another way of saying that something will happen, sooner or later.  And after all, America had to sit next to someone.

But, still.  I mean, sheesh!

Only one other thing happened in this period of time of any note, but it was a stunner.

The year after the above incident, I moved to Albuquerque to run a TV newsroom there.  One day soon after my arrival an incident happened of the kind where a name pops into my head for no apparent reason.  In this case, it was the name and face of a reporter acquaintance of mine whom I had not seen in more than 15 years.  Idly, I wondered why the thought of this person, whom we’ll call Kathi, would suddenly pop into my brain.  I might not have given it much thought, except that now that I was thinking about her, I couldn’t remember her last name to save my life (it sucks to get old!)  I gnawed on it for a while, and finally recalled it. 

About an hour later, an email appeared in my mailbox from this very person.  The subject line read, “What the hell?”  Kathi had just heard about my new job.  Now, when I knew her, we both worked at the same station in Texas.  In the intervening years, we had communicated maybe twice via email, and not at all in the last nine years.  I’d completely lost track of her.  Would you care to guess where Kathi now was?  Did you guess “Albuquerque?”  Sorry, that’s too obvious.  Let’s see if you can narrow it down.  What do you think was the physical distance between me and Kathi at the moment I received that email?

Go ahead.  Venture a guess.  I’ll wait.

At that very moment Kathi was 150 feet away.  She was sitting at a desk in a building on the other side of the street.  And it was a narrow street.  Kathi was employed at a competing TV station which happened to be located in the same plaza as mine.  It’s also where she’d been sitting when her name popped into my head for no apparent reason.


Next in this series:  What does it all mean?

I invite you to check out my novels, both of which also are reality-based or at least reality-inspired--yes, even the zombie apocalypse novel, A Journal of the Crazy Year.  Find out why Publishers' Weekly calls it a "fascinating read" from top to bottom.

©2015 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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