I’d just made fast friends with the passengers on either side of my middle 17E seat on the flight. They were both eating bagels with far too much cream cheese, but it turns out they aren’t together. Just both eating bagels with too much cream cheese and too much of me in-between their seats. 17D says she gets up a lot, so I wouldn’t want her in the other seat anyways. I’m actually pleased by her revelation, as I’d been hoping to try and keep up a practice of moving and meditating and not sitting for as much as was safely possible. So being seated next to her, after the initial niceness of the bin-less security line, felt like another small travel luxury. I let her know, “Actually, that’s great, I like to get up and walk around too, so we can get up at the same time and have a little field trip into the aisle.” What I don’t say is that this will reduce my self-consciousness about asking her to get up frequently. So it’s a win-win.
There’s some further travel banter amongst all three of us — about my height and how you have to check your legs on flights— when the stewardess asks about who is in 13E. I realize, “oh, g-d, I’m that person, somehow sat in 13E” and can’t quite figure out why because even on the jet bridge I had looked at my boarding pass and read the 17E and thought about how it was a prime number and similar to B-17, another airport number of significance in my life. But perhaps because I’d been talking with a dad and his agnostic college-aged daughter on their way to a funeral in Chevy Chase for her grandmother, a discussion about community and “the right amount of Jesus” … I must have just been too distracted and shepherded into it by the lone remaining overhead compartment space.
Standing in the aisle is another woman looking to be in 13E, and as I begin to pull up my bag to move seats, the stewardess leaves. But the older woman to my left in 13D suggests, “Well if the seats are both middle, why don’t you just take his seat back there, so he doesn’t have to move all of his things.” They’re just tickets, not rules. The other lady agrees and walks back without a word, and I, having really had taken no more action, do nothing else.
13D confesses, “Actually … I just didn’t want to get up again.”
And so then I proceed to talk to 13Deborah for about three of the five and a half hours on the flight. She was born outside of Pittsburgh and is in her early 70’s (and her voice reminded me of my grandmother who had also been born in Pittsburgh), her husband is across the aisle (because they don’t like to sit next to each other) on their way to the annual conference for orthodontists. By the end our conversation (which experienced an intermission of my hour of meditation and morning pages and her watching and napping through a Christopher Robin story) I’d helped her make changes to her phone configuration in multiple locations (computer therapy), had a long discussion about the digital collection of family oral histories (which she confessed really resonated with her), we’d exchanged phone numbers, she’d given me a new idea for an entirely different avenue for collecting stories, she is now going to purchase The Artist’s Way for her goddaughter and pick up a copy for herself to really dive into it after having heard about it, and in discussing our mutual body problems and her torn ACL she had helped convince me that I should just go to a PT for my recently PRP’ed shoulder while on the trip, as opposed to waiting (potentially) a whole month before getting back to Santa Cruz. Because that’s the secret sauce: just do things sooner.
13D confesses also that she just didn’t feel like sitting next to that other woman. And I think, clearly, after our exchange of information, that we both had really learned a lot about potentials in the world within and without. 13F had mentioned that the seat had been empty when he checked in this morning, and then I realize why I had made a “mistake” in sitting down.
I’d booked with miles via a codesharing airline, which meant I didn’t have the ability to chose my details, so the seat was assigned to me when I checked in that morning. When I printed my boarding pass I had one other option, which I pondered for a moment. 13E or my originally assignment; both equally uncomfortable middle seats, both with two potential interesting conversations (although I was just going to meditate and write the whole flight anyway), I even briefly selected 13E at first with this thought in my mind, in a weird way, because I’ve seen it play out so many other times across the spectrum of unexpected encounters, and it’s weird to be down to a coin-toss. Well, with no other information at this point, I’ll just stick with 17E and see what happens. Even in contemplating that choice, it turns out I didn’t have a choice.
18 hours later I’m in the PT office that I used to visit frequently about a year ago, Therapydia on 18th Street. I’m in the middle of evaluation (“no, I’m just here for the weekend, yes it’s a SLAP tear, here is what was done”) when, kind of similar to 13E, I just felt that I should mention that I’ve been reading Supple Leopard. And when I do, Margaret, the doctor lights up and responds, “Yes! And that is so funny, I just was looking at that book on my bookshelf last night and pulled it out when I was reviewing notes for a patient. And I haven’t looked at that book in at least a couple of years. I guess this was just meant to be. I’m going to actually read it now, and if you’re back at the end of the month we can compare.”
Later when she’s asking about my DC past, so I mention The Venues™, with a curiosity if Margaret may have heard of them and she again lights up and says, “Yes, I had my birthday party there! It’s beautiful.”
It’s strange to experience both sides of this process of patterns, of seeming invisible rhythm and rhyming of human expression and meaning and direction. To both hear of things multiply and take them in and/or act on them, or ride a wave of circumstances and confusion to end up in something resembling synchronicity, but then also to say things and have them resonate in such a kismet of coincidence. While I am at once constantly a doubting skeptic, I am still confounded by all this subjective evidence to support the alternative hypothesis:
Of a fate interested — or at the very least — something seemingly to apply some form of compounding meaning and coincidental narrative in our shared learning and behaviors.