Whenever I bump into someone I know on my travels, I’m met with the question ‘What are the chances of that happening?’ I’ve been asked that question on quite a few occasions over the years, so I would say quite high! Let me give you some examples…
A popular place for me to bump into people is at festivals. I always manage to find someone I know in the 60,000+ strong crowds. I was at the Leeds festival in 2003 and System of a Down were on stage when the barriers collapsed and it all got a bit hairy. In my attempt to get away from the crush, I backed up through the crowd only to be grabbed on the shoulder by my housemate from university. What are the odds? At the same festival, after Metallica had finished, me and my mates agreed that our friend, Tom, would have really enjoyed that gig. We found out that he did quite enjoy it, as we bumped into him five minutes later on the way back to the car!
One Download festival, we were watching Kyuss on the main stage and the big screen panned across the crowd. It stopped on a man with a beard and an awesome set of aviator shades. “Hang on” I said to my friends and pointed at the screen, “I know him!” Sure enough, it was my life-long friend and Blackpool rugby team mate. I made a mental note of where the camera was pointing and bounced through the crowd to go and say hello! It turned out a few of the rugby lads were there that day!
A random place I bumped into somebody once was in Cheddar Gorge. I’d gone for a walk and I spotted a van in the car park. Recognising the logo on it, I wondered to myself if my mate Steve might be in the area. Sure enough, he was there climbing, and had travelled all the way from Gloucester that morning.
Another time, I was in Mandurah in Perth, Australia. Me and my family had landed earlier that day and had gone out for something to eat. Whilst being served, the waitress got chatting to us. It was the first person we’d spoken to in Australia and it turned out that her and my dad were from the same town, Ilkeston, near Nottingham. They both agreed that it was spooky. In the end, it wasn’t as spooky as we had imagined, as the waitress was my cousin’s sister-in-law who we were meeting the next day. It’s a small world.
My partner and I are always bumping into people we know at service stations up and down the country. Wetherby is frequented by all it would seem, and so is Doncaster services. The last time I was at Doncaster, I bumped into my cousin’s fiancé (for the record, I have a lot of cousins). She told me my cousin was in the car with the dogs and the baby and I should go say hello, so I did.
As we approached the car, my partner asked if I was going to surprise him and knock on the window. “I’ve got a better idea” I said with a smile and proceeded to walk past the front of his car and got in and sat in the passenger seat. He was very calm about the whole thing, but later admitted that he thought that was the end of the road. “I’ve had a fun innings” he joked.
Finally (if you don’t believe me that this kind of thing happens all the time to me), this is the most bizarre ‘what are the chances’ meeting I’ve ever had. My partner and I were in Havana, Cuba, and we knew that a friend of mine and his partner were visiting too. We even knew where they were staying, so we tried to meet them.
‘Hang on’ I hear you querying, ‘if you knew where they were staying, it’s hardly a surprise you bumped into them’. But it is; and I’m going to tell you why.
My friend, notinmyusername, (who writes a fantastic and insightful blog which you can find here) was living and working in Peru at the time, so communications with him were infrequent at best. It was just per chance that I heard he was visiting Cuba whilst we were out there. He was staying at the Hotel Nacional, so we agreed to try and meet up somewhere and that we’d confirm things when we got to Havana. Now, what we didn’t realise was that Havana isn’t known for its super fast 4G, 3G or even wifi. None of these things exist there. None of us had any phones that worked in the country, so we had to rely on using the only method of internet available for communication, and that was dial-up.
Cuba doesn’t have internet café’s as such; the government restricts the locals from using it. One of the only ways to get online in Havana was to use an internet room at one of the major hotels. Our hotel didn’t have the internet, so we had to visit one that did and pretend we were staying there. After we managed to convince the man on the desk to sell us a thirty minute internet card, we went to the computer room and tried to log on using the code. Unfortunately, my partner was a little too eager to scratch off the silver strip on the card that she scratched through some of the numbers. With a bit of luck, we guessed the code and sent a message to notinmyusername. We said we would meet him at his hotel on Thursday, 7pm. Sorted.
However, that message was never received because he wasn’t using the internet at his hotel that day – his internet allowance had expired. We didn’t know this and went to the Hotel Nacional anyway and waited in the lobby on Thursday, at 7pm. By quarter past seven, my friend and his partner came into the lobby. “Look who it is!” he said. “Fancy meeting you here! We’re just about to grab something to eat, do you want to join us?” he asked. A bit perplexed by his question, we went to get some food.
When we sat down and got talking, we found out that notinmyusername never got our message and that it was only at the last minute that they decided against room service and opted for the Hotel’s American diner instead. What are the chances? But there’s more…
After a few mojitos, our partners were chatting to each other and they discovered that they had something in common. Notinmyusername’s partner was a teacher and used to work in Birmingham. My partner’s sister is a teacher and she used to work in Birmingham too. ‘How weird’ they both agreed. After a bit more digging, it transpired that they both used to teach in Sutton-Coldfield and, believe it or not, they used to work at the same school.
‘Wait a minute, is your sister such-and-such?’ There was a pause. There was a laugh of disbelief. Not only had my partner randomly bumped into my friend and his partner that evening, but she had also bumped into one of her sister’s ex-colleagues.
What are the chances?