My mobile number is 07**** 232116. I have had that number for years, at least since 2007 to judge by the names still in its phonebook. A few months ago, I had to confirm my bank pass-code and couldn’t find it anywhere. It wasn’t where it should have been and when that happens you might as well give up looking because it could be literally anywhere. So I had to send off for a new one which came in the post a few weeks ago. It’s a random six-figure number: 232116. What are the chances of that? Millions to one, I would have thought.
Coincidence has been a steady, recurrent theme in my life. Meeting long-forgotten business colleagues on trains; friends in Motorway Service Stations at ten o’clock at night [or on one occasion 6.30am in the morning]. One time, our next-door neighbours were sitting directly in front of us on a return flight from Rome. Of course these things happen to everyone and you just have to shake your head and remember the thousands of times when you didn’t meet up with your sister-in-law, four-hundred miles from where she should have been.
Here are a couple of others:
I was in south Ayrshire a couple of years ago, driving on country roads and pulled into a one-pump petrol station. I wasn’t watching what I was doing and stopped at the wrong side of the pump. I could fill up but couldn’t see the gauge and couldn’t tell how much I was putting in. Didn’t matter because I intended to fill the tank. As it was filling I looked about me and realised there was no Visa sign and I suddenly panicked that I would have to pay in cash. I thought quickly. I reckoned I had about £20 in cash on me but couldn’t tell at that point how much I had put in because I couldn’t see the gauge. I stopped, put the nozzle back in its holster stepped around to see what the gauge said and it read £20.00. Exactly. Not twenty pounds and a penny, not nineteen ninety-nine; twenty pounds exactly.
When I took early retirement a few years ago, there was fairly long period of hand-over to my successors. In my last week I had to hand over some of my major London clients to Hilary, who was taking them over. In the event however I had so many things to do in that final week I could only spare her one day, a Wednesday. We had an eleven am appointment at a clients office in Holborn and standing at reception when we arrived was a man I had known well for over twenty years, a competitor in fact called Chris Taylor. We embraced, shook hands and all that but I just couldn’t get over the fact that he was there at the same time on the same day that I had chosen to travel down to London. An hour earlier, a day later . . .
About seven o’clock that evening I was walking through Putney to my hotel when a man ran up to me, out of breath. ‘Couldn’t believe my eyes’, he said. ‘couldn’t believe it was you!’ This was Dave Bradshaw, another old fiend [and a competitor] that I had known even longer than Chris Taylor. Possibly, probably the only two men in London I would have been happy to meet up with in my final week. All three of us running cutting-edge businesses in the same industry. All three of us knowing what it is like to travel to hell and back. If it weren’t for scalability, it could be called Clustering.
Is there a deeper order, an overarching purpose to the universe? Or are our lives completely random and events such as these just lucky accidents which have meaning only if we choose to give it to them?
Or am I simply being self-aggrandising . . . see how interesting/important I am?