Monday, August 23, 2010

The Magic of Serendipity

You never know when something magical will happen. I learned last week, sometimes magical events are preceded by events that seem less than magical.

Our flight was delayed - again. The first domestic flight upon arriving back in the states from Brazil--Miami to Memphis--would be delayed because of a maintenance issue. The pilot announced the flight was being held up waiting for maintenance to sign off that a toilet was working. Anxious to get home, I huffed, but then, who wants to begin a 2 1/2 hour packed flight with a toilet that doesn't work?

So, sitting on the hot airplane for the first 45 minutes, I was patient--relatively speaking. But as we approached the outer limits of what our layover time in Memphis would be, I began to grit my teeth. I did NOT want to miss our flight in Memphis, which would cause us to miss the pick up time for our dogs at the kennel in Fayetteville. (I call it the domino effect, and it seems more and more when we fly, it happens.)

When we finally took off from Miami, the flight attendant assured the tense, packed-like-sardine passengers that everyone should be able to make their connections. "Memphis is a small airport," she said.

I closed my eyes. Let it go. BREATHE. Even if you're late, there's nothing you can do about it now.

We arrived in Memphis with 35 minutes to make our connection. Should be easy in a small airport, right? Wrong. Our plane landed on one end of Terminal A. Our connecting flight was at the other end of Terminal B. Ready, oh, so ready to get home after being at airports and on airplanes for almost 30 hours, we ran to catch our connecting flight, with one very quick stop to the ladies' room.

Three gates away and less than ten minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to take off, I impatiently waited behind someone on the escalator "down," hardly able to pass him. I imagined the gate attendants closing the gate after the dreaded final call--the gate that would lead to the aircraft that would finally carry us home.

Someone called "Janice!"

Janice? That's an unusual enough name that I had to look around to see who called it.
There, to my right was my best friend from fifth grade--Susan--my dear friend for over four decades, calling me from a gate on the floor I was descending. Though I hadn't seen her for over ten years, I recognized her immediately. My mouth dropped and I screamed.

Still descending the escalator, I looked toward my gate and threw my hands up. "I'm going to miss my plane," I cried, torn between rushing toward her to say "hi" or catching my ride home after twelve days in a foreign country. "Oh, what the heck," I said, as I watched Stephen continue on to the gate. "I have to give you a hug!"

I skipped down the remaining steps of the escalator, then rushed up the stairway to give her a hug, dazed by the unbelievable surprise of running into her at the airport.

We barely had time to talk about where we'd been and where we were going. I grabbed my cell phone and said, "We have to take a picture." I snapped it, and we laughed about how awful we thought we each looked. But, I'm posting it anyway. :-)

For two minutes we hugged each other. I thought about how for years we'd talked about having a reunion get together, but family, jobs, whatever, got in the way. I looked at her and said, "This definitely means we need to get together again."

Five minutes later, I was on the airplane, still shaking my head in disbelief. I thought about everything that had led up to running into Susan, most of which were things I'd been irritated about before.

If our flight from Miami to Memphis hadn't been delayed . . . if I hadn't had to make a quick stop at the ladies' room . . . if we hadn't had to run for our gate . . . if I hadn't stopped to catch my breath for a few seconds . . .if I'd been able to pass that man on the escalator instead of having to wait behind him . . . if any of those things had been different, Susan wouldn't have seen me and called after me, and I wouldn't have heard her. And we wouldn't have had our brief, wonderful mini-reunion that I know, will lead to a longer one.


  1. I like the photo. It looks a whole lot like one taken with an iPhone 4 held in the left hand of one of the subjects. ;)

  2. What a wonderful story! I believe in those "not-so-chance" encounters, too!
    Thanks for sharing!