It's a small world after all
June 12, 2010 5:32 AM   Subscribe

I met my current wife when I was 35. We talk a lot about "the old days," since we didn't share them, and it's amazing how many times we were within perhaps 50 feet of each other, largely at concerts, between 1978 and when we met in '98.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:57 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a small Disney-going North American middle class families with children around age 10 circa 1980 cohort after all.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:01 AM on June 12, 2010 [12 favorites]

Well it's not hard to dismiss this because, as Devil's Rancher and kuujjuarapik point out, it's not that freakish that two people who later end up married might, coming from similar backgrounds, be in the same place at the same time some years before that.

I think though that when you add on the odds of someone capturing that moment on film, and of that photo being preserved for 30 years and identified, we firmly approach statistically safe "awwwww!" territory.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:07 AM on June 12, 2010 [21 favorites]

As more and more instances that have previously been ephemeral become captured and thus not lost, and as those those captured instances become tagged, networked, etc., we will see more and more of these 'amazing coincidences.'
posted by eviltwin at 6:11 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wow. And if the picture had been taken 2 seconds later, he'd be obscured by the character. Of course, two seconds earlier and it would have been a better picture.
posted by delmoi at 6:12 AM on June 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I wasn't trying to dismiss it at all -- it's freakishly cool the moment got preserved on film by accident. I think about this stuff sometimes -- our lives create convoluted pathways, over time. If you could map out two people's different pathways through every waking moment for say a year, it's be a giant spaghetti mess, but it would be highly interesting to see how often they intersected in both space and time. Chance meetings are often second-chance or even third-chance meetings, it turns out.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:13 AM on June 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

Imagining the "hang on - show me that one again!! Is that .... ?!" moment while they were politely going through boring family photos is pretty funny. Great story.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

mindboggling when taken on a global scale
posted by infini at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2010

The thing is, there are so many couples and so many photographs taken in Disney World that it would be odd if this didn't happen to some couple, sometime. Fate indeed.
posted by joydrop at 6:33 AM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

mindboggling when taken on a global scale

It kind of is. Back in about 1995, I printed 144 t-shirts for an air show in France. All 144 shirts went straight across the Atlantic. 2 years later, I was in a bar across the street from my shop where it had been printed, and a guy walked in wearing one. I was surprised to see one, so I told him I'd printed it, and he said that yes, he'd bought it at the show in France. It was apparently a homing shirt.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:33 AM on June 12, 2010 [31 favorites]

And get this--behind the pole in the other stroller is Cory Doctorow.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:37 AM on June 12, 2010 [19 favorites]

A very similar thing happened to me, kinda. My college girlfriend grew up in the same town as me and had the same birthday, although one year younger. We discovered a similar photo of my 6th birthday party at Show Biz Pizza where her family is holding her party in the background. In one photo she is standing right over my shoulder looking at whatever gift I was opening. Granted it was a smallish town we were from, and the relationship itself ended spectacularly, but it is still a little cool that several years before we met we had a picture together.
posted by jlowen at 6:41 AM on June 12, 2010 [9 favorites]

This is very nice indeed. I am always curious about the number of encounters we must all have had with friends and lovers long before we knew who they were. One of my closest friends I met when we were both 23, but many years later we were talking about our childhoods and we discovered that my mother had been in a yoga class taught by her mother when we were both seven or so... I vaguely remember the little blonde girl hanging around the lobby of the studio from when my father and I went to pick up my mom after class.

If we could rewind our memories like a videotape, I have little doubt we would all find dozens of times we crossed paths with people who would later become important to us.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:51 AM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

I met my wife before I met my wife. She worked in the RIT computer lab at the desk where you handed in your carefully-crafted card decks (this was a while ago) to be run in the Xerox Sigma mainframe. Five years later mutual friends at the company we both worked decided we'd be good together and set us up. That was 28 years ago.
posted by tommasz at 7:05 AM on June 12, 2010

A very similar thing happened to me, kinda. My college girlfriend grew up in the same town as me and had the same birthday, although one year younger. We discovered a similar photo of my 6th birthday party at Show Biz Pizza where her family is holding her party in the background

Ditto, me and my two high school best friends, who were twins, a year younger than me. Apparently, we went to the same summer day camp, though we never met until we were about 14. Yet there I was, right behind them on the slide in a photo of the two of them.

But yeah, same home town makes that a little more likely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:41 AM on June 12, 2010

Hoo, boy. I'm going to crack open my photo albums. A summer long ago, I was in Sweden, while a mate house-sat my apartment in New York. One evening he brought a friend-of-a-friend home to sober up, or rather calm down from a bad trip. They cracked open my photo albums and looked at photos of me (from when I was much younger) and mates in Sweden, and my house-sitting pal said "see, you were destined to meet her". Flat-sitting friend never told me this when he gave my keys back.

Two months later when I'm back in town I see this gorgeous man at a club and flirt shamelessly. We end up living together only a few short months later, he unpacks my boxes and says "hang on, this photo album.. This is yours!?
posted by dabitch at 8:02 AM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

I've seen this a whole bunch this week, and it's still awesome.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:23 AM on June 12, 2010

My wife and I aren't in any photos from before we met, BUT if you look really closely at some of the satellite surveillance photos from the late 70s, you can see both our states.
posted by DU at 8:39 AM on June 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Won't be so amazing when on his father's deathbed he confesses they were in the park because he was meeting someone for a tryst... the woman taking the photo.

"I told her to find Smee. I'd meet her there."
posted by dobbs at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

In 1993 I was living in Gainesville, FL, and went to the big flea market in Waldo to sell everything I owned so I could move to Russia. One of the things I sold was a ceramic musical figurine that my grandmother gave me when I was 8. It was shaped like a cardinal.

Ten years later I was visiting the man I'd ultimately marry at his home in Pensacola, FL. His name is Jim White, and he's a musician who has been all over the place (I'm telling you this because 1) It was already strange enough to be dating Jim White, and 2) It's not like he stayed in Pensacola all his life and never went anywhere, which makes this story even odder). We went to the Pensacola flea market so that he could sell a trailer-full of junk. I was unloading boxes onto a table and in one I saw a cardinal-shaped figurine. "Hey," I said, taking it out and showing it to him, "My grandmother gave me one just like this!" I turned it over to wind it up and there on the bottom was an inscription from my grandmother, to me. It was my figurine.

Sure, Waldo and Pensacola are both in Florida. And sure, both stories take place in flea markets. But I'm sorry, THAT'S WEIRD.
posted by staggering termagant at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2010 [16 favorites]

The guy in the Smee outfit is Kevin Bacon...

...and the gray-haired guy with his back to the camera is Paul Erdös.
posted by stringbean at 9:32 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

If I remember my LOST correctly, this means that Disney World is the afterlife.
posted by condour75 at 9:45 AM on June 12, 2010 [15 favorites]

23skidoo, I think the responses you're complaining about are a knee-jerk reaction to the "OMF IT IS FATE" expressed in the article. In that light, I think it makes sense, while I agree with the sentiment that it is an amazing coincidence and a little excitement is warranted. I bet anyone would respond with amazement if your hypothetical, personal interaction happened, but I do think tangents about statistics aren't terrible when people start talking about fate and destiny.

Not that I would necessarily say that to the couple, or the mother, or whatever. Let them have their moment. But I would be doing a little private eye-rolling about talk of fate, and I think talking about that here is different than being up in their faces about it.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:59 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Okay, okay. But Magnolia is still a terrible movie.
posted by damehex at 10:07 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

And this is why my mother says you should always be polite to everyone (you never know when you'll meet again and want to get married).
posted by Hoenikker at 10:16 AM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Let me be sincere when I say, that must be pretty cool for the couple and I'm happy they have their "the fates collided, and we are here together, in love... *smooch* did you remember to mail back the Netflix movie, this morning?"

When I do the "statistically speaking..." and whatnot, it's not for the couple that we're talking about. It's for all of the people who are passing this around the internet like someone was touched by the hand of a god who forgot to white balance. Think about it people, the odds of you winning the lottery are... well, the same odds of winning the lottery. For them, it is a miracle, but for us, it was bound to happen. Should we have a website dedicated to "OMG, these people bought a piece of paper with numbers on it and totally got a check the size of a kitchen table!"?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:18 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

so you're saying one should be totally blase about this random numbers being drawn by the universe kind of things?
posted by infini at 10:21 AM on June 12, 2010

staggering termagant are you married to wrong-eyed jesus Jim White or world's-greatest-drummer Jim White?
posted by dobbs at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2010

And this is why my mother says you should always be polite to everyone (you never know when you'll meet again and want to get married).

Having been in sales, I can vouch for the first part, seriously.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:46 AM on June 12, 2010

rtha and I figured out that although we both grew up mostly in the States, we were both at the same small school in Oxford, England within a few months of each other when we were 11-12 years old.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:48 AM on June 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

During a long trip in Europe, a friend and I made a concerted effort to crash as many standard tourist photos as we possibly could, giving the double guns salute in everyone's shots. I must be in the background of hundreds and hundreds of photos of the Eiffel Tower and St. Peter's and whatnot. It's our goal in life to one day be at someone's house and hear of that European vacation they took as a kid, and to have them pull out a picture with me in the background. My life really won't feel complete unless this goal is met.
posted by Adam_S at 11:08 AM on June 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

Dobbs, it depends on which nightclub I'm trying to get into.

Wrong-Eyed Jesus.
posted by staggering termagant at 11:08 AM on June 12, 2010

Of course, in a world like ours, impossible coincidences like this are happening all the time.
posted by markkraft at 11:28 AM on June 12, 2010

I bet Alex and Donna look at the picture and wonder about the fate that brought those two people with the hideous butt shorts together.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2010

In photos from my childhood, there is often another kid in them. Same kid, numerous locations and times. It's pretty creepy.

Turns out that I have a brother and we, in theory, grew up together! Totally floored me.
posted by maxwelton at 12:07 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Turns out that I have a brother and we, in theory, grew up together! Totally floored me.

You weren't the only one.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2010

Yeah, in all my childhood photos there's this goofy looking kid who's always blinking. In more recent photos there is always this goofy looking adult blinking. Freaky blinking fucker haunting all my photos of me ... through time.

Not that weird though, because I didn't marry myself, though we have had sex.
posted by Elmore at 4:25 PM on June 12, 2010

And then Desmond Hume turned up and they started having flashbacks to the Island.
posted by bwg at 5:17 PM on June 12, 2010

There's a whole bunch of people who I've almost met, and then I meet them and realize that we were in the same city at the same time, grew up in the same area, knew some of the same people.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2010

More 'amazing' coincidences . . .

My car broke down in a small NM town 60 miles from home. While I was waiting for help, I ate at a tiny diner & bought a few used books (5 for a quarter). When I got home, I opened one of the books and found my own bookplate - I'd sold the book 2 miles from home 3 yrs previously.

I attended college 1400 miles from home - in a town I'd never even visited. 2 Weeks after I school started, I was watching the news and there was a friend being interviewed from the home town (human interest about his RC car club).

I spent 3 yrs in one small town in Germany, 3 yrs in the US and 3 yrs in another small town in Germany when I was a kid (military brat). I went to school with a guy who had a very usual name during the first 3 yrs in Germany. While I was back in the US, he starred in a very obscure TV show set in Europe but it aired for 1 season in the US. During the 2nd tour in Germany, he & his family had moved so we went to the same school again! 30ish years later & now on the US East Coast, I discovered he was living about 20 miles away. I've never contacted him, its just funny how he's 'following' me around.

I met my best friend, Yvette, in my junior/her freshman year of high school in Texas. 5 or so years after we met, we discovered that our families had stayed at the same hotel during the same week in Munich, Germany (her dad was military too) 7 years earlier (2 years before high school). We discovered this while watching the home movies my dad had taken - Yvette & her family are in the background in several shots including one from hotel lobby.

I live 2300 miles (East Coast) from the town I graduated high school in Texas. 6 years after graduation and my 1st week living here, I was in the check out line of Wal-mart. The woman in front of me? Also stood in front of me at graduation. It was the only time I've ever seen her since graduation - she moved to Hawaii the following week.
posted by jaimystery at 5:41 PM on June 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Statistically speaking, I am 95% confident that it isn't much of a coincidence that being dead to 23skidoo wouldn't bother me at all.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:06 PM on June 12, 2010

(This isn't much of a coincidence, btw... I'm pretty sure I saw basically the same thing at the end of "What Dreams May Come".)
posted by markkraft at 7:20 PM on June 12, 2010

My father (a mathematician, an atheist, not always a killjoy) responds to coincidences like this with "yes, that may have been a one in a million - but there are a million one-in-a-million things that could have happened (so it's not a big deal, really)."
posted by anshuman at 7:36 PM on June 12, 2010

As a kid I remember reading/hearing a story about two sisters who were separated and became orphans, but when they grew up they married two brothers and that's how they found each other again. Anyone remember something like this? could just be some urban myth I'm re-spouting here but ....

and also, why would this article finish with this advice?

"Also see:
Sexy transsexual Nina Arsenault on life, art and her penis"

posted by mannequito at 7:55 PM on June 12, 2010

In 1996, I went on a round-Europe backpacking trip. While in Brighton (UK), I met up for coffee with my brother who was working in a youth hostel there. We sat in the window, with my Mum, who was travelling as well (though on a separate trip), when two guys from my class at high school in Australia walked by the window. I had no idea either of them had even left the country.
posted by nonspecialist at 11:46 PM on June 12, 2010

My paternal grandfather fought in Germany in WWII. He was at Dachau shortly after it was liberated. Apparently, one of the German soldiers my grandfather "met in battle" during his tour of duty was the future father of my grandpa's future son-in-law.
Two men literally trying to kill one another, they both survived the war, got married, had families.

Roughly 30 years after the war, the son of the German soldier met one of my grandpa's daughters in San Francisco. They fell in love and got married.
It's probably not terribly uncommon for such things to happen.
Still, I wish I could have heard that conversation, when the two men, now in-laws, realized that they'd fought in the same places, that each had a real chance of killing the other decades earlier. They might never have shared two lovely grand-daughters.
posted by apis mellifera at 1:06 AM on June 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Someone tapped me on the shoulder to ask me to take a photograph of her at Niagara Falls. Our jaws then dropped pretty much simultaneously, because the woman was an acquaintance from college in Lahore. We hadn't seen each other in six years.
posted by bardophile at 8:21 AM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

You know, I understand how coincidences work, that its not about the chances of it happening to you, its about the chances of it happening to someone, but I'm going to tell this story anyway.

During WWII, my grandfather's family billeted an Australian soldier for a few weeks. The soldier had a picture taken to send home to his family, and invited my then four or five year old grandfather to be in it too.

When the war ended my great-grandparents, my grandfather and his eight siblings migrated to Australia as ten pound poms. My grandfather grew up, met and married my grandmother, had some kids, etc.

Thirty five years later, he accompanied her to her family reunion. At the entrance to the function room, her family had set up a collage of old family photos, including a picture of my grandmother's great uncle with the young British boy he had billeted with during WWII.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 9:48 PM on June 13, 2010

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