Monday Musings…There are no chance encounters in life

Most of us are creatures of habit. We leave the house to go to work or school at the same time, take the same route, make the predictable stop for coffee and so on. It keeps us in our comfort zone and helps us to control our environment with as few surprises as possible…unless you live in Toronto. There you get to enjoy traffic delays, scarce parking opportunities, and super long line ups for almost every convenience. And, if you are a person who has a seat preference for example, you are likely going to have to give that up, especially on a subway car. When you’re in Toronto, you have to expect the unexpected. And that’s exactly why I like to visit that city!

Unlike the masses, I am one of those people who actually enjoys unpredictability. It absolutely excites me to not know what experience or person I will encounter. So Toronto is perfect. I can get lost in a crowd, observe, and wait for the adventure. And so this past week, as I was attending a conference in this fair city, I boarded the subway with anticipation!

Sure enough, we had a delay due to an “investigation of a canine being trapped in a tunnel”. There was even a psychotic individual who was being tormented by a visual hallucination that he was commanding to leave by swinging at its presence. But for the most part, I observed only a sea of blank faces doing one of two things: staring straight ahead, or at their palms which held their precious possession connected to ear buds which were firmly planted to secure their privacy. Nothing seemed to phase these people, not even the two examples I just mentioned. Perhaps this is the way transit travellers maintain their comfort zone and bring some control to an often unpredictable ride.

Well, my commute was not a long one with only 9 stops to get to my destination. Looking around me I appreciated the diversity of culture, age, gender, and, of course, fashion. Honestly, anything goes in Toronto. I thought to myself that I could wear my pyjamas and no one would notice. I actually wanted to try that, but while the people on the subway may not care, I’m sure I would have received some interesting looks at the conference, so alas, I conformed and dressed appropriately.

And then I saw her, a young woman standing to my left. My guess is that she was in her mid-20s, of Italian descent, wearing black pants, black boots with significant heels, and a beige coat tied with a thick belt around her waist. She had brown purse and a quilted black insulated lunch bag that was clearly well used as evidenced by the small tear near the zipper revealing the pink material that kept her food cold. We had entered and then left the train at the same stop. We never spoke and she never made eye contact. I went on to have an excellent day of learning at the conference and the headed back to the subway. I paused to purchase some gum, checked out a book store, and then followed the masses to the subway platform. The train approached and because it was rush hour, I actually entered another car as my intended choice was full. And there she was standing in front of me! The same woman I had met in the morning!!

Now this may not interest you at all, but I found it completely fascinating! What were the odds that I would meet the very same person on the subway on the same day? Even if we were both creatures of habit, I delayed my proposed plan by becoming distracted on my way to the subway. I even changed my car choice at the last minute and then entered through a specific door. The timing had to be just right to make this happen. That is infinitely cool to think about!

What we think are chance encounters, never are. They can’t be. Every day we float through life oblivious to those around us. But I think people are planted deliberately in our lives to teach us something - whether that’s about our own purpose on this planet, the passions that motivates us, or maybe it’s for us to help teach others those same things as we simply listen to someone’s plans to discover who they are and where they are truly going, like my young woman on the train.

You never know who you are going to meet. So keep your eyes open and anticipate the adventure. I guarantee you, your life will be enriched for the experience!

A song I have had on my playlist for years is Howie Day’s “Collide”. It resonates with my belief that nothing is ever an accident.

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