Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coincidences, Cookies, Kids and the Duck That Won The Lottery

Tonight, foot loose and fancy free in Hollywood, I wandered over to the Farmer's Market for dinner, after which I was planning on going to see Thor at The Grove theaters. Yes, I know - hardly living "la vida loca", but my reputation as a bad boy is a bit... overstated.

Anyway, after I finished dinner and walked up to the theater, I took a look at the massive crowds inside at the ticket lines, and decided to give it a pass. Instead, I headed into the Barnes & Noble next door to read a few graphic novels, and browse a few other sections.

I spent about twenty minutes reading through Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 3 (quite good!), and then walked down a couple of aisles to the New Age section, where I leafed through a few books, including Nick Redfern's new book The Real Men in Black, and Mark Pilkington's Mirage Men, because I wanted to have another look at the section he wrote about my friend, Walter Bosley.

After about another twenty minutes, I decided to head back to Greg's to catch the end of the Dodger's game. As I was headed to the escalator down to the main floor, I noticed the Philosophy section, and walked over to see if they had a copy of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, because I lost my old copy about a year ago, and I've been meaning to pick up a new one ever since.

I found the book, flipped through it for a minute or two, and decided to buy it the next time I was in the store. As I was about to place it back on the shelf, a scream from the next aisle over startled me - three young teens in the Manga section were laughing and carrying on as they browsed some vampire books. I gave them a bit of a stern look, because I can't abide anyone who makes a ruckus in a public place, and then I turned back to the Philosophy shelves. Due to the distraction, however, my gaze focused not on the shelf where I found Meditations, but the one above it, where a particular book caught my attention - The Duck That Won The Lottery, by British philosopher  Julian Baggini.

Now, as regular readers are aware, for years I have traveled with a stuffed duck named Zorgrot, who is sort of my company's mascot. This trip to Los Angeles is no different. Unfortunately, I've been so busy since I got here last week that I had forgotten to take Zorgy out of my knapsack until this afternoon. Just before I left for the Farmer's Market, I had taken a few photos of Zorgrot and "Kitty", the cat that I'm looking after while they're in Europe.

I thought it was a cute little coincidence that I had finally pulled Zorgy out earlier in the evening and now my attention had been drawn to a book with "duck" in the title, so I placed Meditations back on the shelf, and picked up The Duck That Won The Lottery. I opened it at random, to the first page of chapter 55 - "Chance wouldn't be a fine thing: The no coincidence presumption".

"Okay," I thought to myself, "what are the odds?"

Given the series of coincidences that I've experienced on this trip, I decided to try a little experiment. I closed the book, and put it back on the shelf. I wanted to see if this copy of the book was somehow predisposed to open at the beginning of chapter 55. I picked it up and opened it at random a dozen times, and not once did it come close to the beginning of chapter 55.

Three kids distracted me just long enough so that I would notice The Duck That Won The Lottery, which I opened at random to the chapter on coincidences, just that one time.

I put the book back on the shelf, and walked out of the store, thinking, "well, that was a weird."

On the way home, I decided to pop into Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue to pick up some cookies for a snack later in the evening. I ordered six chocolate chip cookies, and four little squares of some sort (they're tasty, but I'm not quite sure what they are). Now, at Canter's, the cookies aren't priced individually but by weight, so the clerk weighed them, and then rang them in. He turned to me and said: "that'll be three fifty five, sir."

Weird had just gotten weirder.

The antics of three kids had led me to notice a book with "duck" in the cover, which I then opened to chapter 55, about coincidences.

$3.55 for cookies, based on weight. If the clerk had picked a couple of different cookies for me, the price would have been different. It had to be those cookies.

I pulled out a five dollar bill, gave it to the clerk, and then asked him for a receipt, because I wanted a reminder of this coincidence, and because I wasn't sure anyone would believe me. Heck, I'm not sure I believe this run of coincidences.

3 kids.

Chapter 55, about coincidences.


Now it's getting really weird.

Paul Kimball


Kandinsky said...

Sounds like you've got the opening symptoms of Pernicious Ufluenza. Don't worry though, it's a recurrent condition and easily curable; I get it frequently due to its infectious nature and the company I keep...

Early signs are the patient's tendency to see patterns in their daily life. This develops into attributing some elusive meaning to such patterns. It may be several weeks or months where the infection incubates at this level. Friends and family might not even be aware at this point.

In more severe cases, the patterns begin to extend towards ever-increasing complexities. For example, '55' is no longer just a number in itself. Even '10' can be divided by 2 to leave two 5s...55! The victims begin to excel at mathematical acrobatics as they infer meaning from the ticking clock, license plates and the Wal-Mart sale commercials.

In extreme cases, Ufluenza can be misdiagnosed as the incurable Strieberitus. In these latter stages, the victim's family are well-aware of the condition and hide all the paranormal books and monitor the internet history. The victim hides in dark closets mainlining Art Bell shows in secrecy and nodding vigorously to Mike McLellend podcasts.

Luckily Paul, you are in the very early stages. Just a couple of days away from the environment where Ufluenza lurks will allow the brain's immune system to attack the infection, reboot and restore the connection to the critical thinking cells. Sadly, the urge to frown at younger people is an altogether different condition...age.

Unfortunately, it's too late for me. The infection is low-level but pernicious; every few weeks, I'm beset by coincidences and synchronicities that I know aren't real. Yeah, the brain does its best, but I find myself logging onto the internet at 4:44 and secretly trawling 2012 websites.

Paul Kimball said...

Umm, yes... all very interesting. ;-)

Hey, I didn't say I see any meaning in it all (although who really knows). It's just a very odd series of undeniable coincidences, some a bit stranger than others (last night's and the O'Hare ones being stranger than Walter's arrival at the Market, for example).