Monday, March 4, 2013


Last Sunday, This American Life did an episode on coincidences. Some of the stories involved truly mind-boggling coincidences, others made for great stories, even if the coincidence in the story was a minor one at best. A few weeks prior to the show, they asked listeners to contribute stories of their own coincidences, and as a result they were able to find trends in people's stories. For example, for a lot of people, their most memorable instance of a coincidence occurred when they were in their twenties.

Personally, I'm not one that reads much into coincidences. Of all the random encounters we have with people and information every day, there are bound to be connections between them, even if they aren't significant. I've had a few notable ones, such as the time when I worked at Best Buy, and had to look up a customer's Reward Zone information and realized they lived at my old house, but there was one that really stuck out in my mind the moment I heard the This American Life episode. Of course, it was something that happened when I was in my early twenties.

One of the first things I did when I started college was to audition for the fall play, which was a production of Macbeth. I landed a minor role, and as a result met another girl in the freshman class who was also in the play. Her name was Alli. We hung out a fair amount freshman year, but as school went on, we both started travelling with different circles of friends, and didn't really keep in touch with each other.

Skip ahead to my junior year, when I was studying abroad in London. The first month I arrived in the city, there was a production of Macbeth going on in the West End. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have bothered seeing in, since having already performed in the play, I had heard the dialogue enough times to be a bit sick of it. However, this particular production was starring Sean Bean and Samantha Bond, who respectively played Alec Trevelyan and Moneypenny in the film GoldenEye, one of my favorite all time movies. I couldn't pass it up. (For the record, the guy who delivered my lines in this production did a much better job at them than I did, sad as it is for me to admit.)

At intermission, the moment the lights went up, I heard somebody call out my name. It took a second or two to process what I heard as actually being my name. First of all, Allister is a Scottish name, and Sears is a British name, so while its an uncommon combination of names in the States, I imagined it wasn't as uncommon in the UK. Second, I had only been in London for a few weeks, and hadn't really met anybody outside of the program. On top of that, back then I always introduced myself as "Al," not "Allister," so it seemed unlikely that it was a friend from my program who happened to be at the same show as me.

So, for a moment, I concluded that somebody was calling out for a different Allister Sears, although I suppose two people with the name Allister Sears at the same play would have been a strange coincidence on its own. 

My friend pointed out the source of the voice. A few rows ahead of me was Alli. Now like any good coincidence story, here's where I point out how unlikely all of this was. For one thing, I didn't even know she had studied abroad, let alone in London. So somehow, we managed to run into each other, in another city, on a different continent, where we both happened to decide to see the same show, the very show we had been acting in when we first met in college, on the same night (a weekday night, mind you) and that she managed to spot me in a crowded theatre.

I might as well also point out, that we both have the same initials, A.S.