This is not a post about me. This is a post about a word that doesn't exist, but should.
Anyone who lives in or near a big city, or who has spent time in or near a big city might be familiar with the odd phenomenon of running into someone unexpected and familiar literally in the midst of thousands of strangers. Obviously, it doesn't only happen in big cities, it just tends to happen more there. I once ran into an old friend of my father's - a man from Wisconsin named Steve Tomassi - in the lobby of the Nassau Inn in Princeton, New Jersey, where I was spending my summer undergoing a rigorous deconstruction of all the good parts of my self-image. They call the job "bellhopping," but don't be fooled.
But this isn't a post about my checkered employment history either, or about old friends of my father's from Wisconsin. I'm just very bad at staying on topic.
Getting back to the premise of running into someone familiar in an unfamiliar location: it's jarring enough when it happens in a place like New York, where there are always millions of people and you should really sort of half-expect it. Lots of folks visit New York at one time or another. It's not such a big stretch to imagine two of them (or more) might know each other.
Now imagine that happening on the internet. Not in the traditional way where you go looking for someone and find them (stalker!), but in the random way where you're browsing semi-pornographic sites and you happen to run across the face of a girl you knew pretty well in college, and you had no idea this was how she was paying the bills now. Last you heard, she was a teacher in southern California. Now she's masturbating on camera. And you, pervert that you are, found out completely by accident.
Not that that's ever happened to me, of course. All I did (yes, let's finally get to the story) was stumble onto a YouTube video featuring a guy I acted with in high school.
His name is Sam Dillehay, and I don't know a whole lot else about him. I met him doing a summer production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest in 1992, and I remember he smoked Marlboro Reds at the tender age of 18. I also remember a comment that he made to me when I asked him why he smoked Reds: "I like the pleasant tugging in my chest," he said. Sick bastard.
I never really gave Sam a second thought after that summer. We shared none of the same friends, we didn't exchange e-mail addresses or phone numbers, and both of us were straight so there was no prospect of any funny business. It's just that I have a pretty decent recollection when it comes to names, faces, dates, and numbers. So when I saw this video, I was mildly stunned to see that it contained someone I knew in it.
Okay, maybe mildly stunned is an understatement. Maybe "totally fucking floored," would more accurately capture the mood. I just don't like to swear is all. It's ungentlemanly.
The point is that there isn't a word for when something like that happens. "Coincidence" isn't big enough. Even "big coincidence" only sort of hints at what's really going on. It seems bigger than a big coincidence, like "wow, that is a really truly amazing coincidence." But I just think that given the versatility of English and the long hours already spent creating words, there ought to be a more punchy way to get that across. Let's say something with a four-syllable limit. That's what I'm talking about.
If that word exists, though, I don't know it.
Incidentally, this story is true. If you don't believe me, here's Sam's video. Sam is the guy in the video.