In my last column, I wrote about chance encounters in odd places. One of them involved my aunt who happened to sit next to a man on a flight from LA to Washington. This was the same man I’d just met on-line—a distant cousin–who happened to be researching the same family line.
Life has its random moments, which brings me to April 10 in Iceland, the island in the North Atlantic between Canada, Greenland and Europe. In recent years, Icelandair, WOW and other carriers have marketed Iceland as a stopover, and thousands of us have taken them up on the chance to see volcanoes, glaciers and such. A prime attraction is the spectacular Blue Lagoon, a geyser-fed pool 30 miles outside Reykjavik. The water stays bathwater warm even when it’s snowing, which it does a lot in that part of the world. They don’t call it “Iceland” for nothing.
Tym and I were on the first leg of a trip to Scandinavia. The Nordic countries had been on my bucket list since sixth grade. Something about Scandinavia in my geography text attracted me, and not just the pretty sweaters and quaint fishing villages. Norway seemed like a homey place where I might belong if I were to choose a non-American home other than England and Ireland. At the time I couldn’t know I was 12 percent Scandinavian, a fact a DNA test confirmed last year.
On Monday, April 10, jetlagged but determined, I was at the Blue Lagoon, ready to join the fools in bathing suits heading out into the wind and snow. In the crowded corridor I heard my name called. I turned around to see Phil and Barbara Barringer from Hickory.
“I didn’t think you were one of the Scandinavians,” Phil said.
Technically I was, but I didn’t point this out.
So here we were, 3,100 miles from home, as the Arctic tern flies.
They were on their way home. We were on my way to Norway and those other places. I said I couldn’t get Tym to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon. He has more sense than to go swimming in such foul weather.
We three laughed, and after I turned to head on upstairs to the locker room, I pondered how odd it was to see familiar faces in a random meeting having just written about random meetings. There were hundreds if not thousands of people at the Blue Lagoon that day and that I happened to walk into the corridor at the very moment the Barringers walked out of it.
I won’t even consider the odds that you could meet anyone from home in Iceland. The population of 330,000—roughly twice the population of Catawba County– is spread over a land mass larger than the state of Virginia.
Meeting someone—anyone—takes work, especially in a crowded place like the Blue Lagoon, but coincidence can be awfully coincidental.
“We read your columns,” Barbara said. “I’ll bet you’re going to write about this.”
“You’re right; I will,” I said.
And then it struck me. Last month’s other column was about me becoming a new parent. I first met Barbara in 1985, right before our son was born. She was our Lamaze instructor.