(Submitted by reader Cathy Smith)
My best friend in Jr. High was Lisa Butland. We were both Air Force brats, stationed in Germany at the time. By the time we graduated high school, our families were transferred to Texas, hers to Austin, and mine to San Antonio. Afterwards, I moved to California, and we completely lost touch with one another.
Over ten years later I was back in San Antonio, and my boyfriend lived at the German House Co-Op, by the University of Texas campus. One of the residents, Mark, looked vaguely familiar to me, but it took me a few visits to figure out why. The kid with the Coke bottle glasses he reminded me of was only about twelve years old the last time I saw him. As soon as I realized who he might be, I knocked on his bedroom door.
“Mark?” I peeked my head in the door. The room was dark because the shades were still drawn. Mark was in the top bunk, and his eyes were squinting because he did not have his glasses on yet.
“Yes?” he said.
“Did you ever live in Germany?” I asked.
“Yes?” he responded looking puzzled.
“Was your dad stationed at Hahn Air Force Base?” I asked with a big smile.
He hesitated. “Yes?”
“Is your last name Butland?” I was getting excited.
“Yes?” He sounded slightly disturbed.
“Do you have a sister named Lisa?” I continued. He obviously could not see the expression on my face.
He looked a little worried. “Yes?”
“Do you remember a Cathy Sexton?” I asked.
At this point, his eyes opened as wide as they could. He took a big gasp of air and in an astonished voice exclaimed: “You know Cathy Sexton?!!”
That was about twenty years ago. As soon as he realized that I was Cathy Sexton, he gave me his sister’s number, and Lisa and I have been best friends ever since.
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 200. Take a look and leave your comments below.
I’m sure that you can guess what I’ll say about this one: it’s not so surprising, but it’s interesting nonetheless!The most common coincidence stories seem to be related to meeting people with whom they had a past connection. They are very significant to the people who experience them, but the truth is that they are less interesting statistically than one might think.This case is no different; she met the brother of her long-lost friend not far from where she left them and they were probably close in age and socioeconomic status, increasing the probability of frequenting the same places. As often is the case, I find the story about how they discovered the connection more interesting than the connection itself.The majority of stories are either about someone the author clearly recognized or a conversation which leads them to realize that there is some deep personal connection, usually geographical. I have rarely heard stories in which the author’s memory is jogged after a few exposures to an individual.We all meet people who seem very familiar and sometimes it takes us some time to put our finger on why. This is so common that it was used as a plot device (ever see the movie “The Arrival”?). But the vast majority of those cases involve a distinctive feature or mannerism which is shared by someone we know well rather than a person we have actually met before. For example, everyone with an underbite reminds me of a cousin I was close to while growing up.But the fact that the author eventually figured it out and acted on it (and that it turned out to be someone she actually knew) makes this story unusual.