By Gerry Moran
A coincidence, according to my Oxford Concise dictionary, is “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection”.
Touché. Couldn’t have put it better myself. And let’s cut to the chase here and to my recent coincidence which was anything but remarkable but a coincidence nonetheless. Yet, when I think about it, it is remarkable in its own small, unassuming, way.
Remarkable concurrences of events don’t necessarily have to be on a global scale although they are more dramatic and newsworthy. Sometimes coincidences happen in uneventful places, at uneventful times.
I am in Dunne’s Stores with my shopping list in hand (without my shopping list I am lost, my shopping list is my SatNav, if you wish, when negotiating the aisles of Dunne’s, or Supervalu or any supermarket).
One item on my list (dictated, of course, by my wife) is rice cakes. I am not familiar with rice cakes. I have never eaten one, I have no idea what they look like and I have no idea what row they are stocked in. My wife, of course, gave me directions (or were they instructions?) as to where I would find them but between hopping and trotting my sense of direction abandoned me and, besides, women, as we all know, have no sense of direction.
I say that quite categorically because of an incidence (not to be confused with a co-incidence) I had in France some years ago. We, my wife and four kids, are driving to a camp site in southern France. We’ve been on the road from Cherbourg for quite a while now and we are all pretty tired, exhausted and emotional. Not least the driver. Moi, And as I am barrelling, sort of, down a French country road I begin to doubt my male, supreme sense of direction. And so I pull up beside a middle-aged lady walking her dog.
Her English, I have to say, was poor. But not as poor as my French. Nevertheless I produced a map and with my brilliant sign-language (honed from numerous games of charades with the family at Christmas) I distinctly pointed out where we were going and got the all clear that, oui, we were driving in the right direction.
We were not.
She sent me 30 miles in the wrong direction! Something we really could have done without. Okay, okay, so something perhaps was lost in translation (although she may have thought we were English!) but I’ve never trusted a woman to give me directions ever since. Not the best of premises, I’ll agree, to arrive at that conclusion but a premise nonetheless. And a premise is a premise. Have I digressed? You bet. And am I in trouble with the wiser, more sensitive, more intelligent of the species (who nevertheless have a poor sense of direction)? I am. But they are also more loving, caring and forgiving. I hope. And although my indiscretion may not be totally forgiven it might perhaps be placed to one side. For the moment.
And so, I am looking, unsuccessfully, for rice cakes in the aisles of Dunne’s when I spy a young man stocking shelves. I make a bee-line for him to enquire where the rice cakes are stocked but as I do another customer, a man, reaches him first.
“I’m looking for Rice Cakes,” he says, “where might I find them?” I am dumbfounded. I cannot believe this. Two guys approaching a Dunnes’s Stores assistant looking for the exact same product at the exact same time! Now that, for sure, is a coincidence, a remarkable concurrence of events without causal connection.
Furthermore, as the two of us walked to where the rice cakes are stocked, he confides in me that he has never eaten a rice cake. Doesn’t even know what they look like. “Same here,” I tell him. “I’m buying them for my wife,” he says. “Me too.”
As it happens we both wear glasses, and we are both slim, trim and athletic looking. Actually that’s where the coincidences end. We both wear glasses and let’s just leave it at that. But still, I’m not a bookie, or an actuary, but I would dearly love to know what the odds are of two guys, approaching the same Dunnes’s Stores assistant for the same product, at the same time, not knowing what that product tastes like, or looks like!