Nine Chance Meetings and Coincidences

I predicted LA’s 1994 quake just days in advance

I don't believe in fate. Everything is random, in my opinion. But philosophy aside, my life has been filled with strange coincidences, chance occurrences, and the like. Here are some of the eerier encounters.

  1. The girl from CalArts. In the late '90s, I went to a supermarket and bumped into my old boss. That was odd, but it gets odder: My ex-boss and I are good friends and hadn't spoken in a while, so he decided to join me as I shopped. He mentioned a new employee who had gone to my alma mater, CalArts. I didn't recognize her name, and when he explained that she'd graduated in 1996, I told him that she was after my time. "I've lost contact with most of the people who went to CalArts with me," I said. The very second I uttered those words, a woman who went to CalArts with me - whom I hadn't seen in over five years - suddenly walked into our aisle.
  2. The lost schoolmate. Early in 2000, I went to a party at an acquaintance's house. I knew it would be full of strangers, but I said to myself, "I wouldn't doubt it if there was somebody here that I knew." An hour later, a guy come in who looked a lot like an old high school classmate of mine, Andy Nolley. Now, I never knew Andy personally; I just remembered his name and his face. But this partygoer wasn't him; only the resemblance was striking. And anyway, what would Andy be doing 350 miles away from our hometown? As I pondered this, the real Andy Nolley walked right through the front door! He was as flabbergasted as I was.
  3. The earthquake prediction. In January 1994, I felt two very small earthquakes that, it seems, nobody else in Los Angeles felt. As we hadn't had a good temblor in two years, I remarked to friends, "I bet we're going to have a really big earthquake within the week." I don't know why I said it; I'd never even experienced a major earthquake before. But sure enough, just a few days later, the deadly Northridge Quake struck L.A.
  4. Dreaming of Rick Moranis. One summer between years at CalArts, I was home in San Jose and had a dream one morning that I ran into the actor Rick Moranis (Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Ghostbusters, etc.). In the dream, I asked him what he was doing, and he replied, "I start a new film today. I haven't been working for a very long time." When I awoke, I walked into the kitchen and read the newspaper. In the gossip column, it mentioned that Rick Moranis was about to start a new movie that week, after a six-month absence from acting due to his wife's death from cancer. I knew none of this beforehand.
  5. Wrong email address. I was trying to email a friend of mine, but I forgot the domain name of her email account. For some reason, the only one that came to mind was "", so I took a chance and emailed her there. As it turned out, it was the entirely wrong domain. I was informed of this by the man who owned that domain: a former roommate of a dear friend of mine!
  6. The Rush concert. In early 1986, at the age of 15, I went to my first concert: Rush at the Oakland Coliseum. I went with my friend Kevin, and as we waited out front with several hundred people for the doors to open (the Coliseum seats over 25,000 people), I ran into my friend Rob. So that was already unusual. We chatted for a bit, then said our goodbyes when they opened the doors. Kevin and I walked around for a while and finally found our reserved seats - and who should be two seats away but my friend Rob! Weirder still, he and his friend were sitting in entirely the wrong seats - they had gotten lost and just decided to sit down "wherever". Weirdest of all, although the concert was sold out, the rightful owners of those seats never came to claim them, so I watched my first concert sitting between two friends: one by design and one quite definitely by accident.
  7. Fancy meeting you here. In early 1999 I was visiting London. Friends of mine who had just gotten married were spending their honeymoon there, so I met up with them for tea. After we parted ways, I arranged to meet another friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in a while. She and I walked around London for a bit and decided to duck into a sandwich shop for a bite. We sat down at one table, then a waitress came over and asked us if we would mind moving to a smaller table. We agreed, and she led us to another part of the restaurant, sitting us down next to - you guessed it - my honeymooning friends! [2003 UPDATE: London saw an even weirder chance encounter in 2002, when I was sitting down in Westminster Abbey and an old coworker from LA walked right up to me to look at a sculpture over my head. She didn't see me until I said "Helen?" You could have knocked her down with a feather.]
  8. The guy I couldn't shake across two continents. On my first visit to England in 1994, I was in Liverpool, taking a "Beatles tour". There were several people on the bus from all over the world. One was a chubby American guy to whom I didn't deign to speak. A week later, while on a "Jack the Ripper" guided walk around London, amongst the group of 40 or so of us was that same man. Odd. But then, many months later, while waiting in line for a movie in Los Angeles, I saw that same man again! Yet in all this time I still didn't go up and say hello. I learned my lesson a couple weeks after that, where I saw the mystery man one more time! He was working in the Virgin Megastore in LA. I finally told him the strange story and he was quite impressed. (A friend later informed me that this guy was one Michael Zorek, who starred in the '80s teen sex comedy Private School with Matthew Modine.) I have not seen him since.
  9. And of course there's the whole weird Patrick Stewart thing, covered in a previous List of 9.