There’s a reason I rarely write fiction. I struggle with “keeping it real” – the advice my middle-school teacher gave me years ago.
“Your ending seems a bit far-fetched,” she wrote in the margin. “Good fiction should be grounded in reality.”
Little did she know that my story was based on real life. I’d just tweaked the names, the setting and added a detail or two.
My recent trip overseas reminded me of how life can be stranger than fiction.
This story begins at what would become my favorite Parisian restaurant, La Gauloise. The wait staff fussed over me as I sat in the corner solo. A borderline introvert, I entertained myself by reading my Kindle and practicing my French.
Surrounded by the sounds of a foreign language, my ears perked up when the couple next to me spoke to the waiter in English.
“Are you from the U.S.?” I asked.
“No,” they replied. “We’re from Mexico. We just speak little French.”
Rebeca and Juan Carlos introduced themselves. We chatted briefly, then returned to our meals.
The night wore on, wine flowed and we renewed our conversation. And when dessert arrived, our party of three expanded to five, as the adjacent couple, Patty and Greg, chimed in.
We swapped personal anecdotes and laughs, including this comical exchange about my choice of lodging.
Then Rebeca turned to me and exclaimed, “You’re not going to believe this, but she’s from Gainesville too,” pointing to Patty.
“What? Gainesville, as in Florida Gator Gainesville?” I questioned, doing the Gator chomp with my arms.
“Yes!” Patty laughed.
(Possible proof that the Gator Nation is everywhere?)
We learned that Patty had just moved within blocks of my condo and walks her dogs down my street. I traveled 4,500 miles from home to meet a neighbor? Too much!
Here’s where the story gets stranger than strange. Realizing I hadn’t formally introduced myself to Greg, I asked his name. I immediately recognized his last name, and asked, “Wait, are you a doctor?”
He and Patty shook their heads yes.
“Oh my goodness! You’re my mother’s doctor.”
And not just any doctor. He’s saved her life twice. He knew exactly who she was.
I apologized for not recognizing him, and recalled my recent post “Why I Won’t Say ‘Nice to Meet You’.” (Ugh! how could I forget the face of someone who’d had such a profound impact on my life?)
We marveled at the coincidence, exchanged numbers, and promised to keep in touch stateside.
I joked, “I’ll wait a few days to tell my mom. If the shock is too much for her, I don’t want you on vacation.”
This Saturday, I sat on my back porch trying to determine how to tell this tale. I was grappling over the right words to capture such an amazing experience, so I was easily distracted by the rustling of dogs tramping through my back yard.
Looking down from my second-story perch, my jaw dropped when I saw my French-found neighbors turning the corner of my condo. I bolted up, ran out the door and called out, “You can’t just walk by without saying hello.”
Laughter and hugs ensued. They said they had looked up my blog and searched for this story but couldn’t find it. I said, “Well, you won’t because I literally was just writing it. But I think I’ve found a new ending.”
I can’t make this stuff up!
February 10, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Oh yes who needs to make stuff up…it’s all around us! Enjoyed the blog
February 11, 2014 at 10:50 am
Thanks, Susi! And since I think we started blogging at the same time here recently, don’t you now find that you evaluate most interactions as a potential blog post? I feel like I’m trapped in a great M. Night Shyamalan sequel – “I see stories, everywhere.” 🙂
February 12, 2014 at 3:31 am
I’m not kidding, but this happened to me in France, too. I was touring the chateaux of the Loire valley, and was on the tour with some Americans from my hometown, too. Isn’t it crazy, the magical things that can happen in France? 🙂
February 12, 2014 at 5:41 am
Natalie – I love that! Did you write about it? If so, would love to read it.
And while I’d definitely describe my first trip to France as magical, I don’t think these types of crazy interactions stop at its border. I’m constantly amazed by how small our large world is 🙂
February 12, 2014 at 3:36 am
Wow, between you and Natalie I’m quite convinced it’s a very small world! Wonderful story!
February 12, 2014 at 5:42 am
Yep! Walt Disney got it right. It’s a small world afterall. I wonder when I’ll stop being amazed by interactions like these? Thanks for commenting!
February 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm
When my husband left Egypt and immigrated to Canada he bumped into a notorious murderer from his village when he arrived in montreal… oops! The guy was living with the wife of the man he bumped off… couldn’t make that one up either, hahaha!
February 12, 2014 at 8:33 am
wow. that really is an amazing set of coincidences. clearly, the universe wants you to know those people.
February 12, 2014 at 10:11 am
That’s how I feel. We’ll see what chapters 3….bring.
February 12, 2014 at 9:36 am
So great! And what a perfect ending. 🙂
February 12, 2014 at 10:10 am
Thanks! If I had made it up it would have been unreal. 🙂
February 12, 2014 at 11:29 am
Those kinds of encounters are probably more common than we realize. I’ve had a similar experience – twice.
February 13, 2014 at 8:05 am
I agree, Joseph, and could probably happen more if we all stopped and chatted with people around us. I’m so glad that I didn’t just keep my head buried in my Kindle that night.
February 12, 2014 at 11:32 am
What a small world! I love it when things like that happen!
February 13, 2014 at 8:06 am
I know, right?!? I think my mother was even more excited than I. She loves her doctor!
February 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm
There really is no such thing as chance, is there? 🙂 I love happy coincidences!
February 13, 2014 at 8:07 am
Absolutely! That’s what keeps life interesting.
February 12, 2014 at 11:45 pm
There must be some weird Parisian Wormhole or something, I swear. When I went there, this one time we were eating outside next to a family that didn’t speak english. I happened to look over at them and the little boy was wearing a t-shirt that said Rochester, NY in big bold letters. I was all giddy because that’s where I’m from. Total weirdness.
Loved reading this story!
February 13, 2014 at 8:09 am
Ha! Well, I wish I could find the other side of that wormhole and travel back. I needed more time in Paris.
February 13, 2014 at 3:25 am
It’s so true that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This was a great example of that, and such a happy, joyous post!
February 13, 2014 at 8:09 am
Thanks, Angela! I can’t stop smiling about my trip and that experience in particular.
February 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm
I love small world stories. I don’t believe in six degrees of separation anymore. I think it’s more like three 😉
February 14, 2014 at 8:19 am
Agreed! On all points. I sorta feel like the bigger my world gets (in terms of places visited) the smaller it seems.
February 14, 2014 at 4:15 am
Screw grounding it all in reality. Seriously! Let’s just enjoy a good story. LIke this one.
February 14, 2014 at 9:07 am
Thank you! I’m definitely sticking to reality writing right now, but I’m finding it a pretty fun place to get stuck.
And speaking a good story, I really enjoyed yours about looking back on sorority rush. It’s good to let go 🙂
February 17, 2014 at 2:08 am
How bizarre. I also don’t know how far I agree with your old teacher.
February 17, 2014 at 2:34 am
Bizarre indeed! And I agree with you. My teacher was wrong in her overall philosophy but probably spot on in her assessment of that particular story. Funny how certain comments can stick with you over the years.
July 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm
That sounds very cool! Would love to read some of your other stranger than fiction stories that your teacher could not believe.
July 17, 2014 at 11:31 pm
Ha! Well, those stories were pre-computer in my household and most other’s, so they’ve been lost in the land of recycling (or at the time, more likely landfill). I am working on some fiction privately…we’ll see if I ever have the guts to share it.
In the meantime, I have to update this story to say that my mother and I today met with her cardiologist mentioned in this story. We both still reeled about our bizarre interaction overseas, which just makes this real life story all the better.
Thanks for commenting. 🙂