Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Curious Event of the Three

In January of 1754, The Honorable Horace Walpole, man of letters, wrote to a friend:

It was once when I read a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a camel blind of the right eye had traveled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right—now do you understand serendipity?

This is the first documented use of the term. It is this discovery by accident that is life’s tendency, for do we ever really find what we set out to?

* * *

Three is the magic number...

The words from a Rhetoric professor popped into my head recently, and I was reminded of what my friend and I refer to as “The Curious Event of the Three.”

It was on the third of October of last year that I went to the P.O., and while waiting in line, this little girl of about seven walks up and stands next to me, facing me. She wasn't particularly cute, just plain-looking. She says quietly, with a startlingly southern accent, "somebody stole... my... quarter," stretching out the final three words for emphasis. She didn't say it to me, so much as in my general direction, and glanced at me to see if I picked up on it. "Oh no," I responded, "That’s terrible." This must have been the reaction she wanted, so she said, "you got a quarter?"

This brought me back to earlier in the day, when at work, someone asked if I had a quarter they could borrow. I rummaged through my bag to see if I did, but I couldn't find any change at all. So, turning to the little girl, I responded, "I'm sorry, I don't." Realizing I was of no use to her, she ran back over to ogle the candy machines. Another little girl, this one cuter and younger, presumably the first girl's sister, walks right up to me, smiling, and says "you got a quarter?" "Nope, sorry," I said, and with that, she laughed and walked away. At that point her sister walks back over to what I assumed to be their Grandmother, in front of me in line, and repeats her line, "somebody stole... my... quarter."

I finished up my business at the P.O. and walked outside, thinking to call my friend Jane, since that whole scenario was just so... dream-like. As I drove away, my phone rang; it was Jane. She was coming over to eat Cincinnati Chili with me in a bit.
About an hour later, Jane shows up, and we take our bowls of spaghetti noodles and spoon some of the chili over top. I show her that in accordance with Cincinnati style, you then put your toppings on: kidney beans, cheddar, and raw onions.

We sit down to eat, and Jane gets up from the table for a soda. On her way back, she kicks a bowl of cat food, which spills everywhere. "Dammit! Something's going on," she said. "Earlier, there was a bowl of water sitting on the counter in my kitchen, and of course, I knocked it over. 'Figures,' I said to myself." She proceeded, "I was outside, a little after that, cleaning my car, and I knocked over a whole bucket of soapy water. 'Figures.' And now this... 'figures'."

At that point, I realized something strange was going on that day. "Maybe Mercury's in retrograde," I said, laughing. We finished up our chili, and then went to clean up the spilled cat food. Jane grabs the bowl and I peer into it – three puffs of cat food are still in it. "You’re not going to believe this," I said, and Jane peered into the bowl hesitantly, only to have her suspicions confirmed. "Oh no…"

We sat around for a while, went to the grocery, took a walk, and watched some TV. Jane made some tea, and I brought her a mug. "This looks like the Serendipity 3 Web site," she said, referring to the NYC restaurant, Serendipity, which we went to a few months prior. "That's funny, that's where I got it from" I responded. Jane finished her tea and said, "I'm going home now." I looked at the clock: 10:33.

Jane goes home to find her house full of wafting garlic and her Mom's Korean friends. She texted me to tell me so. I texted her back, and, closing my cell phone, noted the date: October 3rd. The time? 11:03.

Three people asked me for a quarter yesterday.

Stole…my…quarter (three words)

Jane knocked over three containers, too.

Three pieces of cat food left in the bowl.

Three toppings on the Cincinnati Chili.

Serendipity 3 mug.

October 3rd.

I went to bed, because, frankly, I was having a hard time maintaining my sanity. I turned off the light. Looked at the clock: 11:33.

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