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COINCIDENCE ON THE ROAD
Now hold this thought: a United Airlines commuter jet crashed in Colorado Springs, and although there were no survivors, not everyone on board was killed. Got that?
Now, I'm sitting in a fine establishment in South Norwood with Rusty Tobin, Paul Lydon, and Billy Barrett. We are telling stories, and I turn to tell Rusty of the incredible coincidence I've had on the road this past summer. But before I relate that, let me tell you this: Rusty Tobin is a fine fellow, forty-two-ish and bespectacled, interesting and interested. He was one of the greatest unsung defensemen in Norwood hockey history, but today he is known for something quite different. Rusty Tobin once bought a lottery ticket at Pam's Market on Pleasant Street worth seven and one half million dollars.
So I turn now to tell Rusty Tobin - now a well traveled Rusty Tobin - what happened to me in Fife, Washington. I had been on vacation in Dallas with my family, and had flown home alone on a Monday morning, expecting to enjoy the remainder of the week off. But as often happens, a job was called in and I was requested, after flying much of the day from Dallas, to proceed immediately to Seattle, Washington. I promptly called a cab, repacked my bags, grabbed my tool box and made it as far as Minneapolis, where I missed my connection. I stayed over, caught the first flight out to Seattle the following morning, drove to the plant and finished out Tuesday working.
That evening I fell into the nearest hotel available, a Comfort Inn, located in the town of Fife, Washington. The next day I returned to the hotel for lunch, then napped until one. At that moment I got up, walked out my door, took five steps down the hall when the door I was passing opened. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed the fraction of a profile of a man looking back into his room - and I froze in my tracks. I turned to face the man as he emerged from his room - he only to freeze at the sight of me. We stood staring at one another for several seconds, which is a long time for two men to stand ten feet apart from one another, staring at each other. I finally broke the silence: "Gordy?"
I hadn't seen him for over a year. He lives in Connecticut and I live in Massachusetts. I had no idea of his plans to vacation in Washington State. He obviously was unaware of my flying to Seattle in an emergency. I stared as my brother answered, "Donny?" A remarkable moment followed, one of complete amazement, and Gordon called to his wife Dolly to come and she did, then screamed when she saw me. That evening over dinner we marveled at the impossibility of calculating the odds of my walking by his door the exact moment he opened it. We agreed that had it not happened, we would never have known we were in the same hotel, ever.
Rusty Tobin, Paul Lydon and Billy Barrett shook their heads in wonder at my story. Then Paul Lydon said, "That's incredible, why, the odds of that are like winning the lottery." To which we all slowly turned toward Rusty Tobin, and enjoyed an even greater laugh. You see, one in a million for me meant running into my brother three thousand miles from home in Fife, Washington, while one in a million to Rusty meant seven and one half million bucks. If I did not know what happened on that United Airlines commuter flight in Colorado Springs, I might think it slightly unfair, despite the life-long story I can now tell.
But I do know what happened on that ill-fated flight. No one survived, yet the crash did not kill everyone on board. For in the baggage compartment of that plane was the body of an unfortunate young man who had died in a car accident in Los Angeles. His body was being flown home for burial. Barely a couple of days previous this young man was like you or I, talking, laughing, swapping stories with friends in a local bar over a few beers. So I'll never complain that my one in a million may not be as good as the next guy's, for this guy, in a matter of days, not only lost his life in a car accident - statistically one in a million - but then boarded a plane which was destined to crash, leaving no survivors. What are the odds of that?
It was so good to see my brother.