Chance Encounters of the Personal Kind

105182105411111CDPby Neva Bodin

“I shot my first husband!” It seemed rapport between us was instant. I had never seen her before.

I was shopping at a large grocery outlet. As I entered the soft drink section, a self-sufficient looking lady sighed loudly. “Ah, finally, now my husband won’t complain (she used a stronger word) when he comes home.” She pulled a 24 pack of Coke from the shelf.

“Is he addicted to Coke? I asked.” It seemed since she’d invited me into her world with that statement and made eye contact, I should comment. She affirmed with another statement of how he is without his Coke. (“Like a girl.”) We had a little discussion about what that meant.

But a few moments later, (I forget what led up to it since the shock of the next statement wiped out some of my memory), she said, “I shot my first husband.” Cheerfully and with no regrets apparently. I was hooked.

“He hit me right here,” she indicated the spot. “I picked up our gun and he asked me what I was going to do with that! Bam! He called the cops and I got fined for shooting a firearm inside city limits. I just grazed his arm.” I wondered why we hadn’t drawn a crowd yet. Not too many in the soft drink section today. We chatted a bit more, then we each moved on with our shopping. I didn’t see her again.

What an interesting lady! And immediately my mind was writing a story with her in it. A complex character, with weaknesses and strengths; someone many of us could learn things from. Always my intent with my characters. And on my way home, I wondered if she and I could be friends, if I ever see her again.

Years ago, I was in a hospital washroom, sitting in a cubicle, and I heard someone enter the one beside mine. She started a conversation with, “I am recovering from surgery for a tumor.” She then went into some detail regarding the surgery and recovery. I hope I made understanding and appropriately supportive comments from my throne. She finished and left before I did, and I never ever saw her face.

Chance encounters can be threatening, or enhancing, depending on your personality style. Most of us are a mix of personality types, I always end up matching two out of four when taking a personality inventory.

If we have insecurities or are dealing with issues about some situations, hearing others with similar difficulties can bring us down, or support us by knowing they understand. How we react can vary, depending on our own circumstances. Knowing our character’s personality type when writing helps write their reaction to a chance encounter.

Melancholy personalities, can become more melancholy after hearing someone else’s hard luck story. I am blessed by a usually cheerful, Pollyanna-type personality, and I either admire or want to help someone with troubles. And I want to make them a character in a story!

That morning my forced “bah-humbug” shopping trip to the big store was made more interesting by my chance encounter with a survivor. And I’m amazed she shared an important part of her life with me within a 4-5 minute time span. I am honored. However, anyone within 10-20 feet may have also shared in that encounter.

These moments have happened many times in my life with people whom I know for minutes only. They are incredibly open people obviously. And hearing a meaningful excerpt from their life, be it happy or tortuous, connects us, however briefly, and makes me feel an important part of the family of humanity, as we rotate together through space. And…also provides fodder for story-telling.

Have you had some memorable chance encounters? And did they end up in a story?