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?


18 thoughts on “Chance Encounters of the Personal Kind

  1. Oh, my. You’ve come up with a better way to get a short story than using photos and paintings. Seek close encounters will interesting people and see if they have a story hidden in their words. “Bam! Damn! I meant to hit you in the heart, not graze your arm,” she told her husband, admiring her gun’s barrel. Great column… a carton of Coke leads to an unexpected revelation.


    1. You gave me a chuckle. I believe those words you wrote would have been her exact feelings also. I love people and am so amazed at their complexities. While they still follow certain patterns of personality. Glad you enjoyed the blog. Thanks. Neva


  2. You seem to be one of those people that others are comfortable confiding in. I think it is great that their tales get your creative juices flowing. I guess you have a great way to cure writers block, just go to the store. Thanks for sharing.


    1. It is amazing the different encounters I have sometimes. Especially when I’m not even trying to connect with someone. I love it. Everyone has a story and the ideas are out there. Thanks for reading. Neva


  3. I don’t remember any chance encounters that have turned into stories, but while waiting for the bus at Walmart, I often like to watch people hurrying out the door with their groceries and try to come up with stories about them. Nothing has ever come of it, though.


  4. That is some tale, Neva. I admit I’d be very shocked if I was standing next to someone who had really and truly shot her husband and not metaphorically. The story generating ideas is, of course, something else – it sounds like there’s plenty fodder there for a nice long story.


    1. Truly, as Mike Staton already started it! I have met so many truly interesting people, criminals as well as victims in my work. So I guess I don’t shock too easily, even in a store. I love people, not necessarily their behaviors though! Neva


  5. Such an interesting post, Neva. I’ve had several of these chance encounters and a couple have actually ended up in songs. I was riding with my husband one day on his route. I generally sat in the car and read while he did his work, but at one house a woman came out, introduced herself, and said “Laws sake, dear. I’ve just baked some fresh cookies. Come on down out of that truck and come in and have some.” Cookies always push my buttons, so I followed her inside to the wonderful aroma of the cookies. While my husband and hers went outside to investigate a problem, the lady and I sat down to chat. We talked a few minutes and she told me her story. “Almost died last spring,” she said. “Looka here.” She pulled up the sleeve of her dress and there was a huge hole in her arm. I tried to react in a positive way, but that big hole and the scar tissue surrounding it threw me for a minute. “What happened?” I asked. “Big ole spider got me,” she replied. “A spider?” I asked incredulously. “Yep, one of them there Brown Recluse Spiders,” she said. “One day I had a lump on my arm about the size of a skeeter bite. Didn’t give it no mind and went a couple of weeks before it grew in size. After another week it looked bad, so I had Jr. take me to the hospital. Don’t you know, they looked at it, got really alarmed and told me it was a Brown Recluse bite. I was horrified. Since we live here in the woods, they’s all around, but I’ve never had one on me. Must have got me when I was asleep. I’d have shore remembered it if I saw it.” “What did they do for you?” I asked, dreading the answer. “They put me in the hospital. By that time it was full of pus and the doc said I could die if they didn’t do something right away. I ended up in the hospital for almost a month, near death. When I finally come to, they’d taken me in and had to scrape all the venom and pus out of my arm. There was no other way to keep me alive.” Inside I shivered, although I didn’t react inappropriately. She went on to tell me of the long rehabilitation time and what she went through during the weeks of hospitalization after the bite. Since my husband came in then we left, but not before she tied up a big cotton napkin full of cookies “for youse to eat on the road.” I remember those cookies were awesome, and I tucked the conversation away until your post made me think about it. Since I’m writing about a traveling circus, I’m thinking this little conversation may make it into one of my books. I’ve had several other encounters, but none measured up to this.


    1. Wow that was an interesting chance encounter. Don’t you just love them? And I love the dialect in retelling the story. I was right there in the kitchen with you and knew just what kind of person this lady must be. Thanks for sharing. Neva


  6. Neva,

    You probably know how to listen well. People gravitate toward those who listen and don’t judge.

    I loved the opening line…what a winner. People are a constant source of intrigue and imagination. What we as writers do with it, that is our gift to them for sharing their stories. Doris


    1. I’m not sure I’m always a good listener, but I do remember to make eye contact and concentrate on the speaker with intent. Thanks for the thought. And yes, it is a gift to us when they share, and we can give a gift to others by helping people understand themselves and each other–always my goal.


  7. Fined for shooting a firearm in the city limits? No charge of assault with a deadly weapon? Nothing more? I’d like to hear how the penalty was chosen.

    I hope your story turns into a book and I get to read it.


  8. What a great story, Neva! And what a conversation opener! It sounds like you have had many interesting encounters with others–and, yes, the would make great story fodder. Are you going to write this one? I’d like to see what you come up with.


  9. How interesting and funny. I dont remember meeting anyone who ever said, “I shot my first husband.” I must be traveling to the wrong stores. Lol I remember studying the different personality types. This is a funny and interesting blog.


  10. How interesting and funny. I dont remember meeting anyone who ever said, “I shot my first husband.” I must be traveling to the wrong stores. Lol I remember studying the different personality types. This is a funny and interesting blog. Cher’ley


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