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One of my key sources of ephemera, anecdotes, and useless information was my treasured subscription to the 1980s Time-Life book series, "Library of Curious and Unusual Facts." One slim volume of the series was called World of Luck, and contained nothing but stories about incredible coincidences – the kind of thing where someone finds a rusting pair of dog tags on a beach, tracks down the original owner, and discovers that they worked in the same office or whatever. There was plenty of Unsolved Mysteries / Ripley's Believe It or Not type stuff circulating during that era, but I really loved these books because the stories were true (and not in the "three witnesses confirmed the anal probing by aliens" sense).

I just witnessed a World of Luck moment up close.

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A man in Oklahoma City bought a used copy of The Grapes of Wrath. He saw a name on the inside cover that matches Question Cathy's name (a last name neither super common nor entirely uncommon).

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It turns out that she gave the book away to Goodwill in Texas, it somehow ended up in Oklahoma, and it was purchased by one of her work acquaintances…who also happens to live two doors down from her (Question Cathy's) brother.

He contacted her via social media and was like, QC, I don't know how to say this without sounding crazy but I think I somehow have your high school copy of The Grapes of Wrath. It sounded like some kind of weird come-on and then…well, he did. He really did.

The world is really kind of strange sometimes.

18 thoughts on “WORLD OF LUCK”

  • I had a roommate in San Francisco in the 90s. I was only subletting for a few months. He was very nice and I loved his dog and would dogsit. After I moved out I had zero contact with him. He was HIV+ so over the years I thought about him and hoped he was okay.

    Fast forward over 20 years later, my husband and I are visiting his uncle who lives in Palm Springs (who is from NY, and so is my husband originally). As we walk up to the door we see my husband's cousin is also there visiting. She is also from NY but lives in SF now. Her best friend is with her. My roommate from SF 20 years earlier. I scared the shit out of his when I walked up and was like OMG I KNOW YOU. We now live close to my husband's cousin and him and see them all the time and it's very nice.

  • I hope someday I might have similar luck.

    When Roger Kahn appears at Brooklyn minor league game to sign copies of his book "The Boys of Summer," I purchased two copies; one for my wife, and one for my dad. Kahn died recently, and I asked my dad about his copy of the book. He said he might have given it away to the local public library system. He's 84, and after my initial disappointment, realized I can't make myself upset over such a first world problem. Maybe it'll magically show up somewhere.

  • I had a dream that my ex-girlfriend's dog's name was the password on her registry at Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

    And it was. There's no non-ridiculous way to have told her to work a little harder on passwords.

  • Cliff Hendroval says:

    I was baptized in a small mill town in North Carolina in the mid-'60s when I was around six. Fast forward some 20-plus years and I was living in suburban New Jersey. I grabbed dinner at a local Roy Rogers chicken joint and as I was carrying my tray to a table I manage to spill my drink. The assistant manager came out to help me clean up and bring me another drink. Her nametag had a weird Czech surname that I recognized so I asked her about it. Turns out that she was the daughter of the pastor who baptized me all those years earlier.

  • TheOtherHank says:

    When I was in grad school I TA-ed for a guy who, I discovered through another series of coincidences, had been confirmed by my Lutheran pastor grandfather.

  • A high school friend of mine from Ottawa was backpacking through Europe in the 90s. Ran into one of our classmates in London. They had dinner together, laughed about the weird coincidence of both of them being in London at the same time and actually meeting each other, and then he continued on his way to Amsterdam… where he ran into another high school classmate at the airport.

  • I was standing behind the bar at a nice place I worked for about a year after I got out of the USAF, chatting with the other bartender while it was quiet. We were standing at the end of the bar near the floor to ceiling facade fenestration (old produce market building in the downtown historic district. He said something about a young woman he had been flirting with earlier in the evening as she had a cocktail–I was not on the bar at that time–and said she had the most beautiful skintone–sort of cafe au lait. I was looking out the window and said, "Like that gal, standing in front of us looking in the window?.". He said, "Yes.".

    I then reminisced that she looked like a woman I had met in Germany (nearly 5K miles to the east) when I was stationed there.

    At that moment, she and I made eye contact. I said, "You have the helm, I'll be back.".

    I walked outside and the two of us greeted each other by name. She was with her hubby (whom I had never met as I only knew her from the EES convenience store where she worked on the airbase.

    That her hubby was military and HQ SAC was only 8 or so miles from where we were standing didn't make the odds that good that we would see each other. What was really strange was that she had never seen me without a military uniform or with shoulder length hair and a full, very full, beard and yet she recognized from about 15-20 feet away.


    Steven Wright had a bit about going skiing and getting on a lift, next to a guy who asked him how the skiing was .

    He said that he told the other skiier that he didn't know has he hadn't skiied in over 10 years.

    When the other man asked why he had taken such a long hiatus, he said it was that it was down to him having been seriously injured while skiing and having a long and painful recovery.

    When his fellow passenger asked how he had been injured he said:

    " I was on the ski lift, going to the top of the mountain and some maniac pushed me off the cha–Hey! I remember YOU!".

  • My friend and I took a trip to Buenos Aires from where we were studying in Santiago, Chile. He had a bit of a reputation for losing important things, and when we met at the train station to head to the airport, he proudly showed me the little bag he had put together to keep all his important belongings in one, safe place. It contained his passport, wallet, and iPod (it was 2008). We arrived in the city and found our way to a hostel. We were asked for our passports to check in, which is when he realized he had misplaced the Important Bag somewhere. The hostel owners were nice and let us stay there anyway, on my passport, and I had enough cash to pay for our night.
    The next day we went to the embassy to find out about getting him a new passport. We had to go to the police station to declare it missing and get a report, to a photographer to get him new passport photos, and he spent lots of time unsuccessfully calling his bank to get his debit card cancelled–the quality of our skype calls wasn't really good enough at the hostel to make these calls work. The expedited passport (without which he couldn't leave Argentina to get back to Chile) would be about $200, which I was going to pay since he had no access to money… Overall a super lame start to what was supposed to be a fun trip.
    The next day we went back to the Embassy to submit the paperwork, cancel his old passport, and get his new one. We waited around for awhile and then he was called up to the window to process his request. While the staff person was looking over his paperwork, he heard another person behind the desk, on a phone call, say his name. He asked the person who was helping him to ask the person on the phone if it really was his name. Turns out the person on the phone (in the Embassy) was talking to the driver of the bus that runs from the airport to the city. He had found the Important Bag on his bus, and had, for some reason, waited two days to call the Embassy at that exact moment when my friend was standing there. We spoke to the bus driver and told him we would come to collect the passport.
    We hailed a taxi that drove us 90 minutes to this man's house, where he gave us my friend's passport, his wallet (minus the cash) and iPod. We gave the guy some money, took the taxi back to the city, and went straight to an all-you-can-eat steak buffet (when in Argentina!!). Best part was because of the crappy Skype connection, my friend hadn't been able to cancel his cards, so they still worked!

  • i was born and raised in buffalo NY. i was also adopted at birth. 36 years later i got on an adoption registry. 10 days later i get a phone call three days after returning home from visiting with my childhood friend who now lives in maryland. i am introduced to my birthmother. who apparently grew up not only in the same city in MD my childhood friend now lives in, but around the corner from her house. (which i had been staying at 3 days earlier)

  • When I lived in San Diego, I visited Edinburgh on vacation. I got up very early and was walking across the square toward the castle. There was only one other person out and about. I approach him to ask what time the visitor center opened. He apologized and said he didn't know because he was from San Diego.

  • Glen Tomkins says:

    This is hardly a matter of luck or coincidence. There simply aren't that many people in either TX or OK who read books, and even fewer of those who read socialist work-of-the-devil books like Grapes of Wrath. There are so few, especially in OK, who fit that description, that of course they tend to all be related, or at least know each other, and live in close proximity, if only for self-protection.

  • I had a book go missing in Indiana. A friend bought it in Guatemala about 6 months later and when she saw my name in it she told me. this was in 1982 or 83.

    Very strange.

  • When I first visited London I met a guy in the hostel I stayed at who was also from California. Two years later I'm in my office in Santa Monica and there's a knock on the door, and it's the same guy, he's doing a photo shoot and wants a shot looking out from my window.

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