Service of What Are You Doing Here? Fun Encounters Most of the Time

January 17th, 2022

Categories: Coincidence, Memories, Scent, Small World, Surprises

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

It’s sometimes a treat and a surprise–not always a good one–to see someone out of context.

I wrote “Service of a Small World,” in which I marveled at seeing tenants from apartments I’d lived in–very small ones by NYC standards–working in my Manhattan office building. In that post a friend told of bumping into people who live in his tiny Westchester town on frequent trips to Maine and California.

In a text chat last week Chester Draues, [a pseudonym], shared a memory that inspired today’s post. He lived in Tribeca in Manhattan and was starting a new management position training staff. On this his first day he bumped into the super’s new girlfriend on his way out of the building and said “hi.”

Who was one of the employees at his new job? The girlfriend, who later became the super’s wife and mother of his daughter. That day at work they smiled at each other. Draues added, “luckily she was a good worker!”

Worth repeating is my shock at meeting, on West 47th Street in Manhattan, an American Army doctor who had travelled, a few years before, on an Air Force plane we’d boarded in Adana, Turkey and he in Asmara, Ethiopia. We all deplaned in Addis Ababa. We went to the hotel he recommended and followed his advice on other matters such as food choices but were never in contact with him after that even though we’d crash landed in the cargo plane we’d shared…which is another story.

And there was that frightful perfume I’ve mentioned here before. The scene: my first job at a magazine. When the editor-in-chief left suddenly, management hired a freelance editor to pick up the slack. This woman was so malicious in tearing up both me and my copy that I’d return to my office unable to write my byline much less attempt a revision. [Always take away something good from every job I’ve advised countless students I’ve mentored. From this woman I learned how NEVER to treat a writer when I later became an editor.] She wore a distinctive perfume. A year later I was in the Hamptons on Long Island at an antique show. As I entered I detected that singular, nasty scent. There she was staffing a booth. I missed that side of the exhibit so as to avoid her.

Can you recall any chance meetings in unexpected places that delighted or upset you?


8 Responses to “Service of What Are You Doing Here? Fun Encounters Most of the Time”

  1. lucrezia Said:

    I’ve had several eerie experiences which consisted of seeing people who I know I’ve met but can’t place. I’ve been lucky not to have been recognized and wonder if that person was having similar concerns.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s happened to me. Only the person has said “Hi Jeanne!” One time the woman had cut and colored her hair and lost a ton of weight and it wasn’t until the next day that it dawned on me who she was! The transformation was dramatic.

    I make it a habit, if I see someone I’ve not seen in ages , to say “Hi, Molly, Jeanne Byington” to save them from the embarrassment of thinking “who the samhill is that?” Especially if they are with a spouse, friend or colleague and would normally make introductions.

  3. Deborah Wright Said:

    Many years ago, I was at O’Hare airport, walking to my gate. I noticed a crowd of people all clustered around someone. It was Cassius Clay. Of course, he changed his name later to Muhammad Ali, but at that time he went by Cassius Clay. I looked up at him; he was very tall, and just beautiful! Then, I noticed several very hefty bodyguards surrounding him and decided I had better move out of the way. I remember thinking that this very handsome man was endangering his body with the sport of boxing.

  4. Hank Goldman Said:

    Look who I met. Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!

    [Hank sent a wonderful photo of himself sitting on a bench next to a life size sculpture of Tom Hanks! I wasn’t able to copy it in comments.]

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It’s always exciting to bump into a celebrity. I’ve seen a few–or at least I’ve recognized a few. I passed Liza Minnelli on the street in front of the 21 Club decades ago; Anthony Perkins hiding behind giant sunglasses in a Paris airport when I was a teen and Al Pacino at a mediocre restaurant in the Village on a typically boiling hot summer night in the city dressed in black wearing a heavy leather jacket looking morose. Actor Robert Morley was sitting at the front of a London restaurant so as to be recognized. I passed Woody Allen on Madison Avenue and saw Joel Grey rather recently, once walking on Broadway and once where he must have been waiting for someone at one of the doors into the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. I addressed none of them but I smiled and waved at Joel outside the Y.

  6. Eileen Dover Said:

    While in college, my friend introduced me to several of his high school friends. Sometimes we would all going out together, one was Pat. Lost contact with this group. At my then job, I ran into Pat, he worked on a different floor same office! We began to go to lunch, I introduced him to a coworker, he eventually married. Lost contact again. Several years later, my then boyfriend, asked me to go to his office Christmas party…guess who the deejay was…Pat. He worked same place as my then boyfriend! Small world at its best. Hope he knows I’m sending him and his family happy thoughts! I’d love a chance meeting.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I suspect you will see Pat again–you are destined to meet! And I bet he will sense your good wishes although he won’t know where they come from.

  8. Martha Takayama Said:

    I just remembered that I saw Barbra Streisand in Orly airport in Paris years ago. My friend and I were gossiping criticizing her appearance when we realized the man nearby was her husband Elliot Gould. I can’t remember other encounters at the moment except for my mother’s long time aide. I was at my wit’s end unable to find a suitable person. I met with a charming, attract woman who turned out to have lived with someone at the other end of our street! She spent a number of years with my mother and was like family. I think my pandemic préoccupations have dulled my recollections at the moment.

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