Just occasionally, odd things happen, little quirks of serendipity that amuse me greatly. Last year, there was The Curious Incident of the Phone Number in the Record Store, a story that perhaps is worth telling (or re-telling; forgive me) at some other time. I was reminded of that event by this week’s happenstance – a smaller, yet intriguing little event.
I was at a training course all week near Euston station, and just about the only options for lunch were at Euston station itself, where there is a Pret a Manger. Being somewhat partial to an occasional Pret lunch, I was in there on Wednesday afternoon, helping myself to an avocado wrap and intending to follow up with a mozzarella and tomato croissant. Bear with me, please; these details are important and have relevance for what is about to come.
I’ve always found Pret employees to be a cheery bunch, generally joking around with the customers, and this place was no exception. I went up to the counter, clutching my avocado wrap and asked if I could have the second part of my lunch, the croissant.
The girl behind the till looked me squarely in the eye and flatly refused. “No, you can’t” were her exact words, I believe. Naturally, I was slightly taken aback, and looked surprised. I might even have let an eyebrow glide upwards a quarter of an inch, in a controlled show of nonplussed curiosity. I assumed they were out of these delicacies, and prepared myself to settle for something less than perfection, when I realised that she was truly refusing, with splendid deadpan comic timing. So I begged and pleaded, using my best melodramatic hand gestures, and eventually she relented. As I said, joking around is almost de rigueur at Pret, so I grinned at the girl; she grinned back, and I paid and left.
That would have been that, of course – a mildly amusing but trivial moment in the grand sweep of the River of Life, smiled at but forgotten soon after.
Of course, that’s not the case, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, and you (presumably) wouldn’t be reading it. On Thursday, Paolo made pizza for dinner, and invited me to join him, along with a couple of friends. As I was chatting with one of the people there, she casually mentioned that she works at Pret.
Now of course you see where this is going, because I’ve fed you the story properly, with plenty of hints and dramatic clues, but at the time, neither of us did, until she added that she works in and around North London, specially in the Euston area. Cue moment of silent cogitation for me, then: “You mean the Pret just outside Euston station, where I had lunch yesterday?”
“Yes, that one.”
Moment of recollection for me. Careful observation of person. Desperate attempt to recollect person from yesterday, with limited success. Moment of confusion while we try to verify if she was, in fact, there at the same time as me, but the moment I described the story of refusal to be served, her face lit up with recognition and we had a jolly good laugh.
What are the odds? Person who gives me lunchtime amusement turns up in entirely unconnected circumstances the very next day, having dinner in my kitchen. Of course, it’s hardly important or momentous in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a curious coincidence, and, as I observed earlier, I like life’s little coincidences.