Tuesday, June 5, 2007

There's this thing in psych called " Ideas of Reference. " Like when someone watches TV or a movie, or reads a book and thinks what he or she sees or reads is really referring back to them: the viewer, the reader.

There's two schools of thought concerning coincidences. Either you believe in them or you don't. I don't attach much significance to coincidences, but that's not to say I don't find them utterly fascinating.

Take this book I'm reading. Tampa Burn by Randy Wayne White. One of the reasons I like to read White's books is because he lives in the Fort Myer, Florida area. Donna and I are familiar with that area, having camped in Fort Myers Beach. So it's no coincidence when I read that White's character, Doc Ford, is driving down a street I've driven down.

But how about learning that Doc's girlfriend is a really good tennis player, as is my wife. Well, that's interesting, but hardly a mind boggling coincidence. It's Florida. There are a lot of really good tennis players living in Florida.

The first book I read in White's series set in the Sanibel/Captiva area near Fort Myers was Everglades. I was reading that in St. Augustine, when we struck up a conversation with a woman in a camper near ours. I asked her where she was from.

" Holyoke, " she said.

Holyoke is Donna's hometown. It's the city in which we lived when we got married. It's where the newspaper on which I was a reporter was published. As I said, I was reading the White book when we met this woman. This White book in which the hero, Doc Ford, is a microbiologist.

I asked the woman from Holyoke what she did for a living.

" I'm a microbiologist, " she said.

I asked her where she was headed.

" Tampa, " she said.

As I mentioned, the White book I'm reading now, as I'm thinking back to St. Augustine, is Tampa Burning.

Whenever I think of Holyoke, I think back to the big story we were covering for months when I was on the police and fire beat. There was an arson spree that was making national news.

Holyoke was burning.

The first time Donna and I stayed in Fort Myers Beach we stayed at an RV park called The Red Coconut. The Red Coconut was located right on the beach, which was great. What wasn't great was that there was this guy with a chain saw staying at the RV park. He was making wooden sculptures. The noise was driving me crazy and I complained to the RV park owner. My usual MO is that if someone is annoying me I talk directly to them. I don't go to the boss or the manager or the owner.

But as my daddy always used to tell me, " Don't go arguing with a man with a chain saw in his hands. "

There's a character in Tampa Burning who makes wooden sculptures with a chain saw.

His name? Terrence.

This morning, as I was reading the book, Doc Ford mentioned his girlfriend, the tennis player's phone number. The last four numbers were 7777.

I had just got off the phone. The number I had just dialed? The last four numbers were 7777.

The character, the tennis player, is named Dewey. This is because White is a big fan of that old rock group America. The lead singer's name was Dewey. Dewey was an Air Force brat. Among the air bases on which he was stationed was R.A.F. Chicksands in England.

That's the base where I was stationed for two years until I came back...

To America.

What do I make of all this? Not much. I am of the opinion that if you were to do what I just did, to try to connect the dots like I just did with this book that I'm reading - connecting this book to that book, where it's set with where I've been, etc., etc...

You'd be able to do what I just did. I don't know a lot about statistics. I'm terrible at math. But I'm pretty good at connecting the dots. Statistically, these things, these coincidences, aren't all that uncommon. Things are more connected than we imagine. Which is pretty good news when you think about it.

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