Standing in the security queue at the Louisville Airport, a young guy walked next to me in the maze of stanchions and ropes. I thought I recognized him, which was weird because other than my cohort that I had met with downtown this weekend, I don’t really know anyone in Louisville. He ended up standing just a few people behind me in line and I overheard him talking on his cellphone. “Hi, this is Justin,” he said to the anonymous person on the other end of the conversation. Suspicion confirmed and feeling brave, I caught his eye when he finished talking and asked, “Hi, did I meet you this weekend at the Frazier Museum?”
Yes! And he remembered meeting me too. A serendipitous chance re-encounter for the latest round of my 100 People in 100 Days project!
I am writing the draft of this post from a bumpy airplane ride home from Louisville, Kentucky. This weekend I served on the AASLH Program Committee. It was a great time and I enjoyed being reunited with three of my SHA2013 friends. During our 48 hours in Kentucky we served our field by helping to put together the program for this year’s AASLH annual meeting. Naturally, we also found some times for adventures too including a serendipitous discovery of the 21C Art Hotel.
Friday afternoon I met a friend at the Frazier Museum. We both wondered how the unusual collections of arms and armaments came to be in Louisville, theorizing that Frazier must have been the collector and donor who amassed everything. We walked out the door as the museum was closing and stood in the late afternoon sun for a few moments, gazing at the beautiful building. My friend decided to go back inside to ask how this particular building became a museum space.
I followed him inside and we found a staff member chatting with two guys: a younger man with his hands resting lightly on the handles of the older man’s wheelchair. We patiently waited our turn to talk with the staff member but overheard the two men were asking pretty much the same questions that we had too. Drawing near the little group, we eventually became part of the conversation ourselves. The staff member we met, Jodi, turned out to be on the AASLH local arrangements committee and she was really excited that we had come to the museum. After chatting for about twenty minutes I also introduced myself to the historically curious civilians. The older gentleman’s name is George and he recently moved to Kentucky to live in a retirement home near his son. The younger guy is Justin and he was visiting his family, and taking his granddad/uncle (never sure exactly the relation) out for the afternoon. We all shook hands, said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.
So yes, I was quite surprised to see Mr. Justin-of-Museum walking into the security line at the Louisville airport 46 hours later. What are the chances of someone that you randomly meet in an unfamiliar city showing back up in your life two days later? What are the chances that a fellow tourist that you meet at a museum has a flight back home on the exact same day as you, at nearly the exact same time? And, even better, what are the chances that this stranger you talked to for about 20 minutes will remember you too and the details of that conversation? Crazy!
Justin and I went through security together and on the walk through the terminal I found out that he works in pathology in New York City. He also likes museums, and in fact visited another museum right before coming to the airport. We parted ways with a handshake and a curious feeling that our second meeting was somehow meant to be.
Despite the fact that I recently re-met photographer Larry Marr after a full year, I never really thought about how the people that I’m meeting on this project are processing the experience on their end. I think that I’ve been operating under the assumption that most of the time, I’m just white noise to these strangers and that they pretty much immediately forget about me. Perhaps I’m more memorable than I thought. And maybe I should be thinking a little bit harder about the nature of God’s sovereignty in my daily life.