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Thursday, April 27, 2006

They Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot

So, two near, but not-quite encounters this week have me thinking about how many such similar incidents occur to us, and of which we are never otherwise aware.

Case One: On Tuesday evening a man was shot and killed by police at an intersection of Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. This is the largest shopping district nearest where I live, and one through which I happened to have walked just a few minutes prior to the shooting. Several times just earlier, I had stopped to chat with friends and neighbors I encountered along the way. Had I lingered a minute or two longer with any of them, there's a very strong possibility I would have been at the intersection at the moment the shooting occured.

Case Two: Last night, walking home from doing some after work shopping, I spent a few moments briefly glancing over a 1968 Mustang with a "for sale" sign in the window, about two blocks from my apartment. Not seriously thinking about it (one 30+ year-old vehicle is quite enough), but just out of curiosity. I stopped for about a minute, then continued on my way. When I got to the intersection just before my block, I noticed a woman walking on the other side of the street. She's someone I used to know from my days at The 5th Avenue, whom I haven't seen for nearly 15 years, although recently we've bumped into each other several times in the neighborhood, and it's pretty clear we live in close proximity to each other. Now, if I hadn't stopped to look at the car, we would have been standing on the same corner at the same time, and I would have had a chance to talk to her again.

I mention these two incidents because they point to a phenomenon that frequently gets overlooked in our daily hustle-and-bustle, namely, that these sorts of "almost encounters" probably occur with a lot more frequency than most of us realize. I'm aware of it of course, because in the one instance, it's been in all the papers, and in the second, because I happened to be the one just a few steps afar and behind. But, unless or until I have another chance meeting with this woman, she'll never know how close we were to running into each other at that particular moment.

Not that this is a big thing mind you, unless of course, as in the first example above, the incident involves some sort of dangerous or violent activity. But it does make me wonder about all the times this sort of thing happens, but about which we never know. I suppose some people might dismiss it as a sort of "should have, would have, could have" phenomenon that just isn't worth contemplating. But, when you become aware of what you've just missed, regardless of whether the interaction may have had positive or negative consequences, it becomes a bit difficult to ignore.

And, because we never know, we seldom spend much time thinking about all the lost opportunities, the close calls and near misses that may have occured just ahead or behind us as we scurry through life, focused on the task at hand, while something interesting or dangerous or perhaps even miraculous is taking place just outside our field of view. Maybe it means we're moving too fast, or not fast enough, but obviously there's no real benefit to lingering on the "what if"s, since in its extreme I suppose one could decide to just not move at all for fear of missing something important. And so instead, we just keep moving on, oblivious to the possibilities.

Except in those few instances where the unknown and unobserved becomes something known and seen.

And only then do we sometimes have an inkling of what we might be missing.

Posted byCOMTE on 11:40 AM

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