Nice April evening, a couple of months ago, in Lisbon. I was returning to my Airbnb after another exploration of Lisbon’s neighborhoods, in my search for a place to rent long-term. As I was crossing Praca do Comercio, at one corner, I saw a young couple with a small dog. While approaching them, I caught a little bit of Romanian. Now, in my experience, Lisbon is not even remotely as filled with Romanians as Valencia is, so this was unusual. That was probably the second time I was actually hearing Romanian in Portugal, after more than 6 weeks.
When I was about 2-3 meters from them, something in the voice of the guy seemed familiar. The tone, the intonation, something was… familiar. Could that be that I know the person? He was wearing a mask, but, even with that mask on, his look was reminding me of someone. A few more seconds of internal mental browsing and bang: we have a match! I knew him indeed, so I greeted him in Romanian. After a few seconds of complete bewilderment, he recognizes me too and we start to chat. Of course, we go get a beer, exchange information and we remain in touch. I’ve seen him again just a few days ago.
Fast forward two months, until today: nice Sunday morning, in a coffee shop where I usually go during weekends, to enjoy some specialty coffee. A small place, but very nicely decorated and with very welcoming baristas. I took my regular double espresso, an avocado toast and I started to catch up on some stuff on my laptop.
At some point, a young couple enters. I recognized the girl, I’ve seen her before in that coffee shop, but the guy was new, I’ve never seen them together. He was carrying a troller, and he looked like he had to catch a plane. They sit just in front of me and started chatting in English. I knew the girl was Portuguese, so I thought the guy must be a foreigner. But I couldn’t put my finger on his nationality or his accent. After a few more minutes of chatting, a reference of “Romania” pops in their dialogue. The guy said he had to come back to Romania for something.
I make eye contact, and try my chances: “Salut! Esti din Romania?”. Of course he was, and of course we met before, in another coffee shop in Bucharest, a few years ago. We reconnect, chat a bit, I also make the acquaintance of his Portuguese friend, and we decide to stay in contact.
Two random encounters, just a couple of months apart, with people sharing similar backgrounds.
How random this really is?
Of course, I can find many “reasonable” explanations for that: Lisbon is more entrepreneur-friendly, Portugal is more foreigner-friendly that Spain, so there’s “naturally” more people transiting it, and so on and so forth. But I feel these are just rationalizations. Just some forced connections that my mind tries to forge, when faced with the unexplainable.
What if randomness is just a name we give to something beyond our capacity to comprehend? What if we could upgrade our minds, our understanding, our capacity to make sense of the world, to the point we can see all that hidden network of causalities that generates the fabric of our reality? What if we can see beyond our limitations and see how a few minutes behind or beyond a certain event make so much sense?
Had I crossed Praca do Comercio just a few minutes earlier, I couldn’t catch my first encounter. Had I come just half an hour later in that coffee shop, I would’ve missed the second encounter.
What if we can understand what’s behind these tiny adjustments, so called “coincidences”, or “random” encounters that are shaping our lives?
What if there’s no randomness at all and everything happens according to some plan?