Pauline and I frequently joke about the personality and varying attitudes of the little lady in our GPS Navigator. Her voice seems to change from pleasant to adamant and sometimes impatient or hurt when we misinterpret or even violate her instructions. “Recalculating, Recalculating, Recalculating”, she whines, when we enter a new roadway that does not exist in her database. “Do a legal U turn”, she pleads, when we pass the road we should have turned on. We have learned that we should trust her most of the time and not attempt to improve or modify her plan. Of course there are exceptions. If we don’t plan to follow her to the letter, we usually just turn her off and take our chances. But we have come to rely on the navigator so much that sometimes we even forget to take a map with us. Finally, there are those mystical routes where she takes us past some place the universe had simply intended us to see.
I sense your skepticism, so it is time for a case in point, an event that is so bizarre that its wildly improbable nature will make you stop to ponder. Was it really just a chance happening? If such events happened once in a lifetime, they could be written off to chance. Because they happen on a regular basis, chance seems less likely a valid explanation.
Almost a year ago, a close friend of Pauline and I, John Abbiss, unexpectedly passed away in California while we were travelling in Yorkshire. I learned the news only because we stopped in a hotel that had wireless broadband and email was available. The news came as a terrible shock, and we had no vehicle or environment to accommodate our grieving. Over and over a voice in my head kept asking “How can this be?”
By the time we had arrived back in California, John’s widow, Simone had sold the family home and moved back to England. Months passed before any communication with her took place and then it was simply an email with her phone number and address in England. These unfolding events left a kind of continuing emptiness and void without closure in the loss of a dear friend and the absence of Simone. We assured ourselves that upon our return to England we would look up Simone and continue some part of our friendship while bringing the other part to a more meaningful closure.
After arriving in England for the summer, we were invited to visit some friends for a weekend in Sussex, in the village of Rowlands Castle. We had made this trip several times before and had homed in on an optimized route that took in to account such things as road construction and rush hour traffic around Heathrow Airport. Nevertheless, this time, armed with our navigator, we punched in the target address and set out for Rowlands Castle. We had chosen to leave a few hours early to beat the rush hour and to allow time for a lunch and few stops along the way. And then we were startled by the GPS lady’s instructions to turn onto the M3 motorway, a direction which made little sense, a choice I would never have made on my own.
This was one of those cases we decided to trust her on and see what happened, so we made the turn onto the M3. Nevertheless, I pulled a map in attempting to understand what she had in mind. I could see several possibilities for getting us back onto the route to Rowlands Castle, but none of them seemed like an optimum route. She passed up even most of those, and I began to have doubts that she could recover. I could see that she was instructing us to take an exit at a town called Camberley, just off the M3. From there I could see a tiny “b” road that would get us back on a meaningful track to Rowlands Castle.
The name of the town rang a bell with Pauline. “Where did I hear that name?” she pondered. She asked me to check her address book and see if the town matched any of the names. The first name in her address book was “Abbiss”. I almost freaked out when I saw the town of Camberly by Simone’s name.
We pulled into a Home Depot parking lot, retrieved a cell phone and made the call. Simone answered. We were sitting within a few blocks of her flat. She was delighted to hear Pauline’s voice and invited us for a cup of tea. Coincidentally, Christopher, her son, had decided to stay home from work that day and was at home with her.
We put a new address into the navigator. The first thing the GPS lady attempted was take us through a pedestrian street, a street that rarely allows cars. We used our own ingenuity to get around that. The lady recovered quickly and placed us at Simone’s flat.
We were all delighted to see each other, and we could have our meeting that normally would have taken place almost a year ago. Beginning with hugs and laughter, we all accepted that tears could interrupt our meeting at any point, and everyone would understand. Even so, the get together was much more joyful than it could have been in last year’s setting. Each time John’s name came up feelings were warm and brought smiles instead of tears.
Out little GPS lady and her universe had given us all a nice gift of love.
One of a few (tongue in cheek?) superstitions I share with Pauline concerns our special numbers- Mine is three and hers is eight. The occurrence of these numbers seems to be some kind of special message from the universe. When I am in total harmony with the universe the number three pops up everywhere. When Pauline and I are together we see a continuous deluge of threes and eights. During the trip described above we came upon some very intriguing sculptures while visiting a local sculpture park.