Coincidence? Or a sinister stranger?

It’s obvious from this story that Marie Garcia is a friendly person who has “never met a stranger.” But this particular encounter left her son worried, and he warned her against talking to strangers. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns Several years ago, my friend Terri and I had the pleasure of being treated to ice cream cones by a total stranger who was standing in line behind us at the local Rite Aide Pharmacy. He had become impatient with us as we argued over who would pay for our pecan praline ice cream cones.

A voice behind us told the person who was scooping ice cream, “Make that three pecan pralines and I will pay!” Both Terri and I protested, but the cones were already scooped and handed to us. We thanked the gentleman, and the three of us began to converse.

His last name had an unusual spelling and he told us to call him Chris. I added that I have a son named Chris. When I told him my name is Marie, he said that his mother was also named Marie. Chris said that he was a scientist and worked for Boeing. I mentioned that my children’s father worked at Boeing when it was still North American Aviation.

Chris said he had a brother-in-law who was a pilot for American Airlines, and I mentioned that my daughter just retired from American Airlines. His brother-in-law was also an artist, and I said that I am a “wannabe” artist. I thought, “Hmm, so many coincidences.”

We talked about where we lived, and as we vaguely answered his questions, he told us that his parents used to live in the immediate area, in the same complex where I now lived.  I asked a few more questions, but I did not know his mother because she lived there before I moved in.

Then Chris proceeded to describe where his mom lived, at the end of a cul-de-sac, and the first condo door on the left of the green belt. As he was speaking, Terri and I gave each other this OMG look. He knows the layout of the complex, and he is describing my house in detail!

Then he remembered her house number and it was MY ADDRESS! I thought the chances of winning the Lotto would be easier than all of this ever happening again. I thought how strange it was that this kind gentleman, who just stepped into my world, actually had lived in my house with his parents, and I thought about situations that God can create.

When I told my son about this, he was furious that I had told the gentleman that that was where I now lived. My son thought that he should come and sleep at my house to protect me. He had everyone preaching to me about talking to strangers and telling them where I lived. In reality, it was an unusual situation of a person meeting someone who had lived in their house many years ago.

About a year after this, I received a Tangerine-colored envelope in my mail. I got all excited about this due to a print that I had purchased at the Pagent of the Masters at the Laguna Beach Art Festival that featured Arabian Nights Arts. Tangerine was in the print, and I fell in love with the picture. Also I was redecorating my house, and I have incorporated the tangerine color into my purple life.

For all of these reasons, I could hardly wait to see who was being funny and sending me a tangerine card. My friends and relatives think I have gone overboard with this tangerine thing.

To my shock, I saw that the envelope was addressed to the father of the kind gentleman who paid for our praline ice cream cones at Rite Aid. Chris was telling the truth, and his family really had lived in my house many years before.

I marked the envelope Return to Sender because I never asked Chris for his or his parents’ address. The return address was from the Art Department at the University of Minnesota, and I’m sure it was important.

I made copies in color of the envelope and didn’t return it until I showed my son. Chris really was nothing more than a kind gentlemen, and the whole episode was just an amazing coincidence. At last I can relax and stop watching over my shoulder. And, thank God, I don’t have to keep worrying about the Ice Cream Man anymore!



Published: July 31, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 16