Last week, we had one of those encounters which make you say, ‘Wow, it really is a small world, isn’t it?’ And it reminded me of my ultimate small-world story, which I will now document here for posterity.
We moved to England in 1998 for DP to start work on his doctorate. Our first flat was a pretty run-down one-bedroom in a building owned by DP’s college. We arrived just before the start of the academic year; a few weeks later, an Australian guy rang our bell to pick up some mail. He told DP that he’d been living there with his wife, but had changed colleges recently and had gotten access to nicer housing as a bonus. We discussed whether we should pursue a similar course of action, but never did, opting to stay in our grungy flat until we got offered (and accepted) exponentially better housing from the university two years later.
Fast forward 10+ years: by this time we were living in Canberra, and the parents of Miss B, who was in her first term of preschool. We were getting to know the other kids and families in her small class, and soon discovered that one of the other mothers, also a recent transplant to Canberra, shared Miss B’s not-very-common name. Then we worked out that she and her family had not long since moved into a rental house just a few doors down from our sublet apartment. Okay, that's a bit of a small-world thing right there, right?
Then one day, mother B and I got talking and sharing backstories, as you do. And discovered that both of our partners had attended Oxford, at more or less the same time – hers had started a year or so before DP. Then we worked out that her partner had started out at DP’s college, but had transferred after a year or so. Then we worked out that they had lived in the same married-student housing block that we had, moving out just a short time before we moved in.
Then I went home and told DP this story and he said, “Wait, was he that Australian guy who came by to pick up mail right after we moved in?”
And he was. After a brief encounter in an otherwise parallel existence in Oxford, we ended up living three doors away from each other in Canberra and sending our kids to the same preschool.