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John Kelly's Washington

A Few Trips Around a Small World

By John Kelly
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page C10

Dozens of readers wrote me after my column on coincidences, on how we can be sitting on a beach in Central America or on an airplane over the Atlantic only to find ourselves next to a friend from high school or an old workmate. Sometimes it isn't anyone we know, but someone who knows someone we know.

Megan Doern lives in Washington now, but two years ago she and her then-fiance were living in Portland, Ore., and trying to figure out where to get married. They finally settled on Charleston, S.C. During the cocktail hour of their rehearsal dinner at a restaurant called Magnolia's, a familiar face came from the other banquet room.

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"It was one of my husband's fraternity brothers who was there for his cousin's rehearsal dinner," wrote Megan. "He had just gotten back from the Peace Corps, and no one knew how to get a hold of him for our wedding, and there he was."

Speaking of weddings: "After my wife and I had been married for a while, we were at my parents' house," wrote Mike Haley. "Somehow the conversation turned to where my parents had lived after they had married. It turns out that my parents lived in the same apartment building and the very same apartment unit as my wife lived in about 20 years later with her family."

Maryanne Kendall was born in Seattle, where her closest friend was her cousin Jimmy. She moved east when they were both 8 and didn't see him again for more than 50 years. Jimmy had one brother, John, 14 years younger, who was born after Maryanne moved, and thus was a stranger to her. Several years ago, neighbors from Reston, Pat and Dave, were on their way back from Alaska when they stopped to visit a friend on Whidbey Island, Wash.

Pat went into a used-book store in the small town of Langley, on Whidbey, and asked for books by an author she collected. The owner said he didn't have any but would be happy to notify her if one came in. When she said she was just passing through, he asked where she lived. She told him, and he replied, "I have a cousin in Reston."

Said Maryanne: "Two weeks later, she brought me a note: 'Hi, Maryanne. Cousin John.' "

Ella Rich and her husband, Steve, were living in Paris in 1997 while he studied law there. A law school classmate from London, Julie Sipe, came to visit them. They invited Julie and a friend of theirs from the American Cathedral in Paris, Erin Williams, out for drinks to celebrate Steve's 30th birthday.

When Ella, Steve and Julie arrived at the bar and saw Erin walking toward them, Julie started jumping up and down.

"As it turns out, Julie and Erin had attended the College of William and Mary together several years before," Ella said, "and we were responsible for reuniting them halfway around the world."

Back in high school, Colin Jacobson's best friend briefly dated a girl named Sophia. "Because I'm obnoxious, I always referred to her as ' Sonya,' " said Colin, of Alexandria.

In college at the University of Virginia, he had a friend who briefly dated a girl named Sonya. "Because I'm obnoxious, I always referred to her as 'Sophia,' " Colin said.

The kicker? Sonya was a first-year student at U-Va.; her roommate was . . . Sophia. Not just any Sophia, the same Sophia that Colin's best friend had dated in high school.

"I referred to two women by the wrong names while they dated different friends at different times and places, and they ended up randomly being paired as roommates at college," Colin said. "I humbly refer to this as the greatest coincidence ever."

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