Saturday, April 09, 2011

Karma Vs. Coincidence Strikes Again

Was it karma?

Or coincidence?

That is the question, and if you've been reading this blog for a while you know this is a little, pet recurring theme of mine. Something happens that would seem to utterly violate the laws of probability and you have to wonder whether it was just a wild coincidence or if there's a mysterious, natural phenomenon at work.


Or coincidence?

Well, it happened again recently and I'm telling you now there wasn't a snowflake's chance in Hades that this could have been a coincidence! No way! But that's just my opinion. What do you think?

I was cruising on the Bowery in the Lower East Side a few weeks ago in search of the next one when I was hailed by two maybe-over-twenty young ladies - a redhead and a brunette - at about 8 p.m. They were smiling and pleasant and had what I would call very "clean spaces" around them, which made having a conversation with them not only an easy thing to do, but a natural thing to do. It was one of those rides that just had an immediate known-you-for-a-long-time feel to it, so to speak.

As our trip got going, for some reason one of them brought up my name, which she'd noticed on my hack license, as a topic for discussion.

"So, what kind of a name is Eugene Salomon?" she asked.

"That's a name with five syllables," I replied.

"You know," she continued with a laugh, "like what's the ethnic origin of that name?"

"Well, my last name, Salomon, is a biblical name that goes back to the Old Testament, as in King Solomon. Eugene appears in many languages in slightly different forms. Eugenio, for example, is the Spanish version, Eugene is the Irish. My mother's side of the family was from Ireland, so that's why I was given that name."

That seemed to satisfy her curiosity. But it reminded me of something that had happened a couple of times in my cab, so I asked them a question of my own about names. It's a great question, by the way, a real conversation starter.

"Tell me something," I inquired, "have you ever met anyone who has the same name as you? Or had someone tell you that they know someone who has the same name as you?"

They thought about it.

"First and last names?" one of them asked.

"Yeah, it's got to be both."

"No, I haven't," one of them said after some consideration, a little disappointed.

"I met someone once who had the same first name as me," the other one said, "but never both names."

"Only once? What's your name?"

"It's unusual - Corrina," she said.

Indeed it was unusual - not unheard of, but not common, either.

"It's happened to me twice," I said.

"Both names?" the redhead asked.


"Wow, that's freaky," she said.

It was freaky. I told them the stories.

The first one, which happened about twenty years ago, was the time a passenger's jaw dropped when she saw my name on my hack license because, she said, it was also her own father's name. I wound up writing a note to him which said, "To Eugene Salomon, Best wishes and good luck, from Eugene Salomon." I wished I could have seen Eugene Salomon's face when he read that!

The second time, also about twenty years ago, two businessmen from Spain squealed, "Increible!" and told me their boss' name back in Madrid was also Eugene Salomon. Same name, same spelling.


Well, our ride was soon over and the two cheerful young ladies paid the fare, gave me a generous tip, and were on their way. My evening continued with the next few fares taking me from the Lower East Side to Greenwich Village, from Midtown to somewhere else in Midtown, to the Upper East Side and from there back to Midtown again.

At around 9:30 a middle-aged man jumped in at 49th and 1st who was heading for the Upper West Side. We drove about ten blocks up 1st Avenue with a little chit-chat and then, from out of nowhere, he says:

"Hey, I know someone who has the same name as you."

"You mean the same first and last name?"


That sign post up ahead, which actually said, "No Parking, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.," suddenly appeared to me to be saying, "You are entering The Twilight Zone." Perhaps this guy was a Lizard Person from Planet Surreal and I was in the first stage of an alien abduction. This could not be happening.

He went on to tell me that he's an attorney and that the Eugene Salomon he knows is an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles who occasionally sends him referrals. He said he's spoken with him numerous times on the phone but has never met him in person. In fact, he doesn't even know what he looks like. Which led, of course, to my joking that Eugene and I are actually the same person. There's no money in entertainment law, you see, so I supplement my income by driving a cab in New York one week out of every month. Then it's back to L.A.

Well, it turned out to be another ride in good spirits and not an alien abduction after all. (Or if it was, I don't remember any of it because those sneaky aliens always erase your memory of their abductions, right?) I told him about the other two times I'd had passengers in my cab tell me they knew someone with my exact same name. He was amazed. And then I told him that less than two hours ago I had told these same-name stories to the two girls who had asked me about my name. He was amazed again.

Now I ask you, what are the odds of this happening? It had been twenty years since anyone had told me that they knew someone with the same name as me and something like ten years since I had told anyone these stories. And then, within two hours of each other, I tell the stories to the two girls and bingo!, a person appears in my cab telling me he knows someone with my name.

Is there some kind of natural phenomenon, the rules of which we know not what, that causes this kind of thing to happen? Are the dynamics of thought, intention, and attention senior to the dynamics of the physical universe?

In other words, was it karma?

Or coincidence?

What do you think?


Okay, if you think it was karma, click here. If you think it was coincidence, click here.