Finding Patterns in a Day

My mother used to say bad things happened in threes. I guess she wasn’t the only one to say that; everyone says, for example, celebrities die in threes. But if a few bad things happened in one day, she took it as a sign to stay home.*

I don’t really think that’s real, but I do notice patterns. Maybe the better term is coincidences.

For example, today I had to run several errands at several stores. No matter how I tried, I picked the slowest register plagued by technical issues. While I was in line at one of these places, glancing at the other lines and trying to figure out if I should line jump (answer: every time you line jump, the line you were in will start moving at lightspeed), the ladies in front of me were talking about El Nino.

“I’d take this weather over an El Nino,” the customer said.

“It’s too dry. The rain’s better than a fire. Those can be scary,” the cashier said.

“Yes, fire is scary,” the customer agreed.

Cue foreshadowing music.

After lunch, a haze settled over my area and I smelled brush smoke. Helicopters are currently flying back and forth. A fire. It hasn’t been on the news, and it’s now clearing.

At Target, there was a woman who always seemed to be in the same aisle as I was. She talked into a headset on what seemed like a work call. “I’ll be there soon,” she said. “And by soon, I mean eventually. Not in fifteen minutes.” Then she cackled, and I wondered how long the people waiting for her would have to wait, and how I would never purposely make people wait because I’d be too knotted up with anxiety.

Anyway, we arrived at the registers at the same time, naturally, and this store has two rows of registers. To get to the row further back, you have to walk around the people waiting in line at the front, which I tried to do, but was cart-blocked by a woman. While I moved the cart, headset woman cut in front of me.

Then I wondered: if I keep seeing the same people, the same strangers, over and over again, is it a sign we should talk? Or be enemies? Or does it not matter? At the register she still had her headset in her ears, so I couldn’t talk anyway.

Have you ever noticed coincidences like this? Or patterns?


*The day of the county spelling bee, for example, was plagued with miscues and wrong directions. When my mom and I arrived, we found out I hadn’t been registered (and therefore didn’t even have the study book they gave to everyone else), and she said we should have paid attention to all the signs telling us it would go wrong. A Hollywood ending would have me winning the bee in spite of this. I lost the second round, on pancreas.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

One thought on “Finding Patterns in a Day

  1. Is it a coincidence that I represented my school at the county spelling bee and went down on one of the first words which was February. It traumatized me and I still never spell it right and if I do it’s an accident.
    I see patterns all the time. In people, places, things, even see Jesus and other figures in the wood grain of a door. Is that odd or what?
    That’s why I write. It gives me the opportunity to use my weirdness on my characters and pretend it’s not me that is weird!
    You described perfectly what happens to me when I get in a store line.
    I’m beginning to see a pattern to my life. I am where I am meant to be every day of my life. In the exact right spot.
    Oh well. Thanks for the smiles your writing brings me.

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