How one word can take you around the world

Chris Cobler By Chris Cobler

Nov. 30, 2011 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.

My terrific editing professor, John Bremner, told me the story of "The Three Princes of Serendip," and I've loved the word ever since my college days.

The princes were always making desirable discoveries by accident, providing the inspiration for what Bremner so accurately described as a sweet-sounding word.

My recent moment of serendipity wasn't worthy of a fairy tale, but it reminded me of my late, great professor and prompted me to ask others to share similar stories.

Last month, we took visiting friends to the Alamo, where we bumped into Milton Chapman, of Victoria. If the odds are slim that you'll run into a fellow Victorian 120 miles away in the state's most-popular tourist attraction, consider this additional twist: We bumped into each other on the day of the Kansas-Baylor football game. Chapman is the biggest Baylor fan I know, and I'm a diehard Kansas University alum.

I shared the story on Facebook and heard from several friends about their unexpected encounters:

-- Debra Chronister, an art professor at Victoria College, was admiring the famous modern works on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. She was standing in awe of Monet's giant water lily panels when she "noticed a young man off to the side surreptitiously touch (read: 'copping a feel of') the painting. Mortified! Then I noticed that he and his group were, in fact, fellow Victorians. Rigor mortis set in immediately. Sigh. Thus proving the need for more arts education in the schools."

-- Connie Catron, a registered nurse in Cuero, was flying on Dec. 26 a couple of years ago to visit family in Illinois. She was waiting at Houston Hobby Airport when what to her wondering eyes should appear but her son's kindergarten teacher, Jody Grey, who was returning to Victoria.

-- Jamie Rangel, a nursing student at Victoria College, hadn't seen a high school classmate for almost 10 years when she bumped into the old friend at a club in Houston. "You're not supposed to run into anyone you know when you're that far out of town!!" she wrote. "And of all the clubs in Houston, we end up at this little one with a strip pole in the middle of it!! It was crazy - we had a blast!!" (She adds she had a blast being with a friend - no pole dancing involved.)

-- Tami Troell, a Victoria teacher, and her family took a camping trip to Vallecito Lake outside Durango, Colo., where they met their "neighbors" - a family from Bloomington. "We talked about what a small world it was," she wrote. "Fast-forward to about November of the same year. I pulled up to the stoplight at 185 and 77 - the same family stopped at the light next to me; they were headed to Bloomington! It is indeed a small world."

-- Julie Crober, of Port Lavaca, and her husband were taking their kids in 2005 to Disney World when they stopped at a gas station/burger chain on Interstate 10. As they were walking back to their sport-utility vehicle, they saw a woman standing next to their Yukon. The woman unexpectedly asked, "Are you from Port Lavaca?"

"Yes. Why?" the Crobars responded. It turns out the woman's husband also was from Port Lavaca and had spotted their Sandcrab decal on their Yukon. He had grown up next door to her best friend in Port Lavaca.

Yes, it is a small world, after all.

If you believe Facebook, I guess all of this should be no surprise. The social-networking behemoth recently announced that each of us is only 3.74 degrees of separation away from the rest of the world, at least in Facebook terms. Given that, perhaps it's actually serendipitous to go out and see no one you know.

Chris Cobler is editor of the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached at or at 361-574-1271.



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