It Was Meant 2 B by
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(192 Stories)

Prompted By Chance Encounters

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1111 J Street, Davis, CA

This chance encounter didn’t change my life, but it certainly changed the lives of the other two people involved. It occurred in September 1974, when I moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Davis, California, to go to law school.

This chance encounter in September 1974 didn't change my life, but it certainly changed the lives of the other two people involved. 

During the summer the law school had sent out a list of everyone in the entering class, with addresses and phone numbers and where they had gone to college, presumably with the idea that people might want be in contact before school started. There was one other person listed who had gone to Harvard, a guy named David who had graduated three years before me. He sent a letter to me (and apparently a few other carefully chosen people), saying that he was trying to put together a group to rent a house, and asking if I was interested. He was living in San Francisco at the time, so presumably could have driven to Davis to look at houses if he got enough responses.

I was on the waiting list at NYU and was still hoping to get admitted there, so I didn’t respond to him initially. However, I met in person with someone else on the list, a woman named Karen who was living in Boston, and we hit it off right away. It turned out that she was on the waiting list at Berkeley, and I told her about NYU, so we both felt comfortable making a tentative commitment to each other, knowing that it might not happen at all. As it turned out, she did get in to Berkeley, but I did not get into NYU. At that point I called David to see if his offer was still open. But by then he had given up on the house idea, and had committed to an apartment with two other guys, one from the list of law school classmates, and the other a graduate student who was a friend of the first guy. He apologized for not being able to offer me a place to live, but said that when I got to Davis, I was welcome to stay at that apartment as long as I needed to while I looked for a place of my own.

In early September I packed up my house in Cambridge, left my furniture with various friends, and drove across country in my Valiant convertible (which has its own Retrospect story), making overnight stops in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Gary, Indiana; Loveland, Colorado (staying at my sister’s house for a couple of days); and someplace I don’t remember on the border of Utah and Nevada. I had all my possessions packed in the trunk and back seat. Initially I went all the way to San Francisco, passing the exit for Davis on Interstate 80, both because I had a passenger who had agreed to share driving and expenses in exchange for being dropped off at a certain location in SF, and because there were friends of friends who had a nice house there and were happy to have me stay with them for a few days to do some sightseeing and recover from the cross-country drive.

Since I knew that David was still in San Francisco, I believe that I called him when I got there, and we spent an afternoon together seeing the sights, just before he moved up to Davis. When I talked to him while writing this story, he didn’t remember that, but conceded that it could have happened. I think it did, because I feel like I knew him well enough to be comfortable with him before I got to Davis. However, we’ll never know for sure.

After a few more fun days of being a tourist in San Francisco, I made my way to Davis and somehow found David’s apartment on a street called Pole Line Road (maybe my AAA TripTik had a detailed street map of Davis). I met his roommates, and spent the night on their living room couch. The next day it was time to find a place to live, and as quickly as possible because the couch wasn’t that comfortable. I knew that I didn’t want to live by myself, and that I needed a place that was furnished, because I hadn’t brought any of my furniture with me. My first stop was the UC Davis Housing Office, because looking for housing through a college housing office had worked so well for me in Cambridge when I needed a place to live after college. There was an entire wall where people had posted “roommate wanted” notices, so I started looking at those, and writing down names, addresses and phone numbers. I don’t remember how many I called or even how I called them. I think there must have been phones available in the Housing Office to make these calls. (Isn’t it funny how hard it is to remember how we functioned before cell phones? At least it is for me.)

I made several calls and most of them didn’t pan out, either because the person wasn’t home, the place had already been rented, it wasn’t available right away, or whatever. However, a woman named Diane (a) answered the phone, (b) sounded nice, and (c) said sure, come on over this afternoon. The address was 1111 J Street, which was reasonably close to campus.

Downtown Davis is laid out on a grid of letter streets that run north-south and number streets that run east-west. The northern border of the UC Davis campus is 5th Street and the eastern border is A Street (the beginning of the downtown area), so the 1100 block of J Street is 6 blocks north and 10 blocks east of campus. Too far to walk, but a 5-minute drive or 10-minute bike ride. Not that I had a bike, but that’s another story.

I drove over to J Street and looked for Eleven-Eleven. It was a sprawling complex of rectangular boxes, each one two stories tall with four apartments in it, two up and two down. (See Featured Image.) Her apartment, #101, was on the first floor of a building close to the parking lot. I parked my car, found the right door, and knocked. The young woman who answered, Diane, first informed me that her name was pronounced Dee-Ann, not Dye-Ann as one would expect. She said it in a friendly way though, since she was obviously used to people mispronouncing her name. She was attractive, about my height, with short dark hair and a perky smile. She showed me around the apartment, which had two bedrooms and one bath, a living room and an open kitchen area off the living room. Pretty basic, but it was fully furnished, and she had pots and pans, dishes, glasses, and cutlery, so I wouldn’t need to worry about any of those things. Also, the room was available now because her previous roommate had already moved out.

We sat down on the living room couch and talked for a while to get to know each other. She was not a law student, in fact she was not a student at all, she had just finished her master’s degree at UC Davis and was looking for a job. While I had initially thought living with another law student might be nice because we could study together, I could also see benefits to a roommate who was not freaking out from the pressures of law school. We had enough in common that I felt very comfortable with her, and apparently she did too, because she asked me to move in right on the spot. None of this “I have a few more people to see, I’ll let you know” business. I had a moment’s hesitation, because it was, after all, the first place I had seen and I had no idea what else was out there, but the moment quickly passed and I said yes.

Later I found out that she wanted me to move in that day because the rent was due the next day, and she didn’t have enough money in the bank to cover the full amount. She was very relieved when I accepted and would therefore write a check for half the rent.

She asked if I wanted to have dinner with her in the apartment. I told her that I was supposed to have dinner with the guy I was staying with, and she said, well, invite him to come to dinner too. I went back to David’s apartment to gather up the few things I had unpacked from my car. I told him I had found a place and was moving right in, and did he want to have dinner with my new roommate and me. He said sure.

I didn’t remember what Diane made for dinner, but both Diane and David reminded me when I talked to each of them (separately) a few days ago. It seems we had ham, which is pretty funny because all three of us are Jewish AND it was Rosh Hashanah!

Two years later Diane and David got married. They are still happily married 44 years later, with two children and three grandchildren. And since Diane was not a law student, indeed not a student at all, it is almost certain that they would never have met if it had not been for the chance encounter between Diane and me that resulted from an index card she posted in the UC Davis Housing Office.

Because it’s so cute, I’m ending with the gift that Diane embroidered for me for Chanukah that year. The design was inspired by the fact that when people asked me what my favorite hobby was, I generally said sleeping, so that is a picture of me in my bed having hobby time.

 

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: funny, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    A really charming “chance encounter” story with a very happy ending, Suzy. Since you had said early on that it didn’t change your life, it was fun going through the story and figuring out whose life(ves) would be changed. And terrific that you were able to check up with David and Diane while writing the story. (And very clever of you not to let on, when you first mention checking the story with David, that presumably you were also checking with Diane at the very same time.)

    The gift is terrific and I would agree that, for a lot of us during law school, sleeping — or anything not involving law – was a favorite hobby. But did you wear a hat like that to bed?

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, John, glad I created some mystery with my opening paragraph. And in answer to your question, of course! Doesn’t everyone wear a nightcap to bed? Or is it drink a nightcap before bed?

  2. Wonderful Suzy, and I love the happy ending! Did the two D’s start dating immediately? How long did you room with Diane?

    My cousin’s daughter Hannah graduated from Davis undergrad two years ago, and now lives and works in Sacramento. Hopefully I’ll visit you both post-pandemic!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Dana. I can’t remember how soon they started dating, I may have carried messages back and forth for a while. Diane and I roomed together for just one year, because the next year she got a job somewhere else and moved out of Davis. My roommates the next year were a disaster, so I really missed her!

      Would love to get together with you and Hannah post-pandemic, if that time ever comes.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    What a totally random chance encounter, Suzy. What were the odds that Diane and David would have found each other if not for a string of very random occurrences. Loved the happy ending to your story.

    • Suzy says:

      I know, there were so many steps along the way where things could have gone differently, and then Diane and David would probably never have met. Unless you believe it was kismet, and they would have found each other some other way.

  4. Marian says:

    Great to have a happy story, Suzy, and it’s fun how back then things happened fast, such as you moving right in with Diane. As John said in his comment, your story prompted me to think if I’d changed anyone’s life in a good way, and upon reading it I remembered that I contributed, albeit somewhat indirectly, to my BFF Penny meeting her husband. She was in the running for a job at IBM at the time and Tony (then her hiring manager, later her husband) called me as one of her references. I gave her a glowing recommendation, he hired her, and the rest is history.

    • Suzy says:

      I had all my possessions in my car, so it was easy to move right in. Do you think that wouldn’t happen now because she would want to check my credit rating? I don’t know how things work on college campuses nowadays. Nice to hear your story about Penny, not exactly a chance encounter, but definitely a situation where you changed someone’s life in a good way!

  5. What a delightful story, and I love the fact that you are still in contact with David and Diane. Finding a roommate from a listing on a bulletin board can be risky, and when you said that Diane didn’t have enough money to pay the rent the next day, I thought, “Uh-oh.” But I’m so glad that everything worked out in a wonderful way, and that those other people either didn’t answer the phone, had already rented their room, or were in some other way unsuitable. This gave destiny a chance to work its magic.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks for your sweet comment, Joan. I was really lucky that it worked out so well with Diane. The next year I lived with a law school classmate and another woman, and it was terrible, which made me realize even more what a great roommate Diane had been. I love your last sentence, about giving destiny a chance to work its magic.

  6. I’m with Joan…a little red flag went up the moment you mentioned that Diane didn’t have enough money to pay the rent the next day. I was expecting the story to turn on that note. You mentioned you learned that later…I wonder if you had known it at the time you might have thunk twice before moving right in. Even thinking about it overnight, and the story likely wouldn’t have become the perfect chance encounter story it is.

    You have a real gift for writing in a natural way that makes us feel like we’re along for the ride, Suzy…and I love love love that you still have the embroidered gift from Diane to sew it all up. (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

    • Suzy says:

      Barb, how interesting that you and Joan both focused on the point about the rent. Would that have influenced my decision if I had known at the time? I don’t think so, because I was eager to unpack my car after more than a week on the road, and I had a pretty good sense that we were compatible. But who knows?

      Thank you so much for your nice words about my writing, and also for appreciating Diane’s gift. I was undecided about whether to include the picture, but it’s just so typical of Diane to make something like that, I thought it would give readers a better idea of her personality.

  7. Betsy Pfau says:

    Suzy, a ‘meet-cute” story, told in a charming way. So glad things worked out for them. There were several little moments that you used to raise concern along the way: one was that David had already found a roommate, one was that Diane needed the rent check IMMEDIATELY, one was the dinner offer THAT night, though you had other plans (though of course that worked out well for all concerned).

    Your Chanukah gift from Diane is, indeed, charming and lovely that you include it here for all of us to admire. So glad it worked out well for everyone.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Betsy. You may remember Diane and David from my 2017 Beach story – they were the people I ran into in Maui who invited us to their seder in a suitcase. Another chance encounter, but with no long-term effects.

    • Suzy says:

      Mike, you are too funny! As you may have noticed if you have read many of my stories, I always try to use a song as my title. Sometimes it’s easy, but sometimes it takes me longer to find the song than to write the story! This one was in the latter category. It Was Meant 2 B is a song from 2018 by an artist called Kaytranada. It suggests that Diane and David’s relationship was meant to be.

  8. Wow! All it took was one 3 x 5 card and thou to get this couple together. Quite a bit of destiny there, compounded by the facts that they’re still together and you have all stayed in touch. Really a great story. I also liked reading and remembering the thrills and travails of finding places, roommates, et al. What a great answer to the hobby question. I’ve never had a hobby and never thought of anything I did as a hobby, but I also have never come up with a good answer to the question. Sleeping! Bravo! These days, I find sleep — in addition to all its benefits including dreaming — has become an excellent defense against the Trumpian nightmare and the ongoing vicissitudes of our pandemic. Thanks, Suzy!

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, it must have been destiny that made my previous rooming arrangements fall through so that this could happen. While I don’t see D&D that often, we always have a great time when we get together. The last time we visited them in Palo Alto (on a trip where we also saw John & Patti Zussman), Diane gave us some sourdough starter and detailed instructions for making sourdough bread, and we’ve been eating her sourdough ever since.

      As for my sleeping hobby, I don’t seem to be able to sleep nearly as much now as I did in my twenties. So it’s really fallen way down on my list of hobbies.

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