Have you ever thought about how the meeting of two people affects the world around them?
Consider a man and a woman in their thirties who know nothing about each other, walking in opposite directions towards one another in the middle of the city. Let’s call them Derek and Susan. Suddenly Derek trips on a crack in the pavement, and falls over just in front of Susan. She stops to help him up, they smile, and after an awkward moment of silence she asks him out for a cup of coffee. Ten minutes later they sit in a café, she’s having a latte and he’s having espresso. When they leave, Derek asks for her phone number. She jots it down on a note, and gives him a peck on the cheek. He says he will call her, but he never does.
So how has this short meeting affected the surroundings?
First off, the stumbling in the street:
Unaware to Susan, Jake, a pickpocket were just about to snatch her wallet from her unintentionally open purse when she suddenly stops to help Derek up. When bending down, Susan’s purse slides down her shoulder and out of reach for Jake, who has to leave empty-handed. A blessing in disguise for the tired pickpocket, who otherwise would get caught using Susan’s credit card, starting a downward spiral that would ultimately lead to his demise.
Second, on the way to the café:
Short on cash, Susan stops by a cash dispenser. Derek offers to pay for her coffee, but she declines with a wry smile. Jonathan, a young film student next in line gets inspired by this scene, writes a blockbuster and dies four years later from an overdose of heroin, blinded by his own success.
Third, at the café door:
At the door they bump in to Betty, an old classmate of Susan. Betty is in a hurry, but since they haven’t seen each other in fifteen years, they chat for about two minutes before she rushes off. That is enough for her to miss her bus, having to wait for another 20 minutes. At the bus stop she meets Kevin, another classmate from the same class as Betty. They sit next to each other on the bus, laughing and remembering the old times. At his stop he asks her to come by his place. Having forgotten why she was in a hurry in the first place, she blushingly says that she’d like that. A year later, they have a baby girl named Fiona.
Fourth, at the café:
Jenny, an exchange student from who works part-time at the café, takes their order. When preparing Derek’s espresso, she accidentally puts her hand on a hot part of the espresso maker, scalding two of her fingers. Studying music and playing the violin, she won’t be able to perform on the next school concert. If she would have played at the concert, a talent scout would have discovered her, and she would release two mediocre albums in her music career. Instead, she works full-time at the café after graduating.
Fifth, when leaving the café:
Outside the café sits Elton, a homeless man. He asks the couple for change. Thinking he will only use it for drugs or booze, both Derek and Susan ignore him. Elton freezes to death the very same night, not being able to afford shelter.
Sixth, when Derek gets home:
When Derek gets home, his wife Kate is already there. She usually gets home about two hours later than Derek, and is used to having Derek meet her at the doorstep every day. She is just about to ask him where he has been when she sees the slight lipstick mark on his cheek. Instead of asking him about it, she doesn’t say a word the rest of the evening. Later that night when Derek has fallen asleep, she cuts off his penis with a kitchen knife, Lorena Bobbitt-style. In the aftermath, she doesn’t believe Derek when saying him and Susan only had a coffee, so she tells him she wants a divorce, moves to another town and lives a miserable life. The doctor’s not being able to re-attach his penis, so does Derek.
Seventh, at Susan’s place:
A week after they’ve met, Derek still hasn’t called Susan. This is of course because Derek is in the hospital with a chopped off penis. But Susan doesn’t know that, and simply thinks that he has ditched her. This frustrates her, and she unconsciously takes it out on her work as a business negotiator for a software company. This proves however to be a successful method, and she takes the company to new heights using her anger at men in general as a mental negotiation method. She writes a book about it, gets rich from it, and lives out the rest of her days with a mute Japanese named Takeshi. “If they can’t speak, they can’t lie”, she humorously says to her friends.
So what can we learn from this short story about two people having coffee together? That everything we do affect other people. It sets in effect events too small for us to notice, but events start other events which in the end might change the world as we see it.
That’s something to think about the next time you have a cup of coffee with someone.
The above was written as part of a school project I did some years ago. Discussing chaos theory with M yesterday, I came to think of it and thought I should post it.