1754: coined by Horace Walpole, suggested by The Three Princes of Serendip, the title of a fairy tale in which the heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.
So, here is what happened:
Sept 18, 2013-I had a morning errand and returned home. I was getting low on fuel and was trying to decide if I should go back out and get $20 worth of gas (most of the money I had) or just add $10 and maybe go get a cup of coffee, maybe a breakfast sandwich, too. The sandwich won and I pulled in to the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop.
As I was backing out of my parking space, my car stalled out. But it started right up again, so I proceeded, wondering if I should take the first right turn into a neighborhood. It is a shortcut in miles, but it takes longer My rear license plate had been stolen a few weeks back and it’s a nuisance to pull out my copy of the police report that I filed. The neighborhood route would be the more “police free” selection.
I decided on the cop avoidance route and made my right hand turn into the neighborhood. I was stunned silly by the sight of a patrol car not five feet up the block. They were in the middle of pulling over a long haired Caucasian Rastafarian (really). I figured they were busy, so my odds were excellent for gliding right on past them without incident. Unfortunately, just as I got door to door with them, my car died. It totally died. I kept turning the ignition but the engine just wouldn’t fire up.
They finished up with Mr. Thousand Braids and then approached me. I got out of my car and shrugged my shoulders at the first cop. I could see that the second one was punching something up on a little hand held device. I offered up that the back plate had been stolen. He smiled and said that’s what he was just checking on. He explained to me that my car would have to be moved. I was blocking the street and he gave me all of my options, all of which were expensive.
All of that is strange enough. But it gets more strange. Officer number two…there was something about him. I started talking to him, asking him questions. I’d say that he was in his early to mid thirties, blond, slender, medium height. I keep wracking my brain, trying to remember how I got him to talk to me, but this man, in perfectly executed English, told me that he actually grew up in Russia. I was so shocked. He had no trace of an accent. Nothing. I have studied many languages, including Russian, and I have a very good ear. I would have thought that he had grown up on the mid west. He was perfectly “American” in every possible way…absolutely flawless in every aspect
I marveled at the perfection of his entire American personna. I found myself saying to him, “So, Mr. KGB, where did you learn to speak such perfect English? What part of Russia are you from?” He smiled and said, “Moscow…the language training there, it’s very good.”
But then it became more strange. I asked him what precinct he was attached to. He answered “Wilshire Division”. My heart stopped beating. No way…the division that houses Traffic West. Traffic West is the investigating unit handling the Michael Hastings case. To be certain, I asked him where his precinct was located. “On Venice Blvd., right near La Brea. ”
“Aren’t you from the division that responded to the Hastings’ crash?”, I asked. He said that he had no idea but it was possible. I followed up with “Is there a Detective White there with you?” The look on his face changed. I saw a glimmer of recognition when he heard the name. “Everybody has different shifts…maybe”. Then, he and his partner got behind my car and physically pushed it (with me inside steering) into a neighboring parking lot and into a parking space.
That should be the end of all this serendipity, but no. The final leg of my ordeal involved walking home a very long distance. Toward the end of the ridiculous hike, everything was hurting quite a bit, especially my feet. I wear very high heels to compensate for my lack of height.
I decided to focus my eyes on the ground so that the psychology of the distance that I still had to go would not get the upper hand. Then, I noticed something that I had never noticed before. I was passing by these little security cages that looked identical to the one that reportedly came off the median on Highland. I stopped and touched one. It was made of metal and was painted that same shade of green as the damaged one photographed from the Hastings’ crash. They were, indeed, bolted into those concrete rectangles. I pulled out my camera and snapped a photo. This one was less than three feet tall. The cage from Hastings’ looked much bigger. But why would it be?
After I finally arrived home, I began to give considerable thought to what had just been granted me by pure fate. The two officers had been incredibly kind and helpful. I make Spanakopita several times a year. People seem to enjoy it, so I called in to Wilshire Division to find out if a gift of Greek spinach pie would be acceptable. To my surprise, I was put through to the Watch Lieutenant. He welcomed me over, so I cooked up a big batch and drove them over.
The Lieutenant came out to speak to me. He let me know how nice it felt to have somebody who had a positive comment and promised me that he was adding a note to the officers’ files. As I prepared to leave, he pointed out a stack of flyers and urged me to take one. “We are having an open house on Sunday. You are welcome to attend.” I smiled and took a copy of the flyer. Tomorrow is Sunday! It would be wonderful if Detective White attends.
What, you might ask, caused my car to completely die on the street that day? The timing belt broke along with the balance belt and the timing sensor. Indeed, timing is everything.