In all the decades I’ve been getting a cable bill, I never read it. If I bothered to open it, I just glanced at the Total Amount Due and shredded it – after 18 weeks in the junk paper pile. When I started getting electronic bills and went on auto-debit, I didn’t even bother to open the emails.
Today, the start of my second month in a new apartment, I receive a bill in the mail since I hadn’t yet signed up for e-bills. I open the letter and thumb through the pages.
Terms and conditions.
A letter from the company explaining an upcoming increase.
The letter interests me. I decide that I could use it in my upcoming technical writing course – any reason to justify why I don’t have anything better to do than read a form letter from a cable company.
At the end, the sender’s name snatches my breath:
Regional Senior Vice President
I stare at the last name, my last name. It’s not a common one like Jones or Smith. In a supermarket on any given Saturday morning, there are two Joneses in produce and one in the bread aisle. And if your last name is Smith, you have no right to a unique existence.
I could count on no hands the number of times I’d been in a class, a room, a group, with someone who shared my last name.
Here I was, on this generic ass day, opening a cable letter addressed to me by someone with my last name in a state that I never should have been in, in the first place.
It’s a coincidence, I say, trying to unspook myself.
What is the probability of that?
I try to see past it, but all I do see are dots that I can’t connect. Signs that offer no clear signal.
I fold the letter and put it on top of the pile.
It’s not like this was supposed to happen, I say. I know it’s a random chance.
I just didn’t know when chance became improbable.