When chance is a cable bill by Keysha Whitaker


Photo by Tyler Merbler

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.

Package lineups.

Old charges.

New charges.

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:

Christine Whitaker
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.

But Whitaker?

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.

A coincidence?

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.




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