What’s the Good Word? SERENDIPITY

By Scherryl Antoniadis

It was New Year’s Eve, San Francisco, 1978.  My roommate, Lynne, and I were going to join a group of friends for a quick drink, followed by a late-night dinner to ring in the new year.

We agreed to meet at a neighborhood hangout called the ‘Final, Final’ — aptly named as it is the last bar before you get on the Golden Gate Bridge.   We were regulars at the ‘Final, Final’ for a number of reasons:  it was walking distance from our apartment, the owners were friends of ours, and a number of our friends played on the bar’s softball team.

Everyone arrived at the appointed time and in a celebratory mood.  We had our drink and lots of laughs, and were about to head out to dinner when, unexpectedly, more friends showed up.  They insisted that we stay for another drink and, of course, we didn’t want to be rude, so . . .

To make room for the newcomers our friend Sean and I started looking around for more chairs.  I approached a table occupied by two elderly gentlemen and asked the man closest to me if we could use their extra chairs; he smiled and said that we should help ourselves.  As I moved one of the chairs to our table, Sean asked me why I didn’t say hello to the other man at the table.  I gave him a quizzical look and he then informed me that I had just asked Joe DiMaggio’s drinking buddy for a chair.  I hadn’t looked at the second man at the table until then but, sure enough, it was Joltin’ Joe!  It was pure serendipity.

[SERENDIPITY:  a noun that describes the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought after; good fortune; luck.]

Now I have never been a groupie, but I mean . . . it was Joe DiMaggio, one of my father’s heroes!  I simply had to get his autograph.  When I told Lynne what I was about to do, she jumped up and began to dig her camera out of her handbag.  Unlike me, she was always on the hunt for celebrities and carried a camera everywhere in case she spotted one of the “rich and famous.”  We teased her mercilessly about her habit over the years, but I cannot describe how thrilled I was that she – true to form – had her camera with her on this particular evening.  (For you younger readers, a camera is a gadget that was used to take photographs in the olden days — you know, before cell phones.)

The two of us quickly gathered up our courage and headed for Joe’s table (I’m referring to him as “Joe” at this point because I can just feel that we’re about to become BFFs).  We stood off a bit to wait for a break in their conversation.  When it came, we apologized for the interruption, briefly explained how much my Dad had always admired him, and then respectfully asked if we could bother him for an autograph. He smiled and graciously agreed to sign the bank deposit slip I laid on the table; odd, I know, but it was the only paper I could find on such short notice.

As “Joe” was so amiable about our request, we thought we’d press our luck and ask him for a picture.  To our delight, he readily agreed and one of our buddies snapped this photo. Our mission accomplished, we thanked him and went back to our party.

Mr. DiMaggio and his friend left shortly afterward . . . I’m certain it was just coincidence and had nothing at all to do with us.

The following day I could not wait to call Dad and tell him all about our evening.  He was excited for us and said he wished that he could have been there.  On my next trip home, I surprised Dad with the autograph and picture; they instantly became two of his most prized possessions.

Another of my favorite serendipitous moments occurred when my husband, Kimon, and I were at the PGA Pro-Am in Pebble Beach a number of years ago.  Even though I am not a golfer, I do enjoy attending these kinds of tournaments.  And as far as my hubby is concerned, a perfect day would be comprised of four hours of playing golf, followed by five hours of watching it on TV, interrupted only for snack breaks.

At this particular tournament Kimon wanted to get some autographs on one of the many caps in his collection.  Throughout the day he did manage to collect several signatures from both the pro and celebrity golfers, but he was still hoping for an opportunity to get one from Jack Nicklaus – one of his favorite players.

After following a number of groups for a few hours, we decided to move to the 18th hole so we could watch each of them as they finished their rounds.

We positioned ourselves close to the tent where the players are required to turn in their scorecards.  We enjoyed the action from here for a few minutes before Kimon announced that he was going to get us another bottle of water.  As luck would have it, he had barely walked away when Jack Nicklaus came out of the tent.  In an instant I was surrounded by a swarm of young boys jockeying for his autograph.  I was trapped, so I just stood there and waited for the group to disperse. Suddenly, though, I found myself face to face with “the world’s greatest golfer.”  He looked up at me and asked if I wanted him to autograph my program, which I was absent-mindedly holding in my hand.  Even though I was really just waiting for my better-half to return, I smiled and said that that would be great.

Kimon soon returned from his ill-timed water run, and I immediately related my serendipitous moment with his idol.  He was, of course, crushed to have missed his opportunity to get an autograph; but he was very happy that at least I was able to nab one.  Together, we truly experienced “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” that day!

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