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Geoff's Improbable Event List

The following are a list of events I experienced that I considered to be very improbable:

The Kinkaku-ji Incident

In 2015, to celebrate my sister's recovery from her coma, I took her, one of her interested sons and my mother on a 2-week tour of Honshu, the main island of Japan. The sites they visited were bounded between Hiroshima and Tokyo. We intentionally started from Kyoto, as I find it to be the easiest transition for newcomers vs. Tokyo, especially if they are not used to a dense urban environment. On the morning of May 31, 2015, we made our way to Kinkaju-ji Temple. After slowly walking around the pond while staring at the Golden Pavilion and taking pictures, we hiked up the path on the hill to the north. Soon we came across the collection of rocks with Buddha faces that sit behind a bowl. Visitors over the years have made wishes and donations by tossing coins towards the bowl, resulting in a carpet of silver- and copper-colored coins. The extent of this metallic ground cover is influenced by the amount of time since the coins were last collected by the temple, weather (e.g., snow fall), number of visitors, etc. I have never tossed a coin on any of my visits, but my mother proceeded to remove a 1-yen coin from her purse, size up the situation and make a single overhand toss towards the bowl. If my mother had any skill in this area, it might have been from making underhand tosses at skee ball in the arcades when we were young; however, in no way had she any prior experience with a very light aluminum coin nor making an overhand toss into a bowl.

But this happened:

Unexpected Travel Companions

Several years after we had to move away from Grand Island because my father had acquired an ownership stake in a small manufacturer, we were on vacation in Massachusetts. We had pulled our travel trailer into a campground slot only to discover that folks in the camper in the next slot were friends from Grand Island. That particular day, the particular choice of campground, being assigned that specific empty trailer slot, and arriving early enough that it was still daylight and one could discover who the neighbors were are at least some of the things that had to be aligned. We toured Boston with them before the families had to go their separate ways once again.

Same Yamanote Line Train Car Door

I have helped chaperone a few trips of Ann Arbor middle school students to Japan. On a couple of the trips, some of the kids were accompanied by parent (or two) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, things did not go as smoothly as the 2008 trip when the students' teacher was the sole authority and they were used to following her directions. On the trips where the kids were accompanied by parents, the students ended up having to baby sit their English-speaking parents, which caused them to be frequently distracted. During one trip, one of the kids left his passport on the plane and was kindly allowed to enter Japan but faced with the problem of obtaining a replacement passport the very next day. He and his father were given directions to the US Embassy in Asakasa and told where the rest of trip participants would be in the afternoon. Later that day, the rest of the trip participants were in a crowded Yamanote Line car making our way to the final destination of the day, when, to everyone's surprise, the two missing members boarded our car at the doorway near which we had been standing in the center aisle. Given the crowded conditions, we would not have noticed them if they had boarded at any other door in the car. Taking into account variables such as the frequency of the Yamanote Line trains, the number of cars in each train, the number of doors in each car, the speed at which US government offices tend to accomplish work, etc., quite a lot had to be aligned for this to occur.

Undelivered Mail

When in Seoul, I always stay at the Lotte Hotel Seoul. I'm loyal to it for a few reasons:

A few years ago, I was met while getting off the KLM Shuttle Bus one evening by one of the bellhops, Ms. "Bae", and I was very impressed by her performance. After she saw me to my room and asked if I needed anything else, I said that I only needed to see her nameplate tag so that I could express my appreciation to the management. Good service without expecting cash to be handed over is a pleasant aspect of the culture, but also leaves one with limited options other than saying "thank you". Making an actual effort to express one's appreciation seemed a decent way to repay her efforts. When I returned to the States, I wrote the manager of the Lotte Hotel Seoul a letter that expressed how impressed I was with Ms. Bae's professionalism, put the appropriate stamp on the envelope and mailed it. Promise kept.

Unfortunately, about 3 months later, that envelope reappeared in my mailbox marked as undeliverable. It had spent a good amount of time in Seoul but managed to make the trip back to the United States in only about 3 days after they gave up trying to find the anything-but-obscure Lotte Hotel Seoul. Sorry ROK Postal Service, but I am not impressed. I will charitably say the delivery failure was improbable. And, editorially, I find your main post office in Seoul to be the most confusing place I have ever encountered. The postage stamp tiles up at 59 Ujeongguk-ro are pretty, though.

On my next trip to Seoul, almost exactly a year later from the previous one, I put the undelivered envelope in one of my camera bags. When I got off the KLM Shuttle Bus, I was (surprise) once again met by Ms. Bae and surrendered my luggage to her. When she dropped off my bags in my room and asked if I had been there before, I said "yes", pulled out the undelivered envelope and told her the tale. There was definitely a bit of shock on her face as it dawned on her that some customer had actually followed through on a promise, albeit unsuccessfully, and that I was still trying to make good on it a year later. She took the envelope and said she would deliver it to the manager on my behalf. I know that she did because, a few days later, a plate of fruit with a bottle of wine was delivered to the room:

Letter from hotel manager

The neighborhood around the Lotte Hotel Seoul may constantly evolve, but the hotel itself remains a class-act.