Since apparently some people think this bl0g has become too much of a "meta-travelogue", I thought I'd post something a little more introspective. I was walking from work to the bus stop to head 'back home' to Oxford from Cambridge yesterday when I bumped into somebody I knew from teaching on a course. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and then made plans to hang out some time. Coincidentally she's from Newton, so that "some time" could either be while we're both in MA for Christmas or when we're both back in Cambs.
This kind of chance encounter is one of my favourite types of surprise. I had another one a month or two ago when I was walking through Kendall Square and bumped into a friend from the 'tute that I hadn't seen in a while. Another time when these happen often is around conference times, when planes from all destinations toward the conference city are packed with scientists. On my connecting flight from JFK to San Diego in October, for instance, there were five or six people I knew and a handful more with poster tubes who looked suspiciously nerdy. It always make me think more broadly about how many near misses there probably are (somebody you know boards the train in front of you, or pays the bill at a restaurant just before you walk in). In some places, at least, it's a small world.