Going Far for Someone Close
By John Kelly
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page C09
More coincidences that will have you humming "It's a Small World After All":
A few years ago, Dave Nelson was touring Great Britain with his family. After they'd checked into an Edinburgh bed-and-breakfast late one night, the landlord said, "I have another family here from the States. I'll have to introduce you in the morning."
He did just that over a breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, sliced tomatoes, toast and marmalade. The other couple stood up and introduced themselves.
"Where in the States are you from?" the woman asked.
"Virginia," Dave said.
"My goodness!" the woman exclaimed. "So are we. Where in Virginia?"
"Charlottesville," Dave answered.
"Gracious!" the woman replied. "So are we! Where do you live in Charlottesville?"
"Dairy Road," Dave responded.
"Oh, good grief!" the woman gasped. "So do we!"
According to Dave, Dairy Road is a short street just north of the University of Virginia Rotunda.
"It has about two dozen houses. Our neighbors lived some eight houses north of us. On the same side of the street, even. We had never seen them before; nor did we ever see them again, for they moved out of their house -- a rental unit -- before we could bump into them a second time."
Dave says that everyone was shocked by this encounter. Everyone but the landlord: "Britons tend to think that if you live in, say, Charlottesville, you must know their cousins in St. Louis. For our Edinburgh B&B proprietor, it seemed, this encounter between Dairy Road residents was par for the course."
From Edinburgh, Scotland, to Zagreb, Croatia, where Anita Guberovic grew up: A boy named Mario lived in the block of buildings opposite her. The two went to elementary school together but after that were dispatched to different high schools. She often wondered what had become of him.
Years later, Anita was in Venice during Carnival.
"As much as I enjoyed the trip and the Venetian costumes, it turned out to be a very trying experience," Anita said. It seemed as if the entire world was crammed in the city's narrow streets. Getting around was hard and finding a restroom even harder. After searching for hours, Anita finally found a small restaurant that took mercy on tourists, letting people in to use the facilities even if they weren't customers.
"As usual, the line in front of the ladies' room was considerably longer," Anita said. So she headed straight to the men's bathroom. She pulled on the door, but it was occupied. After a few moments the door opened and out walked her long-lost neighbor and classmate, Mario.
"You can imagine my surprise that someone whose living room I could see through the kitchen window of my building . . . I would meet again in the super crowded streets of Venice swarming with people from all countries of the world."
Fairfax's Tina Mancuso said her father was "a typical deadbeat dad." She was 9 when her parents divorced, and he skipped out not long after that. "I saw him once in 1984, when I was 13," she said, "and then I never heard a word from him for the rest of my teenage years."
In 1993, she moved from New Jersey to Newark, Del., to live with her then-boyfriend.
"One day I noticed that a carnival had set up about a mile from our apartment," she said.
Tina and her boyfriend drove to the carnival, and while waiting to get on a ride she saw a familiar-looking man working at one of the game booths. She thought it might be her father but couldn't be sure; it had been nine years since she'd seen him last.
She approached the booth, but the man there gave no sign of recognition, even after she'd handed over some money and tried her luck. Tina and her boyfriend walked a safe distance away and tried to figure out what to do.
"I mean, how do you go up to a guy and ask him if he's your father?" Tina said. "I was about ready to turn away when my boyfriend said, 'Look, if you go up to him and it's not your father, you'll be a little embarrassed, but at least you'll know. But if you don't go up to him, you'll always wonder.'"
In the meantime, another carnival worker had taken his place, and the man Tina thought might be her father was walking away.
"Not knowing what else to do, I followed him to a small concession area, where he sat down at a picnic table. I took a deep breath, walked over, and said, 'Hi, you look like someone I used to know. Is your name Bob Mancuso?' He nodded and asked who I was.
" 'I'm Tina -- your daughter.' "
He jumped up and hugged her, as amazed as she was.
Reunited, the father and the daughter kept in touch. He sent letters and cards and called occasionally. And that's how Tina learned the following summer that he was going into the hospital for triple-bypass surgery. He didn't survive.
"Had I not met him at the carnival that day, I would probably never have seen him again or even known when he died," Tina said.
Tina said she hated moving to Delaware almost as soon as she got there. "But in the long run, I was very glad I did it. This was one of the most amazing coincidences I've ever seen in my life."
Join me at 1 p.m. today for my online chat. Go towww.washingtonpost.com/liveonline .
• Washington Post columnist John Kelly is raising money for the Children's National Medical Center, one of the nation's leading pediatric hospitals. You may make a tax-deductible contribution online anytime between Nov. 29th and Jan. 21st. Thank you for your support.