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  • Grace Wu

I(t) M(ust be) F(ate)

I hang out in Science teacher Mr. Lee’s classroom very often. He normally plays his music at a comfortable volume, and we engage in interesting conversations, so I enjoy spending time there. Just a couple of days ago, he said he believes there is no such thing as an “accident” or “chance” in life. Using a car accident as an example, he explained that individuals involved make conscious decisions leading up to the accident for the two parties to have met at the same time and place (albeit an unfortunate interaction, I thought). One person could have left his/her keys at home and arrived at the intersection thirty seconds later, and the accident would have never happened. A thoughtful look appeared on my face when he explained it, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

This past Sunday, Jing and I went to Dupont Circle for Eden’s birthday brunch. I slept too long (gee, thanks Daylight Savings), and we were running fifteen minutes behind our planned schedule as we were going to visit the farmer’s market before heading to the restaurant. As we exited the metro and were about to head up the escalator, I suddenly heard a “Jing!!” and turned around to see Emily waving to us. Coincidentally, she took the same metro as we did but in a different car.

Together, we explored the farmer’s market. I couldn’t help but zoom around from stand to stand, taking photos and admiring all the pastries, snacking on the numerous apple samples, impulse-buying some Brie and laughing at obnoxiously-large yams. I get really excited around food, and Emily and Jing had to continue walking forward to remind me we had a commitment to get to.

We crossed a street to get to more stands. All of a sudden, Emily paused in the middle of the crosswalk and said, “Isn’t that Christine Lagarde?” I whipped my head around, and lo and behold, I spotted a familiar face among the bustling crowds. I got really excited, and I had this look on my face ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) and proposed we go and take a picture with her. We crossed back the street and awkwardly hovered on one side of the walkway as she bought something from one of the stands. As she began to walk away, I shouted out, “Madame Lagarde?”

She turned, concealed shock upon her face, and I immediately ran up to her and her personal black shopping cart (the kind that my grandma has when she goes grocery shopping in the open-air markets) and blurted out, “We’re Holton girls! We are seniors, so we sat in the front rows during your talk on Monday.” A friendly smile immediately graced her face, and despite the cold morning, I suddenly felt warm all over. Emily and I were basically tripping over one another to utilize this opportunity to speak to her in person and telling her how much we admire her. Hearing her speak to the entire Upper School was already so cool, but here we were, speaking to her face-to-face. We discussed a little bit about her Holton experience (she said it’s our secret, so I can’t share it, sorry not sorry).

After a while, I saw her slowly inching away (I told myself that maybe she also had a commitment to attend to). Before she could escape from us weird fangirls, I requested to have a picture taken of all of us. She lovingly entertained us, and I quickly scanned the rapidly passing-by crowd of people. I had my eye on a young-ish woman, but Madame Lagarde said something and I momentarily lost focus, so I ended up asking the older woman behind the young woman to take a picture of us.

As I handed my phone to the woman, she suddenly started speaking French to Madame Lagarde, and my eyes nearly popped out of my head and I did the weird head-shaking thing you do when you do a double-take that involves two people. They know each other?! I forget the exact content of their quick exchange, but I understood what they were saying (thanks, Madame Guisset!). I said, “Vraiment?!” (apparently my favorite French to-go phrase), and Madame Lagarde looked at me and asked, “Tu parles français?” (You speak French?), to which I responded, “Un petit peu” (A little bit) and pinched my fingers together to visually show how little I knew, and she nodded her head approvingly. I gotta say, I never felt cooler than in that moment when I got to speak to one of the most powerful women in the world in her mother language.

We took our pictures (“Deuxième,” her friend said, indicating she took two photos), and we profusely thanked Madame Lagarde as she hurried off to attend to her busy schedule. As we returned to walk in our original direction, we gleefully giggled about our fateful encounter. What are the CHANCES of running into her on the street?!

If we hadn’t had the Women and Power summit on Monday and if she hadn’t been the keynote speaker, we wouldn’t have recognized her face.

If Eden hand’t had her birthday brunch at that exact day and time, then we wouldn’t have been in D.C. to begin with.

If Jing hadn’t gone with her Singaporean friends to this Sunday farmer’s market months ago, then she wouldn’t have known about it, and we wouldn’t have gone at all.

If I hadn’t oversleep that morning, then we would have taken different metro trains than Emily.

If Emily had decided to take the other escalator exit, then she wouldn’t have “seen Jing’s shape” (her words, not mine) and joined us to the farmer’s market.

If Emily hadn’t been at the farmers market, then we would have missed Madame Lagarde because Emily was the one who spotted the beloved alumna.

If I hadn’t bought my lemon scone and Brie, then the market-dawdling timing would have been different and we could have missed Madame Lagarde.

If I had asked the younger woman to take a picture of us, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show off my conversational French skills to Madame Lagarde.

If my parents hadn’t given me a French middle name, then I wouldn’t have felt a personal connection to the language and started learning it, so even if everything else did happen, I wouldn’t have been able to appear cool (for about three seconds) in front of Madame Lagarde.

And who knows? Madame Lagarde must have made numerous decisions that morning that allowed the timing for us four to all meet at the farmer’s market on an overcast Sunday morning as well.

Admittedly, I will say I was wondering where her security personnel were. On Monday, I noticed a man in a suit standing by the left theater doors during Madame Lagarde’s talk, and my friends and I concluded he must had been there for her safety. However, maybe she is allowed to be a normal person on the weekends and go grocery shopping at her local farmer’s market by herself. After all, she is still a human.

Thanks to fate, I got to meet one of my idols (for anyone who can’t relate to how excited I still am, imagine you just ran into your favorite artist on the street), and I will probably never stop talking about this extremely fun morning.

Mr. Lee, I no longer doubt your belief in “accidents” in the world.

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