Jesse Jarnow

three convergences en route to park slope to meet matt for dinner

1. Waiting for the L-train, listening to “Madame George” by Van Morrison. “Get on the train,” Morrison croons, exactly as the subway’s headlight appears down the tunnel. “This is the train.” Sure is.

2. Pulling into Union Square, the delay pedal faux-ambience of “Birth Ritual,” Soundgarden’s contribution to Cameron Crowe’s Singles soundtrack, starts swirling. The doors open, and a bagpipe player on the platform contributes to the cacophony, building dissonantly until the exact moment the doors close and the band headbangs their way into the song.

3. On the F-train, somewhere near the Gowanus Canal, Brian Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” comes on. “And after I felt this was going on too long,” says an interview subject in an essay about cell phone usage I’m reading, “I suddenly changed the topic.” “Rescuers row row,” Eno sings cheekily, “do your best to change the subject.”

Given enough inputs — the stimulus of urban life, a book to read, an iPod to listen to — coincidences are bound to occur. “Any sufficiently advanced technology,” Arthur C. Clarke declared, “is indistinguishable from magic,” and the shuffle mode’s particular magic seems to be its catalytic abilities: its way of seemingly organizing chaos into something neatly packaged. In a way, it is both artificial and disarming, but it is also a sleight-of-hand that rarely fails to dazzle.

I cannot recall the last time I saw a bagpipe player in the subway.