It’s a small world

by Becky

I was in New Orleans recently for a long weekend, and it turned out that a good friend from high school and college who lives about 900 miles from me and whom I haven’t seen in at least a decade was staying in the same hotel as me. We were able to meet in the lobby for a drink and catch up. It was a delightful coincidence.

Share your “small world” stories!


78 thoughts on “It’s a small world

  1. I can’t think of any small world stories. The closest I can get is that I have a doppelganger. I had to drop off some paperwork at an office building in the financial district. As I walked out of the building a guy was walking in and we looked at each other like WTF? But we both kept walking. I walked out and his wife or girlfriend was getting in the car and she said – did you forget something? Then she did a double take then stared for a second then said, “Oh sorry.” and got in the car and drove away. I’ve also gotten texts from friends who have seen him in passing.

  2. Not long ago, one evening after work, I headed to the subway as I usually do and got on. As I’m squishing into a very packed subway car (its rush hour), I hear “Aunt Kerri?”. I look up and the guy I’m trying to get by is my oldest nephew, who lives in another state. He was in town visiting his girlfriend. Now, that subway station is a main hub in the city and I take a popular subway line, but really, what are the chances of being in the same subway car with my nephew who just happened to be in town?

  3. No small world or doppleganger stories. I know that right after college and early in my professional career, I was out and about more and found myself running into more people I knew in what then seemed like odd places. In the past decade or so, that has happened less frequently, though I think my world overall tends to be smaller now.

  4. Some of my friends and I have an axiom about how there are only 120 people in the world, because we keep running into each others’ friends. But that really just shows that I live in a super-tight bubble filled with 50-something white people with too much education, a leftist bent, and a preference for the California coast. My friends who went to SLACs all know each other. For some reason I know more than half a dozen Reed graduates.

  5. The only weird coincidence I can think of is that during the summer, my daughter created an Instagram account to which I had access (this was part of the deal whereby I bought her a smartphone). When checking out her friends, I noticed one that I was sure was not a school friend. So I delved in a little more, and realized the girl’s photo seemed familiar. I couldnt place it though for a while, but then I realized the kid had posted photos from a visit in Argentina, a country I knew my cousin had recently visited. And something hit me – the kid in the photos looked a lot like my cousin’s kid, someone I have never met in person but have seen photos of. But I couldn’t be sure until I saw a name on one of the drawings posted – and it was the same name. Now my daughter has never met my cousin or her kid, and I am not sure she even knew she had a cousin on that side. The cousin’s kid didn’t realize either. So how did they hook up? I think it may have been because her Instagram uses a gmail account that is tied to my gmail account, and maybe the friend recommendation algorithm picked up my cousin’s email address. Anyway, it turned out my cousin didn’t even know her kid, who was 11, had set up an Instagram account!

  6. Once I joined Facebook, I was able to locate a lot of high school friends that I had lost touch with, and have even gotten together with some IRL. I think that is one of the truly nice things about Facebook.

  7. I can’t think of any good stories. My only contribution is that, coming from the state that I think has the highest percentage of personalized license plates, it’s shocking how often you’ll encounter the same cars on the road, but you’d otherwise have no way of realizing it. But I see the same vanity plates all the time.

  8. Facebook will surprise me when I realize that someone I know from one aspect of my life is “friends” with someone from an entirely different sector. I always want to comment…”wait.,,you guys know each other???”

  9. When I moved to my current city, I discovered that my friend from school who I had not seen since we left school in the home country lived here. I found this out through another school friend of mine. We got together but unfortunately she moved away right after. Our kids were close in age too, unlike my other home country friends who mostly have college aged or older kids at this point.

  10. A few years ago were were at Yellowstone National Park. We were hiking on one of more obscure trails, that didn’t have a lot of people on it, and we ran right into a family that lives a block away from us in our little Massachusetts town.

  11. I ran into a client of mine (who lives in a different part of the country from me) in a restaurant in Iceland. She was vacationing with her family. It was very funny. I joked I was going to write off our entire trip as business development.

  12. We were at the Grand Canyon on spring break one year, waiting in line at the visitor center. As we turned to leave, we realized that the group behind us in line was a family that we knew from our kids’ nursery school days. We made plans to meet up when we got home, and we’ve been seeing each other regularly since then.

    Another time, we were in DC visitng our VA friends and we stopped in at our congressman’s office to see if we could get tickets to tour the Capital. One of the aides instructed us to sign the guest book. My friend said, this is wierd . . . you’re already signed in. Turns out, DH’s brother and his family were there, too, in another part of the office. Neither of them had any idea that we’d be there at the same time, 300+ miles away from home.

    Another time, I was on a ski trip with DH and friends in Colorado. We were riding a shuttle bus to get to one of the ski areas, and at one of the stops, on walks a former BF. He saw me and I saw him, but we didn’t take it any further. DH and I just gotten engaged, and the breakup with that old BF was not pleasant. I was thankful to be in a much better situation!

  13. I have a similar story to Kerri’s. DH and I were in NYC about 5 years after college. The subway was really full, and I made DH go to a different car. When we got on, I heard someone say “tcmama?” and it was a college teammate. She was about the only person I knew in NYC too. If we had gone in the car that DH wanted to, we wouldn’t have seen her.

  14. My mom remarried when I was 13 and we moved ~10 miles away to a different town. 5yrs later moving into my dorm I got onto the elevator with a girl who I had gone to school with thru 7th grade in the old town. I recognized her immediately (probably mostly because I had the biggest crush on her from about 5th grade on…we were friends but never anything more) and simply said “Hi, [name].” Blew her away. Crush having long been crushed, we now each had someone we knew to pal around with those first few weeks of college.

    When I started my first job out of business school, day 1, I was trying to look busy and saw this guy who looked very familiar. Turns out we had lived on the same dorm floor 6-7 years before in undergrad though we ran with different crowds. We worked together for ~10 years when our paths diverged.

  15. These stories remind me of being at Disney one time and running into a co-worker. Her kids were a bit older than mine. Though to be fair it was a less busy time and our city had gotten out of school earlier than most in our state and other states.

  16. I have one story that kind of fits into this, am looking forward to reading everyone else’s later.

    When my son was 5, we were in Berlin for a research grant I’d gotten. While we were outside at a fair, the sky broke open in the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard in Germany. It very quickly started to rain, rain hard, and then HAIL. I have never seen hail in Germany before or since. We ran to the U-Bahn, as did everyone else. Wet and cold, I contemplated where to go with my little boy. Returning to the hotel would mean walking through the rain. I had a babydoll T-shirt I could put on over my tank top, but nothing for him.

    Then I heard a voice from the other end of the train, calling my name “Dr M. Dr S and M” The speaker came walking up to us; it took me forever to catch on that it was the guy I’d been so in love with while living in Berlin. He was on his way to work, and had a shirt with him, to change into when he got there. He gave it to me, I gave it to my son. Aaaaaaall better, warm and cozy, both of us! And he told me that the massive construction site that had been going on the whole 3 years I lived in Berlin had turned into a mall with an entrance directly off the subway station. We went there, got the kiddo a shirt at Benetton (ikr?), had a bite to eat, and went home in the sunshine.

  17. Well, we call it “Smalltimore” for a reason. My favorite is when we were interviewing a guy who was living and had gone to college/law school on the West Coast, worked in the Alaskan fisheries, etc. I have no idea how we even got talking about it, but it turned out his best friend in HS was the son of my favorite (and highly memorable) HS English teacher. He was the one who made the connection, because he actually remembered his friend’s mom talking about me.

    We also recently discovered that one of DD’s quartet-of-friends in her engineering club is the daughter one of my old HS volleyball teammates. But that’s less of a surprise than it is an illustration of the rubber-band effect my hometown has.

    When DD was little, she was such an extrovert that our joke was that wherever we went, we always ran into someone she knew. One time up in Taos, my mom and stepdad took her to a playground, and sure enough, she ran into a friend from daycare. It really felt like it was DD’s world, and we were just allowed to inhabit it.

  18. “When I started my first job out of business school, day 1, I was trying to look busy and saw this guy who looked very familiar. Turns out we had lived on the same dorm floor 6-7 years before in undergrad though we ran with different crowds. We worked together for ~10 years when our paths diverged.”

    I did have something similar happen to me at a conference. I ran into a guy who had been in my first computer science course with me. This was a fairly big course, with about 100 kids in it. He recognized me – I didn’t remember his name at all but once we got to talking I was able to place him. The best part was that he knew why the professor suddenly disappeared from the school about a year later – he had been harrassing several of the undergrad women in his class. I was glad to see that even back then, some schools took that crap seriously.

  19. Oops–meant to say I put his shirt on and gave mine to my son. Anyway, it was a perfect little reunion. I had lost track of his before then, but saw him several times when we moved to a town 2 or 3 hours outside of Berlin a year later.

  20. ” that our joke was that wherever we went, we always ran into someone she knew” My dad used to say that to my mom about her cousins, all over the country. Whenever they went somewhere new, she looked up her last name in the phone book. One of her relatives, like an uncle once removed or something, lived in Amarillo when we were in the Panhandle.

    MM, good to hear that it was taken so seriously! I remember a friend who was teaching an intro course at an engineering uni in Germany in the early 90s. He told me that it was quite usual for girls to be pelted with spitballs and paper airplanes in class. Looking back, I can’t recall if he said he put an end to that or not.

  21. I never changed my name and several of my close friends are people from my work life. When I met DH, two of my friends were already his friends. We each met them in different times in our lives/cities/jobs etc. One person never realized it was me until we met her for drinks as a couple because our last names were different. This is all pre social media, so it was much harder to snoop and find connections.

    I’ve actually been surprised that it took over a decade of hanging with all of you for someone I know from work to meet someone from the blog. I’m on linked in and facebook so I know this is the first time that I’ve seen a match. I live very close to a couple of regulars, and our lives have only collided one time when a young man tragically died.

  22. Brush every night, don’t let the bedbugs bite
    The ones I’m referring to
    Till I get home I’ll be
    Keeping my eye on you.

    Don’t stay out late, stay home and cogitate,
    And write me a letter too,
    While I’m away I’ll be
    Keeping an eye on you.

    May I suggest that you screen your calls
    And just make the most of your own four walls
    Unless that flashing message light means “me”
    And then R.S.V.P.

    Don’t be surprised, if roses should arrive
    But first ascertain from who.
    No matter my grammar, I’m
    Keeping my eye on you.

    Pray to some saint, don’t let any old acquaint…
    Ance convince you his heart’s still true.
    Until I get home I’ll be
    Keeping my eye on you.

  23. I had another incident when I was in Glasgow for work and was going to dinner with some colleagues. Crossing the street to go into the restaurant, someone I knew was in the crosswalk heading the other direction.

    Also, on a cruise we took, when we got to the wine tasting event there was a mom from daycare that I used to chat with everyday when we spent our lunches in the baby room. It was out of Galveston so not hugely unlikely, but still a fun chance meeting.

  24. I’m enjoying hearing these stories.
    Many years ago at my brother’s college graduation we were taking pictures in front of a campus landmark and the group standing next to us turned out to be our old neighbors. They had moved out of state 12 years earlier (and were still living out of state) and their son was graduating from the same school. In the almost 6 years that my brother was there he never once ran into or recognized his old elementary school friend (school approx. 15,000 students).
    Last year I was attending my DD’s classroom party and I got talking to another mom. Turns out she went to my HS (in a different state than we live in now), was a few years older than me but knew my brother, and we have mutual friends. Her DD and my DD are now good friends. She also apparently lived in same house of neighbor story above (different family obvs) but had moved out of the neighborhood prior to starting elementary school.

  25. During a visit to Carnival in Venice during my college Jr year abroad, I literally bumped into a girl I went to high school with at Piazzo San Marco. We were going opposite directions through the sea of people following our respective groups of friends. We could only say “hi.”

  26. I went to high school in a small town in Vermont. I eventually ended up in Seattle; my parents also moved away from Vermont so I lost touch with some of my high school friends (this was pre-Facebook). In my mid-20’s when I was in Seattle, I ran into one of my high schools friends on the bus into work – she had also moved to Seattle. It was so wonderful to reconnect.

    I agree with MM – being able to stay connected with some high school and college friends is one of the truly nice things about Facebook. Especially since I now live on the other side of the country from where I went to high school and college.

    Also in college (on the east coast), I ran into someone I had gone to elementary school in CA. She said she recognized me because I looked just the same as I did in 5th grade.

    We’ve also run into people the kids know when we’re on vacation in Arizona and Hawaii – but since a good part of Seattle flees in search of sunshine during school breaks, that is less surprising.

  27. This sort of small world thing happens here a lot, because it’s really a small island and a small state. E.g., it turns out DS knows a couple of HM’s relatives pretty well, and I’m sure if we looked hard enough, HM and I could identify others we know in common.

    But I also have a bunch of small-world experiences that happened outside this state, although most involved people from here.

    One happened here in this blog. WCE related a story told by someone she knew, the exact same story I’d heard earlier. Of course, that’s because it was told by the same person; she and I know someone in common.

  28. During our first trip out of state, with our kids:

    -At Legoland, we encountered one of DS’ preschool classmates, whose parents worked in the same office as I did at the time.

    -In the line to get into Disneyland, we saw one of DW’s co-workers and his family. That was the first time I met him; now he works in the same office as I do, and I see him regularly.

    -Inside Disneyland, we saw one of DS’ kindergarten classmates and her family. We didn’t know it at the time, but her younger twin sisters would later become good friends with DD.

  29. “At Legoland, we encountered one of DS’ preschool classmates, whose parents worked in the same office as I did at the time. ”

    These sorts of things are less surprising when you consider that it was probably a time period when your office’s workload could support vacations, many of you are similarly aged with similarly aged children, you’re all of a demographic that purchases LEGO products (they’re kind of expensive), you can all afford the expensive travel and admission to a place like LEGO land.

    This is by NO MEANS meant as a jab or snark, but for similar reasons, when it seems (to me, at least) that all of a sudden, everyone who reads the NYT started going to Iceland, I’m not surprised that Lark ran into a client there. Lots of the same type of people are going to Iceland, and there’s probably a lot of overlap/correlation regarding what sites they visit.

    It’s kind of like that team building exercise they like to do in some corporate conferences. You get X number of people together in a room, and suddenly it’s very, very likely that two people will share a birthday. (And X is not as high as you would probably guess).

    My brother took a Disney cruise a few years ago during the specific week of “Fall Break” that their school district allocated. They said the ship was like a big unexpected reunion of so many people from school, neighborhood, teams, church, whatever.

  30. Milo, that’s true about the likelihood of them going to the same place. But once they’re there, milling about Ponte Rialto & San Marco Square & where ever, what are the chances of running into each other?

  31. Those two specific people? Not very good. But SOMEONE that they know? Much, much higher.

    That’s the key point with all of these things. When we say “OMG, what were the chances of me running into my second grade teacher from Iowa in Grand Central Terminal of all places???”

    Pretty damn low.

    But what you’re really asking is what were the chances of me running into ANYONE I knew and would recognize, or anyone someone in our party would know and recognize, from their entire network of family, friends, associates, teachers, professors, college drinking buddies, bosses, coworkers, Scout leaders, … while walking through Grand Central Terminal?

    Pretty good, when you think about it.

    Certainly, the same is true of my license plate and Facebook comments. There’s absolutely no reason to be surprised by that.

  32. Milo, I’ve heard a similar argument that the complexity of the world reflects the existence of a Creator. No, the fact that the world is the way it is doesn’t prove there is a Creator, because we don’t know how many alternative ways the world could (have evolved to?) be.

  33. Recently a friend of mine told me that for last two years he has seen what he thinks is me driving on his commute several times a week. Same make, model, and color of car, same out of state college sticker in the window, female driver with similar hair. After several years of seeing what he thought was me, he was in stop and go traffic and pulled to the lane next to “me”, looked over, and was given the “stop looking at me creep” look from the driver.

  34. WCE – so I gather that you are not the kind of person who, on Mr. WCE’s birthday, will post on his Facebook page that you’re so grateful to have found your one, true soulmate?

    More like “Happy birthday to my husband, for whose acquaintance I am mostly grateful to have made at a reasonably appropriate time in my life, as we share a sufficient percentage of similar characteristics necessary for long-term compatibility.”

  35. But what you’re really asking is what were the chances of me running into ANYONE I knew and would recognize, or anyone someone in our party would know and recognize, from their entire network of family, friends, associates, teachers, professors, college drinking buddies, bosses, coworkers, Scout leaders, … while walking through Grand Central Terminal?

    Pretty good, when you think about it.

    Certainly, the same is true of my license plate and Facebook comments. There’s absolutely no reason to be surprised by that.

    Nay, it’s still pretty low to run into someone in Grand Central that you know. Obviously it’s much higher to run into “anyone” than “my friend John”, but we’re still talking pretty low. Now if you expand it to running into “anyone” at “any place” rather than a specific location, then the odds really become pretty good.

    And the license plate thing is a very high odds. You probably go to work and home the same way every day at the same times. Everyone else does as well, and some of them drive the same roads you do at the same times. So if the guy with the “EAT ME” plate has a similar commute to yours, you’ll probably see him quite a bit.

  36. Milo, no, that would be too mushy. I don’t think we’ve ever publicly said anything complimentary about one another.

  37. That’s fine. My brother has a pretty good theory that doing so excessively on Facebook is also a disturbingly reliable precursor to divorce.

  38. That would make an interesting data analytics problem. Location services showing lots of gym visits. Facebook profile increasingly populated with mushy romantic testimonies.

    Put that name on a list of contacts and sell it to divorce attorneys.

  39. Stranger things have happened. You do remember the story of the dad who stormed over to Target, angry that they were sending his teen daughter coupons related to pregnancy and babies, right?

  40. I can’t remember if it was on this thread or on yesterday’s post where there were some comments about the announcement of the Bezos divorce. Jeff Bezos’ tweet was so over the top. As one person said, his divorce sounded better than most marriages.”

    One of the lines that made me roll my eyes “…after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce…” Really – loving exploration? I find that hard to believe.

  41. Now I’ve seen a bunch of reports about his new girlfriend and that he, her and her soon to be ex-husband were at the Amazon Golden Globe party.

  42. I have never understood why spouses wish each other happy birthday/happy anniversary/congratulations/whatever on Facebook. I always think to myself, “Can’t you just say this to your spouse in person???”

  43. I have seen plenty of people I knew (usually in HS) after I moved back to Boston after high school. Odds are high that I ducked and pretended not to see them so I didn’t have to say hi.
    I ran into my MIL’s nephew at a bar event when I was admitted in NH a couple of years ago. That was pretty random! I remembered seeing him when he was a “kid” probably about 10 years ago, so I wouldn’t have recognized him had he not come up to me.

  44. A couple decades ago, DH was looking at a livestock operation in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Nevada. He meets up with a guy from Australia who is working on the ranch. DH mentions that he knows someone else from Australia. At this point, according to DH, the Australian is clearly thinking, “You idiot, it’s a continent sized country” DH describes the guy he knows, and the Nevada Australian guy says, “You mean Bob’s cousin?” Yep.

    This sort of thing happens to DH, and to a lesser extent, me, all the time. A few months ago, DD2 was describing someone she met at her internship, and DH asks a few questions and then points out that this person is connected to someone DH knows.

    I suspect is has something to do with the fact that DH can and will talk to anyone, anywhere. A few years ago, he chatted up a guy sitting next to us at the Denver airport. Come to find out that guy had studied under DH’s BIL.

    At this point I just assume that DH knows all the 120 people in the world.

  45. Seattle – A Slate writer said that, if you didn’t read it carefully, you could easily mistake it for a gushing anniversary announcement.

    SM – vaguely remember. And was she pregnant?

  46. And really, if you want to tell us that you would still do it all I’ve read again, do that now! You’ve easily got 25 more years to do that’s right now!

    There’s a recent country song where the guy is singing he would do everything to build the relationship again, with the refrain “Even though we break up in the end.”

    It’s convincing, but it does not work as a duet.

  47. I believe Washington is a community property state, which means that absent a prenup, Mrs. Bezos is automatically entitled to one-half of any assets that Mr. Bezos earned during the course of the marriage.

  48. I read that it’s not realistic for her to get half because it would require the sale of so much Amazon stock. I don’t understand that, though. Why can’t they just transfer ownership of the shares?

    MMM noted that Mrs. MM kept the house and the Leaf. It seemed like a strange detail to share about a car he bought for about $13k, since they have a couple million, and I’d assume she’d get half, but maybe that’s naive.

  49. NoB – re: your 7:04 comment “Can’t you just say this to your spouse in person???” I had a friend from college who used to post “DS, I’m so proud of you for making honor roll… all city band… etc.” It took everything I had to refrain from asking “If you’re so proud of DS, why don’t you just tell him?” Fortunately she eventually stopped. I think when her DS was old enough to be on Facebook. I’m wondering if he asked her to stop.

  50. BTW, the NYTimes article is almost 7 years old, but based what I remember would still be pretty enlightening as well as creepy now.

    It might be a good article for teens and tweens.

  51. “I read that it’s not realistic for her to get half”

    Oh, if the separation proceedings move from “loving exploration” to “contentious,” she’ll have her team of divorce lawyers arguing that it’s plenty realistic for her to get half.

    “MMM noted that Mrs. MM kept the house and the Leaf. It seemed like a strange detail to share about a car he bought for about $13k, since they have a couple million, and I’d assume she’d get half, but maybe that’s naive.”

    My guess is that Mrs. MMM, if she had any kind of half-decent lawyer, got considerably more than a house and the Leaf. Maybe as part of the divorce negotiations she required him to not blab too many details about the property agreement on his blog.

  52. I suspect is has something to do with the fact that DH can and will talk to anyone, anywhere.

    Right. I’m sure we all are in situations where these connections are there but the conversation never reaches that point. It’s like the same point I always make about luck. The random person sitting next to you on a plane might have the perfect job for you but if you don’t talk to them you’ll never know.

  53. Is there a case to be made that she’s entitled to a share of the blog’s future earnings? Is the correct criteria that she

    1) was married to him when he created and built it?
    2) contributed to it? (She sometimes did)
    3) was a crucial character in it? (The blog really only works because the lifestyle was supporting a family. Any single guy can live poor as dirt—nothing notable about that)

  54. NoB – agreed!

    Milo – division of property on divorce is really state-dependent, so you’d have to ask a CO divorce attorney re: the criteria. ;)

  55. I read that it’s not realistic for her to get half because it would require the sale of so much Amazon stock. I don’t understand that, though

    I think that’s another thing like all those stories about Anthony Bourdain’s will. The will only contains what’s subject to probate, everything else is in a trust. There is some “something something” law that says people can read a story in a newspaper about something they are familiar with and say, “WTF? half the story is wrong.” Then read the next article and say, “Wow can you believe that.”

  56. Is there a case to be made that she’s entitled to a share of the blog’s future earnings?

    I assume it’s no different than if he owned any other type of business – plumbing supplies, gas station, auto body shop. The hard part would be coming up with a valuation.

    Do you recall that story about people hiding money offshore. A guy owned an internet business that was worth $100million. He was getting divorced and wanted to keep his wife from getting half. He eventually lost everything in his attempt to keep her from getting $50million.

  57. When a relative got divorced, his attitude was that his wife could take what she wanted and he wouldn’t contest it. Part of it was not wanting lawyers to take a lot of it, and I think most of it was because they had kids and he wanted to maintain good relations for their sake and make sure that their assets would be available for the kids.

    Fast forward about 20 years or so, and I think that was a good decision. He’s done well enough for himself, stayed a part of his kids’ lives, and his kids weren’t subject to any financial bickering between their parents.

  58. Location services showing lots of gym visits.

    Interesting, Bezos did get pretty swole recently.

  59. Mrs MMM kept the house and the car. He didnt want it. They both have investment accounts sufficient to stay retired. , he bought a very small house with cash nearby so that they can coparent, and expressed pleasure at being able to live really minimally again and continue to generate money if he wants, and happiness that she and the kid get to keep living in the paid off big house. They DIYd the divorce with 265 filing fees, if he is being truthful. Maybe he was just referring to divorce filing and nothing to do with financial untangling. He has been known to be less than exact in his self reporting. He did say that because they were well off and followed a modest lifestyle money just wasnt a sticking point. I have observed friends who just wanted to be free of what no longer sparked joy.

  60. The daily show did a bit about the Bezos divorce. It included pictures of Jeff getting Swole and said she gets 66 million

  61. Rhett – that’s a fascinating article. It’s like a real-life plot basis for a John Grisham novel (his more recent style, not the old Mississippi stuff).

  62. We’ve been bombarded by headlines like “The Broken Promise of Higher Education” and “The Slow Death of the University,” says Steven Brint. Yet despite the joyless chorus of pessimistic professors and an alarmist press, things in higher ed really aren’t so bad. In his Chronicle Review cover story, “Is This Higher Education’s Golden Age?” Brint takes a step back and looks at hard data on enrollments, research funding, and faculty employment over the past 40 years. His conclusion? American universities are bigger, stronger, and in a more influential position than ever before.

  63. I agree with Milo. This client also has teenagers, we were at a popular hiking spot, with really one good place to eat in the vicinity. Not that crazy that we would run into someone we knew.

  64. When I divorced, a number of assets were questionable as to how they would have been divided had we not agreed outside of court. Although the breakup itself was not amicable, by the time we got to the asset settlement he was no longer dragging out every single step.

    Two things about the Amazon stock: (1) Agree with the comment that sharing it 50-50 could dilute his power, especially if she chose to sell her shares and they were bought by another large stockholder. (2) Some of the value may be in options vs actual shares, which I understand is much harder to divide.

    Lastly, I found it interesting when interviewing divorce attorneys. I had a list of the assets I wanted that I though represented a fair division. Most of them wanted to convince me to go after every “penny” I could get. About my fifth interview, I found an attorney who said, I need to make sure you understand that you are asking for “less” that you could have under the law. As long as you understand that I’ll negotiate for that, but if he offers up “more” will take it. Yes, I likely could have gotten “more”, but pushing for some of those things would have made him dig his heels in. The cost in legal fees, time, and dealing with him was not worth the “more”.

  65. “My Amazon friend says that one concern is that if the stock gets split between Jeff and Mackenzie, it’ll dilute Jeff’s power.”

    Mackenzie’s could agree to put her shares into a trust for her. Jeff could be the trustee with the power to vote the shares, so that would take care of the “Jeff’s power” issue. But the trust would be for the sole benefit of Mackenzie and the kids. There are ways to do this.

    The thing that fascinates me as a lawyer is that if my understanding of community-property law is correct, then legally, half of Jeff’s assets belong to her, and have all through their marriage. Her one-half ownership is a legal entitlement, not something that is up to the discretion of a judge. I’m assuming here that there is no preup or post-nuptial agreement in place. (Those of you who live in community-property states, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

  66. RMS – We hear about colleges (mainly small and private) failing and we hear about students graduating (best case) or leaving before obtaining a degree (worse case) with lots of debt. I understand the economies of scale, but I also wonder about the expectations of students/families vs. costs.

  67. Austin – most attorneys are like that. We have a friend whose income is really up and down and unpredictable. When he got divorced, his wife really ran up the attorneys’ fees (about $200K) to ‘prove’ that he would ‘always’ make the higher amount, which meant that after the divorce was done, they were still going back into court when he wasn’t making enough to pay the alimony based on that higher amount.

  68. And if Mackenzie is indeed the legal owner of half of the Amazon stock, and she decides for whatever reason to just take a (much smaller but still substantial) cash payout from Jeff in lieu of the shares, she better be careful about how that transaction is structured, so that she’s not deemed to be making a taxable gift to Jeff. The gift tax rate is 40%. And 40% of the value of her half of the Amazon stock is one hell of a lot of money.

    OK, now I need to go do some work for my actual clients…

  69. NoB – In my community property state, if you agree on the split of the assets and judge confirms that both parties are competent to understand the disparity, do understand and agree to the disparity, and are not agreeing under duress, it will usually be approved. Of course, the other factor is how does the disparate split affect any children. For example, if she gets the house outright and that causes a 65 – 35 split of the total assets, but she also has primary custody of the 3 children, that is less likely to be a questioned disparity.

  70. ” My brother has a pretty good theory that doing so excessively on Facebook is also a disturbingly reliable precursor to divorce.”

    Absolutely. It is my pet peeve. When DH & I are bickering, I sometimes joke that I am going to post on FB about how he is my one true soulmate, and it makes us both laugh.

  71. Per Milo’s comment. Maybe what the reporter was alluding to was the shares being transferred to her and then her financial advisors recommending that she begin to unwind her AMZN position and diversify. IIRC when Bill Gates gave $50 billion in MSFT to the Gates Flundation the first thing they did was begin to selling it off as foundation best practices (and common sense) call for diversification.

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