Starting college during a pandemic was less than ideal. I moved across the country into a new environment…and immediately into a mandatory quarantine before I could actually meet any of the other students. It was hard to find friends when everyone seemed to already have groups, but I did find one friend in an unexpected place—the laundry room.
I was changing my clothes from the washer to the dryer, when Margot Tortolani spilled her detergent all over the floor. My boyfriend was waiting for me in the hallway, and he immediately ran to grab paper towels to help clean up the mess. Tortolani and I struck up a conversation about how terrible that day was and how this event was what might send it over the edge. When the crisis was averted, she smiled and left.
As an ambivert who leans more introverted, I am usually too afraid to reach out to people, but this time I felt compelled to. I found Tortolani’s Instagram account and DMed her saying I would love to hang out sometime. We went out for coffee and were able to bypass the standard college questions of “What’s your major?” and “Why did you come to Emerson?” and actually had a great conversation. We became friends from an awkward, somewhat comedic laundry incident.
I love hearing stories about how people connect through random chance, and I wanted to share the account of five people I know who found a friendship—or even romance—in an unlikely place.
Bonding Over Class Confusion
Audrey Labonte, a member of my sorority and an Emerson College graduate student, met her friend Caja Leshinger as a sophomore transfer student. She was in a group chat with Leshinger and other transfers over the summer, but didn’t actually meet her in person until she ran into her at school.
Labonte was searching for her Literary Foundations class when she saw Leshinger, also confused, standing in the hallway. She asked where she was going, and they just so happened to be trying to find the same class. When they found the room, the professor told the students to exchange numbers with the person sitting next to them, so Labonte and Leshinger gave each other their phone numbers and eventually started hanging out.
“Our costar compatibility is literally all smiley faces,” said Labonte. She said that Leshinger used to live in the Piano Row dorm building before she moved off campus, and they used to hang out there all of the time.
Labonte and Leshinger are finishing their masters degrees this year and will continue to stay in touch, even if they don’t live in the same place. “She’s just one of those people who is in the core of my life,” said Labonte.
She said that Leshinger was her first friend at Emerson that wasn’t her roommate, and she can’t imagine what college would have been like without her. “I genuinely think we will be friends forever,” Labonte said. “A lot of my core best friends I’ve all met just kind of by chance.”
Carly O’Rear, one of my high school friends, just started her freshman year at University of San Diego. She met one of her close friends, Macy Peveto, because her roommate was best friends with Peveto’s roommate in high school.
Peveto and her roommate live a hallway away from O’Rear and her roommate, so they hung out a lot at the beginning of this school year. O’Rear ended up really connecting with Macy.
Both of their roommates have long distance boyfriends in Los Angeles, so they also bonded over the shared experience of being kicked out of their rooms for the weekend to sleep on O’Rear’s living room couch.
“We vibe. We listen to all the same types of music. We always have something to talk about,” O’Rear said. “And we’re close enough to the point where we’re having sleepovers when we’re kicked out of our rooms.”
O’Rear’s take on friendships is that they cannot be just by chance or choice.
“I think you can’t really have one without the other. We can’t really choose who we meet. It was a choice to try to engage myself there,” O’Rear said, in reference to her friendship with Peveto. “But if you don’t choose to try and cultivate a friendship, then it won’t happen.”
Falling in Love Unexpectedly
Ellie Karris, a sophomore Emerson student and member of my sorority, met her boyfriend, Derek Dols, last August when she first got to Emerson. Her roommate had been talking to Dols’ roommate online and really liked him. Karris accompanied her as support and was stuck hanging out with Dols.
“So we had all met and we spent literally every night during orientation week together. We would go to all the orientation events—obviously they were all over Zoom—and then we would go over to their room, and we would hang out until like three, four o’clock in the morning,” Karris said.
Karris explained that she was forced to become friends with her now boyfriend, but they ended up really hitting it off.
She likes that Dols and her share similarities, but they also have differences that bring balance to their relationship. “The things that I know I need help with, he is in direct opposition to me. So I sometimes have a very short temper, and I get very frustrated, but he is very patient,” Karris said. “He’s a very simple person when it comes to crises, so he always knows what to say.”
“I think you can meet someone by chance but I think whether you make it a good relationship with someone is by choice,” Karris said.
Stranger on the Subway
Gabriella Pérez, a member of my sorority and junior Emerson student, met her friend, Christian Hayes, on her way to Boston University’s frat row during the beginning of her freshman year. She was walking from Emerson to the outbound Boylston Station with her roommate when she met a very drunk Hayes.
“He comes over to me in the most slurred words and says, ‘You can’t wear white Air Forces to a frat party. They’re gonna get dirty,’” said Pérez. “And I was like, “‘Oh really?’ And I was intrigued. I was like, ‘Who is this kid and why is he talking to me?’”
He then lied and said he went to MIT (she later found out that he went to Suffolk University). Pérez said Hayes’ friends kept asking her and her roommate if he was bothering them, and she insisted that he wasn’t. He added her and her roommate on Snapchat and then got on the subway and left.
Pérez recalls her first snow day at Emerson that December because she received an out-of- the-blue call via Snapchat from Hayes. He said he wanted to watch the tree lighting at Faneuil Hall and asked if she wanted to go with him. She didn’t hesitate to say yes and brought her roommate with her to meet Hayes and his friend.
She said they started hanging out more regularly, and now she sees him two to three times a semester, depending on his travel schedule.
“But I fucking love this kid,” Pérez said. “He is truly like just one of my favorite people, like totally friendships by chance are way better than friendships by choice.”
Meeting a Best Friend, Twice
Therese Lourdes, a member of my sorority and junior Emerson student, met one of her best friends, Pérez, twice, although she doesn’t remember the first time. Their initial meeting was at BU’s frat row, but for Lourdes, the night was a blur.
She went out with some of her friends to find a party to go to, but they were turned away from every frat house. “All I know was there came a point where I went pee behind a building, and then I was home,” Lourdes said.
Pérez approached Lourdes during their sorority pledge process three months later and started talking to her like they knew each other, leaving Lourdes puzzled. She told Pérez that she didn’t remember anything from that night. After the confusion, they became close friends.
“Gabi and I are crazy together. We’re just crazy together. She enables me in every aspect of my life for good or bad,” Lourdes said. “She loves me unconditionally, and I love her unconditionally.”