Moments of Foreshadowing in Our Everyday Lives

During the Trump campaign and the subsequent Trump presidency, there was a running joke on Twitter of the existence of “writers” who were authoring the entire ordeal like it was a season of television. These omniscient and omnipotent writers were responsible for every new development and startling plotline, which seemed more in tune with the need to generate ratings than the general concern that elected leaders are expected to have regarding American lives. None of it seemed real, and yet it was our reality, brought to us by some detached and estranged gods.

While many are adjusting to the new batch of writers that were brought in to oversee the Biden Presidency, I am left wondering how much of it really is just a joke. Sometimes life seems scripted enough to warrant a moment to stop and take notice. Maybe there is more to it all. Maybe someone out there is writing the story of our lives; of life on Earth.

In writing, authors will often drop hints early on to let the readers know where the story will be going. This happens on screen as well as in novels. It is known as foreshadowing; defined as an indication of what is to come. These clues are often sprinkled throughout stories to give weight and warning as to what will soon transpire. Foreshadowing is a writing device, yet strangely, life itself is permeated with such hints.

The Trump campaign seemed like a joke at first. But there was one image, from July 2015, that sent chills through me. This one:

Source: David Kadlubowski/The Republic

It felt like a scene ripped straight from a dystopian novel. I was not yet ready to take the possibility of a Trump presidency seriously at that point, but looking back, the clues were there. For me, it’s that one image I still remember. Had the writers been hinting at it all along?

Historical analysts can go back and dissect each variable that led to President Trump. But they’ll see the bigger picture and look past the smaller, individual moments that predicted what was to come. It could be as much as a friend guaranteeing that Trump would beat Hillary. Or a prediction that Trump was likely to be the nominee weeks before voting even began. Were these hints broadcast to us early even though the realization of a Trump victory shocked us when it occurred? And did we all miss or ignore them, like we might when reading a book or watching a show?

The Covid19 pandemic, arguably a storyline as significant if not more significant than President Trump, must have also been foreshadowed. But while scientists warned for years that a pandemic could happen, each possibility, from SARS to Bird Flu to Swine Flu, petered out. Naturally, it seemed that we would continue to avoid the big one. However, some warnings didn’t just come from TV scientists and journalists. There was one, specifically, that I haven’t stopped thinking about since the current pandemic began.

It was February 2018 and the printer at our house was broken. I was out with a friend, but my dad asked if we could stop off and pick up a new one. It wasn’t something we were planning to do that day, but my friend was willing, so we stopped at Staples. I quickly grabbed an HP printer that would fit on our desk, but a Staples employee stopped me. He warned me away from the HP.

“But HP was the gold standard,” I told him.

“Not anymore,” he replied.

He convinced me to purchase a Brother printer instead. As we headed to the register, I picked up a large bottle of Purell to refill the pump I had at work. The Staples employee noted that it was a good idea to buy Purell and then volunteered some information about himself. He was a grad student studying microbiology, and he’d learned about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

“It’s been a hundred years since the last pandemic,” he said. “The next one is on its way. It’s only a matter of time.”

He went into a little more depth about what viruses were out there, but that was the gist. And, naturally, I shrugged it off.

Two years later, as the world succumbed to Covid19, his words came back to me like they were a forgotten prophecy. This seemingly insignificant interaction at Staples had somehow foreshadowed the nightmare that enveloped the world in 2020. When I asked my friend if he remembered that day, he affirmed my own recollection. “The Staples guy was right.”

Did anyone else out there experience anything like this? I’ve thought about it often as I’ve been stuck indoors. I was personally warned about the future, but I did not tweet about it or mention it to anyone else. I thought very little of it at the time. And it’s not like I could have done anything to prevent such a future from transpiring, but neither can a reader or a binge-watcher change what is to occur in the next chapter or episode. It’s already been written.

Current independent author and IT professional. Former NJ political operative.