In walked an eclectically dressed woman—she wore an orange and black polka dot pantsuit with a pair of white Adidas and glasses with frames that matched her suit—bearing a binder and a bright smile. “Sorry to keep you waiting for so long, friends,” she said. “I’m Grace Carlisle.” She shook their hands enthusiastically before taking a seat on the other side of the conference room table. “Got caught up in a meeting that could have been an email. You know how that goes. But I’m pretty sure music lovers such as yourselves had plenty to talk about. That’s why you’re both winners.”
“To be honest, we’re both curious about what we won,” Astrid said.
“And curious about how you won, I’m sure,” Grace replied, winking.
“That’s also true,” Marcus added.
Grace clasped her hands together and leaned forward. “Admittedly, there was no contest. But we hope you’re happy with this prize.”
Astrid and Marcus glanced at each other, both wearing expressions of confusion.
“The short end of it,” Grace began, opening the binder in front of her, “is that Spotify and Match dot com entered into a quiet partnership at the start of this year. We called it the Love List, although this naming isn’t official. Our aim was to determine if similar tastes in music would lead to matches. So, we designed our algorithms on Spotify to find romantic matches among people with similar tastes in music. Out of all the results, you, Ms. Miller, and you, Mr. Ishida, were the only two individuals with identical playlists. Two out of twelve million people.”
Astrid and Marcus exchanged looks once again, this time both visibly shocked.
“Is this a joke or something?” Marcus asked.
“Honestly, I’ve wondered if someone was listening to me all day,” Astrid said, peering around the conference room. “Every time I mentioned what we could have won or how, someone from Spotify popped up. Is this some kind of reality show? Are there cameras watching us?”
Grace shook her head. “No prank, no joke, no cameras. We’re not setting anyone up. All of those things were coincidences, I promise.”
“I find it incredibly misleading, then,” Astrid continued, “that the email referred to the prize as a ‘once in a lifetime’ prize. You brought us here on false pretenses.”
It was Grace Carlisle’s turn to appear confused. “It doesn’t seem ‘once in a lifetime’ to you that out of twelve million people, you two share the same playlists?” She slid the open binder toward them and pointed toward the page. “Identical to the point that the numbering of your chosen songs is the same. Stevie Wonder, “As”, both at number one. “Stairway to Heaven, both at number 14. Five songs, in succession, by Toad the Wet Sprocket, in the same place. All your Michaels: Jackson, McDonald, Bublé, in corresponding order. This is unheard of. It is once in a lifetime.”
Quickly, Astrid glanced down at the document in question. An electric tremor ran down her back. Her Spotify profile (AstridQueen) and playlist had been screen shot next to Marcus’s (Mr. Ishida, Esq.). Each playlist mirrored the other, down to live performances of songs (“This Woman’s Work”, Maxwell, MTV Unplugged, #10) followed by the recorded version of the same song (“This Woman’s Work” Maxwell, album: Now, #11). Stunned, her lips nearly opening in surprise, Astrid remembered herself and clamped her lips, refusing to react in front of a watchful Grace Carlisle. She looked away from the binder.
“This is just utterly bizarre,” Marcus said, shaking his head. “Neither of us signed up to be guinea pigs.”
Grace Carlisle crossed her arms over her chest. “Off the record for a second here, folks, but why join Match if you weren’t actively and publicly looking for a match? We just happened to move things along for you both. I honestly don’t understand the issue here. Did we use the word ‘prize’ in an unexpected manner? Sure. But if I walked into a building and met someone who thinks the best song worthy of a number one spot is a Stevie Wonder song, it’d be a prize to me. You’re both nice looking, actively employed.”
Astrid stood up. “Time for me to go. I really have no more words to say.”
Marcus stood up as well. “I can’t imagine how many privacy laws were breached here,” he said to Grace, “but I promise to look into it.”
Astrid recalled him mentioning that he was an attorney. Good. A lawsuit seemed viable.
Grace Carlisle laughed. “Check the fine print when you do, Mr. Ishida. No privacy laws were breached. Look,” she said, closing the binder, “this is a shock, I know. Neither of you were expecting this. Give me two minutes. No more than two. I’ll return with compensation for your trouble. Okay? Two minutes.”