Tag Archive: Florida

(Submitted by reader Jim Hammond)

Many years ago, I was returning home after visiting my family in Tampa. I was driving north on US 19 and would be making a left turn on US 98 to go west to the Florida panhandle.

I knew my brother would be driving south on US 19 the same day as he was returning from visiting his girlfriend. He would be turning left at the same intersection to go east on SR 20 back to the University of Florida where he was in school.

The only place our paths could potentially cross would be at that one intersection. When I got to that intersection I was first in line at the red light in the left turn lane. I looked across the interesection and my brother was first in line in the left turn lane going the other way.

I waved at him and continued on my way. I thought to myself, what are the odds that we would meet?


[Editor: This story made me think of the times I’ve seen friends driving when I’ve been on the road. I think this happens more often than one would guess. In Los Angeles, driving in the past twenty years has changed in one noteworthy aspect: increased population density has made it a huge challenge to find parking. Several times, however, I’ve seen friends in their cars on the freeway. You’d hardly think it’s possible because of the density, other variables such as drivers’ different schedules, distance from home, different reasons for being on the road – not much different from other reasons we think we won’t cross paths with friends and relatives. Another way to think of it is how many times were you on the road at the same time, and didn’t happen to see each other? – Wendy]

(Submitted by reader Steve C)

I live in Miami, Florida. A few years ago I met a woman who was down visiting from the Midwest, and we hit it off. After we’d conducted a long-distance relationship for several months, she decided to leave her home and her faculty position at a well known university to move down and start a new life with me. I said I was not ready to commit, but she insisted on coming. Within weeks of her move down, we broke up and stopped speaking to each other. She, however, remained in Florida and started a new job.

Flash forward a year. I heard through mutual friends that she met a new guy, also named Steve. Apparently he was head-over-heels about her, but she didn’t want to commit to her new Steve, mostly because she couldn’t shake the thought of me and of our tumultuous, highly-emotional though brief relationship. This went on for months. The new Steve kept asking her to marry him, but she refused. This time, she was the one who was not ready.

Flash forward another year. I took a solo road trip to Nova Scotia. After driving 2400 miles, I stopped to do some writing, settling into a secluded cabin at a remote resort on the outskirts of Dingwall, on the tip of Cape Breton. While sitting at the table in my cabin one day I noticed a blonde woman and a man walking down by the water. They were a little too far away for me to recognize. Later, when I went down to the office, the owner of the resort exclaimed, “What a coincidence! We never have guests from Miami, and today a couple more stopped by, though they didn’t stay.” She handed me a business card. It was my ex-girlfriend.

I heard the rest of the story from our mutual friends back in Miami. It turns out that, after a year of resisting her new boyfriend’s pleas to get engaged, she turned to him that day, standing by the water in remote and tiny Dingwall, and, not knowing that I was in a cabin watching them a hundred yards away, said, “Yes, I will marry you, and we’ll get married here, right on this spot.”

The following summer they and both their families traveled to Dingwall for the wedding.

I am prepared to chalk this all up to random chance, but I also keep thinking, “Geez…what are the odds?” Could you venture a guess as to what the chances are this would happen?

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 194. Take a look and leave your comments below.

According to babycenter.com, the name “Steven” was among the top 30 from 1946 through 1992 and “Stephen”, which is also shortened to “Steve”, was equally as popular, so the probability that she would meet another man named Steven is actually quite high.

The probability of the author being at the same place – more than 2,000 miles from home – at the same time is very difficult to calculate and probably quite low, but there are some things that make it more likely than what we encounter most of the time: the probability that the person seen walking on the beach is a specific total stranger. If they dated, they must have quite a bit in common, making it more likely that they would be interested in visiting similar places. It is also possible that one of them mentioned wanting to visit that location to the other.

Regarding the timing, a number of factors increase these odds as well. We must consider that Nova Scotia is a seasonal destination, reducing the timeframe of a possible encounter. It is also not so odd that the woman would accept a proposal while walking on the beach at a beautiful, secluded, romantic location.

My overall assessment is that it is an interesting coincidence, but not shocking. Most of us will have at least one or two experiences like this in our lives at some point.

(Submitted by reader Chad Simonds)

This is not a story about something that happened to me, nor a third person account; but I think it’s a worthy topic nonetheless.

I’m a runner who lives in Florida.  During the summer months it is just too hot and humid to go running when the sun is out, so I’ve taken to running only during thunderstorms. I understand that the odds of being struck by lightning are very minute, but I’m wondering how those odds are actually calculated.

Does the currently understood odds of being struck by lightning take into account how much time one spends outside during a thunderstorm (which is presumably less time than when it’s not raining)?  If I am effectively seeking out thunderstorms, are the odds of being struck by lightning significantly greater, or are the odds still so low that I’m not really in any danger?

[Editor: Although this is a great question for The Odds Must Be Crazy, my immediate thought was about the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and the short clips of the roomer in the boarding house who was struck by lightning seven times. The odds turn out to be not so crazy!


Also – evidently being struck by lightning is not to be taken – lightly. It is the second leading weather related cause of death, after floods. According to one source, 400 people are struck by lightning in the US annually, and sixty lose their lives.

Florida is the number one state, leading the deaths by lightning at 126 from 1990-2003. If a thunder storm starts when you are out running – get inside a car or building, stay away from tall conductive objects, or curl up in a ball, making yourself as small a target as possible. –  Wendy]