Tag Archive: Marriage

(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.

Last week we were excited to learn that George Hrab mentioned us in episode 251 of the Geologic Podcast. We’re definitely fans of his wide range of work, so the shoutout was a personal moment for the team. Some of us were even mildly verklempt, which was all the more relevant thanks to his mention of Gefilte fish, though less so since we’re not actually Jewish.

After a brief conversation with George via email, he graciously provided us with permission to post a transcript of his thoughts on the subject which I’ve placed below, followed by some additional thoughts by me, assuming you care. Please validate me by caring. Also, please listen to the podcast if you haven’t already since you get the nuances of George’s delivery, along with his general Georgeness.

Geologic Podcast #251 – Coincidence Transcript

I saw an interesting web site–no, a little blog post. There’s a place called The Odds Must Be Crazy. We’ll try to link to that in the show notes. But someone went onto The Odds Must Be Crazy–Brian H–he wrote this. He said, “I was listening to George Hrab’s podcast (episode 240) on my iPod while heading out to one of my familiar lunch spots in Santa Monica, California. In this episode George did a bit called the History Chunk where he tells what happened on this particular date in history, usually in chronological order, and the makes some kind of joke about it. He mentions how in 1982, boxer Duk Koo Kim died after a bout with Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini. Thirty seconds later I see Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini having lunch in the very restaurant I was walking into.  I clandestinely snapped his picture.”

This site is really interesting, and it talks about sort of the odds of things happening and how it can seem that the odds of something must be so astronomical that there must be some kind of a sign. So this Brian was listening to the show, I say “Boom Boom” Mancini, he looks up, and there’s “Boom Boom” Mancini. Now how could we calculate the odds of that occurring? I don’t know, but they’re astronomical. They’re astronomical. And yet if you think, “how many people that listen to the show didn’t see Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini when I said it?”, that would help to demonstrate the odds being not quite as horrifically set against as you might imagine.

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