Tag Archive: Spain

(Submitted by Skepticality listener Peter)

We immigrated to Canada in 1981, settling in a small northern town, Fort St. John, British Columbia. There we met a person that my wife knew had been a friend of her Grandfather’s in the early 1930s in Germany, close to the town where she was born, and who had emigrated unbeknown to her sometime in the mid fifties to Canada, first moving to Vancouver Island and later to the same town where we finally settled. He and his wife became friends of ours. Now, that is not too crazy.

This year we decided to leave Canada and retire to the Azore Islands, where we met a friend of my sister’s – she has a house there and that is why we decided to move to the Azores – who lives close by, having had settled there coming from Germany in the mid eighties. He also coincidentally had been living previously close to the town where my wife was born.

On a visit with this gentleman this fall we met a German who hails from Berlin and now lives in Spain, a sailor who in the beginning of the eighties had sailed with his wife to Canada, where he stayed for half a year on Vancouver Island.

During the conversation when the sailor told us of his travels, he mentioned the name of our friend, that he had died two years previous and learned of that fact when he had visited Vancouver Island and tried to look him up.

He also told us that at the time when he came the first time to Vancouver Island he met the friend of my wife’s grandfather, a short while before that friend had decided to move north.

So on an island in the middle of the Atlantic we meet someone who knew someone who was a friend of ours who had lived several thousand kilometers away in the same town we once had lived in. What are the odds?

Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 266.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog ICBS Everywhere, and Insight at Skeptics Society, and watch her on Virtual Skeptics.

One thing I noticed from this story is that everyone is German. This is not an irrelevant bit of information, since people tend to bond over things like sharing a country of origin, and immigrants also tend to cluster geographically.

So while the odds of this happening might be quite small, they aren’t as small as one might think. There’s a reason that the saying “It’s a small world” exists, and it’s not because the world is indeed small.

So far, yet so close…

(Submitted by reader Sandra J. Smith)

Back in 1964, some friends and I decided to take a holiday from England to Southern Spain in a 1949 Morris Oxford.  It was quite a journey, taking us nearly four days, to travel the almost non-existant road in Spain.  After two days non-stop driving, we came across a wayside hotel in the middle of nowhere, somewhere north of Madrid.  We decided that enough was enough and that we were going to chill-out. So we booked rooms and asked if we could get something to eat as it was 4pm and we were starving.  The waiter was fabulous, spoke excellent English and we had a wonderful meal followed by numerous Spanish liquers recommended by our waiter.

I started chatting to the waiter about his excellent command of English.  He informed me that he had spent time working in England and that he had worked for several years at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate.

What a surprise!  My brother-in-law (an Italian) had worked at the same hotel!  Not expecting a positive reply, I asked him if he had known my brother in law.  He gasped.  “He was my best friend in England!” They used to play football together whilst off-duty.

Unfortunately they had lost touch some eight years earlier. Needless to say I was delighted to provide him with a current address so they could once again make contact.

So what are the chances of driving nearly 1000 miles to an isolated hotel in the wilds of Spain and meeting a long-lost friend of your brother-in law?

[EDITOR: What a wonderful reconnection, and a heck of a surprise. This IS a common theme for our site in one way or another, though, with people managing to find others connected to their home town, families, or friends while traveling far from home. While it’s a big planet with a huge number of people, the number we run into regularly continually and constantly raises the odds of an encounter such as this one. Can you imagine how many people you merely walk past and never communicate with who may have just as shocking a connection but will never get the opportunity to tell it? In that sense, I’d argue it’s the mere fact that they even GOT the opportunity to learn the connection at all that’s the real surprise here. – Jarrett]