Tag Archive: vacation

(Submitted by reader Andrew Law)

To start with, I live in New Zealand which is important to know for this story.

When I was 11 years old my family and our good friends who lived a couple of houses down the street, took a once in a lifetime trip to Disneyland in LA. We took a week off school to do this.

We were all having a ball in Disneyland as to be expected, when it was time to have some lunch outside of the park; so we jumped on the mono-rail.

After sitting down I looked up and sitting on the seat opposite was the teacher from the class next to mine back in NZ, and who also happened to be the teacher of the friend that was with me! As you can imagine he asked my friend why he wasn’t in school.

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 215.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary.

It seems that we all have an amazing travel story like this one. On the one hand, it is possible that all of the parties were prompted to consider visiting Disneyland by the same advertisements or because someone else in their town visited and that may increase the probability of such an occurrence by a great deal. The distance between New Zealand and Los Angeles increases the shock of such an event as well. On the other hand, the odds are still pretty astronomical that they would visit the same immensely crowded place at the same time and enter the monorail in the same place at the same time. I am always amazed by these stories and I often wonder how many times I passed by someone I know while far from home and just didn’t see them.  As with other travel stories like this, I can only say that it would be unusual if we did not experience many low-probability events in our lifetime.

On a less serious note, is anyone else wondering why the teacher wasn’t in school?

Barbara Drescher is a cognitive psychologist and statistician. Visit her blog ICBSEverywhere.  As a lecturer at California State University, Northridge,  Barbara primarily taught courses in quantitative/experimental research methods and topics in cognitive psychology. She currently serves as educational programs consultant for the James Randi Educational Foundation.

(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.

Double Down on Old Friends

(Submitted by reader Deborah Warcken)

My Volkswagen squareback died in Evanston, Wyoming on its third trip to Colorado in February of 1972. From there G’Anna and I had to take the bus to Greeley where we stayed in my dorm from the previous school year. I had decided that Colorado winters were not for me and had retreated back to California to old friends and my horse. G’Anna was a new friend and had agreed to accompany me on a visit back during February break. I had several friends I wanted to see as well as a sister who had moved to Greeley the previous year. G’Anna had two friends in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area.

It was wonderful to see my friends from freshman year and visit with my sister and her family. I was disappointed because one of my best friends was no longer in school there. It was rumored that she had either returned to Ohio or was going to school elsewhere.

After our stay in Greeley we were able to rent a car and continue south and west to our next destination. This already had the makings of something of an adventure as G’Anna did not have an address or phone number for her two friends, Bill and Dirk. She said we would just have to hit all the local night spots and ask around at the ski area.

We arrived in Gunnison an hour or so before dark and started checking around. No one seemed to know her friends. It was suggested that we try up in Crested Butte so we drove up there and continued to check in the local hang-outs. Crested Butte is (or was) a small ski town and it was crawling with young people.

It was getting late and we’d just asked at the last bar in the village. All these places were fairly dark and this one was no exception. As we were heading for the door we passed some people coming in. It was too dark to see them clearly but something about one of them was familiar. After we got outside I had to turn and go back in to see if my sense was correct. It was! One of the people turned out to be my friend Laura who was supposed to be in Ohio.

I’m not sure which of us was more surprised, me, Laura or G’Anna. As we still had not found or even looked for a place to stay that night Laura let us stay with her. We decided to continue searching for Bill and Dirk the next day.

The following morning we went up to the ski area to continue our quest. Laura had to go to work at a little cafe but we said we’d stop back later and have some pie and say “goodbye”. G’Anna’s friends did not seem to be at the ski area so we made one last trip into Gunnison to look around in the daytime. No luck.

About mid-morning we stopped in and had some heavenly raspberry cream pie at the café and said goodbye and thank you to Laura. We started on our way out of town and were at the last stop sign before the beginning of the highway back to Gunnison. As we waited at the stop sign a car pulled forward from the other side and stopped to let out two hitchhikers in the middle of the intersection. You may have figured out already that these were none other than Bill and Dirk.