Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wasnick Blog #21 Chance?

When I was living in England, a million lives ago, I used to listen to the radio as an antidote to the struggles of painting. As well as distracting me from over-thinking a picture, the BBC Home Service provided me with an education far beyond anything I’d received at school.
On one particular morning a mathematician was being interviewed about something I vaguely remember being called ‘a diminishing ladder’. And to help explain to us laymen he gave the example that if you had twelve and a half people in a room there would be a fifty/fifty chance that two of them would share a birthday. I can’t in all honesty say I fully grasped the principal but I liked his example, particularly the bit about ‘a half person’.
That evening I was meeting friends in the garden of a country pub just outside of Bristol. By nine o’clock we’d gathered around a large rustic table drinking a variety of beers, strong ciders and shandies. As we chatted and I looked from face to face it suddenly dawned on me that we numbered twelve. So, I told everyone about the mathematician on the radio and suggested that we test his formula (...after a heated discussion about viability and the problems of locating an additional half person, we decided to give it a go). We then started around the circle giving our birth dates and when it got to the only person in the group that I had’t previously met, (someones new girlfriend) she declared “the 14th of July”.
I immediately shouted “bingo, mine too. What year?”
She replied, “1949”.
“Stone the crows!” I said, “Same as me. Where were you born?”
She shrugged, “You won’t have heard of it, it’s a small town in Worcestershire called “Stourbridge.”
Nearly choking on my beer, I spluttered, “Mary Stephen’s Nursing Home?”
She stared at me, “How the hell did you know?”
“Because,” I replied, “that’s where I was born.”

Later that night I phoned my Mom to tell her about my strange encounter. It got wilder.
She informed me that there were only three beds in the tiny nursing home, that she had been in bed one, bed two was empty, and the woman in bed three had given birth to a girl exactly one hour before I was born at 8am.

Now, I don’t care whose math you are using, the chances that in a single day I would hear the BBC program, mention it to twelve people and then meet the stranger I was born next to, are about as unlikely as that infamous room full of typewriter-pounding-monkeys writing The Merchant of Venice.

But then again, If you think about an infinite Universe, over a period of eternity, ultimately everything will happen. You just have to be standing in the right place when synchronicity strikes.


Veronica Roth said...

Ha! Yesterday was my birthday and suddenly I was aware of 17 people with the same date! May have been a Friday the 13th thing, but a healthy amount of serendipity is always in the ether isn’t it?

Melanie Mehrer said...

Happy Birthday! I went to high school with a boy I was born with- our parents were friends. He thought it was really funny to burst into a crowded classroom and yell, Melanie Mehrer! You were the first girl I ever saw naked!” He did it often, and it was always funny. xx

Kasia K said...

Happy Birthday ,Nick. May more good but strange things happen to you next year :)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Nick, and many more!

Taluula said...

Loved your writings on chance and loved how you interpreted it. Bravo.

jen hook said...

Happy Birthday!