Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Blog That Wrote Itself

The incredible things that happen in life outdo anything that your imagination, or mine anyway, could come up with (almost ending this sentence with a preposition, which we know we cannot do). Enough of that -- back to the blog that wrote itself. I think it is about the long arm of coincidence, or the odds of certain improbable things happening.

The coincidence is that my wife, who rarely travels due to her current medical condition, and my daughter, who lives far from here, both ended up at Niagara Falls on the same day, each completely unaware of the other, perhaps even watching the falls at the same time.

My daughter and her husband were attending a wedding, and those details seem to defy chance. Her husband is a teacher, and a brilliant student of his, from Inner Mongolia, was marrying a girl from Nova Scotia. The wedding was set for that classical honeymoon spot, and his parents, academics themselves, flew in from China to witness their only son's nuptials. The wedding went well, and all stayed over for a few days. My daughter phoned to ask about her mother, but I had no new news, as I was just about to leave to see Margie on my daily visit to the nursing home where she has been for over a month. When I arrived, to my great surprise Margie had left, part of a busload gone on a sightseeing trip, complete with wheelchairs.

Of course, the trip was to Niagara Falls, and so my wife and daughter were there at the same time, but certainly not together. My wife gets back at eight o'clock, it is now six, and this episode ranks with the one where I met my wife in the first place, when I was in an unfamiliar town in Nova Scotia, buying milk for a travelling lunch. (Perhaps more about that later.)

I suppose my question really is: Do such impossible odds happen to all of us?

71 Comments:

At 9:44 PM, Blogger BuyBluePants said...

That's a great story! I've done that with friends in local spots, but we get out frequently and the odds are far greater for us to experience that situation.

Perhaps something more cosmic is afoot?

 
At 10:37 PM, Anonymous cm evans said...

I think this sort of thing happens all the time, but I tell my friends that an Angel can walk down the street in the middle of rush hour and nobody will see it, because people are either 1. not expecting to see an Angel, or. 2. looking the wrong place at the exact moment they'd see it

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger kenju said...

I refer to it as synchronicity, and I think it happens frequently.

 
At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Haeresis said...

I love it! I have my own version, too! When I was six, I lived in a duplex in New York. One weekend, we went on a trip to spend time with relatives on their dairy farm in pennsylvania. They had ONE neighbor right next door and then no one for miles. The same day we arrived, so did their neighbor's brother- our next-door neighbor from new york!

But here's the kicker: when we got home and mentioned this to my grandparents, they told me how they'd travelled all the way to Niagra Falls and ran right into their own next door neighbors. I've been collecting coincidences ever since. :-)

What's really weirdest is having a guy you used to get high with turn up in your kids video games...!

 
At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Haeresis said...

No IDEA where that last line came from?!

 
At 2:35 AM, Blogger Jebadiah Moore said...

The probability of improbability is probably probable.

That is, life is too long for us to be able to avoid odd things happening.

 
At 3:24 AM, Blogger bonho said...

You betcha.

 
At 4:41 AM, Anonymous Simon Proctor said...

I think it's one of the marvels of the human mind that we see such connections in life.

 
At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It certainly happens to all of us, or at least we all hear such stories from friends and family.

The probability is small if we stick with two particular people travelling to a given location on a given day, and meeting. But the probabilities change after the fact.

Prior to this encounter we would have to include any two people in our circle of friends and family, on any of the thousands of trips they may take, at any time available to our, or their, memory. In this example we also include the case of the same location but not actually meeting.

A few coincidences must occur with near certainty. This result is similar to the birthday paradox

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Blork said...

This sort of thing happens very often. It's happened to me many times, but of course I can't think of any at the moment due to my sieve-like memory.

But I know this: my sweetie and I are both writers, and at least a dozen times a year one of us says to the other "If I wrote that into a story/screenplay/novel (etc.), the editor/director/producer (etc.) would throw it out and say it's implausible."

That's one of the reasons I don't write fiction -- the stuff that really happens to me is crazier than anything I could make up!

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger bonnie said...

I live in NY and have distant relatives in Kansas that I hadn't seen or spoken to in 15 yrs and who I've met only once. On a cruise to the carribean, I received a call to my room and it was my distant cousin. She found out about me because she and her husband wanted to upgrade their cabin and when she gave her name at the desk they pulled up my name instead of hers. Our surnames are eastern european and very uncommon so she right away suspected that I must be her distant cousin. We ended up meeting for dinner and catching up. But here's the kicker, I had never changed my passport to reflect my new last name, i was still travelling with old document and had I made those changes we would have never connected.

 
At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Sonofapreacherman said...

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At 11:32 PM, Anonymous daveyboy said...

Wow! What a coincidence. I live in Niagara Falls.

 
At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

My best wishes and hopes for your wife.

The law of averages states that an even spread--that is heads, tails, heads, tails, heads, tails, . . . --only happens at infinity.

Of course, that is a rhetorical way of making a few huge statements.

1. Things usually happen in coincidence. (Whether events are similar of dissimilar is irrelevant since it is the assigned values we are counting.) Misunderstanding this aspect of the law of averages is the main engine of superstition.

i.e., your mother and daughter are likely to have some unlikely coincidences like this.

2. Since we do exist within infinity, chance events are not unfolding correctly from our mortal perspective. Maybe it has to do with the Einsteinian paradoxes regarding what really goes on in an infinitive Universe outside of our briefly fixated existence.

i.e., your mother and daughter realized coincidence because of something like a pattern of points on Earth that included each of them momentarily traveling faster than the speed of light relative to another point in the Universe.

3. The law of averages is just a hypothesis, a statement accepting as fact a given behind which our understanding and vision end.

For all we know, there is a good reason to be superstitious about coincidence. Maybe the Universe has intention.

ie, your mother and daughter are related to a larger continuum of the Universe which flowed into a bottleneck or something corresponding to that place/time on Earth.

Or the values we assign to events are completely irrelevant outside of our perception of the Universe, therefore either no coincidence is happening at all or the coincidence is not what we think.

ie, Niagra Falls is not a single place but a series of dissimilar events given similar values in the lives variously related individuals.

 
At 2:57 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

Erratum:

Forgive me! "Your mother and daughter" should read "your wife and daughter."

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger WarmBodhi said...

I've always been a firm believer in the thought that when things like that happen, it's usually the universe telling you you're in the right place.

 
At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That happened to me and my husband. We were both students at the same university, same degree, two years apart. He graduated ahead of me. Two years later, I saw him getting out of university book fare, he saw me coming in. Just a split second, we would have never seen each other forever.
Funny thing, I was born literary right across the street from his home. Living street across for many years, going to the same community swimming pool with my mom and he with his sisters.
We don't remember if we had seen each other those years. We may possibly had seen, who knows!
Sally

 
At 7:15 PM, Blogger BGE said...

Great story and I don't mean to be disparaging (you can hear the but coming); but with the millions that visit Niagara, your wife and daughter will almost definitely NOT be the only close friends or family to be there at the same time, unknown to each other. Add that both your wife and daughter were in the same part of the world, the popularity of the destination for day-trips and weddings and the statistics reduce even more.

 
At 11:04 PM, Anonymous daveyboy said...

Ook!

It's far more profound the original way. The Mother/Daughter thing actually makes sense.

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Mr. Write said...

Wow! Cool story! And having been to Niagara Falls, I know it's a pretty big place, so it's easy to have several people there you might know and never run into them. Anyway, while I like to say that I don't believe in karma or destiny or anything, I might have had to change my mind if they had run into each other. Instead, I am inclined to go with simple coincidence.

 
At 3:03 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

daveboy!

There are no accidents.

 
At 3:24 AM, Anonymous Ook said...

Ofcourse, it is important to bear in mind, the assigned human value we are counting here is not the arrival of two related persons at the same time/space. It is an early life celebration by the daughter coinciding at the same time/space with the late life celebration by the mother. That is the heart-rendering coincidence. (My spell checker is crapped out and I am drunk. Hope I got it.)

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Bev Sykes said...

such small world incidents happen so frequently that I've stopped even thinking of them as unusual!

 
At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Rob Reiter said...

(...almost ending this sentence with a preposition, which we know we cannot do).

A freshman at Yale asked a passing senior, "Can you tell me where the library's at?"

Sniffed the senior, "At Yale, you'll learn not to end a sentence with a preposition."

After a moment's reflection, the freshman rephrased his question, "Can you tell me where the library's at, a**hole?"

-------
Coincidences grab our atention, alright. But just think of all the moments of our lives where nothing synchronistic happens at all.

I guess that's why the word "coincidence" exists at all.

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Pelicanlake71 said...

I live in Oregon. Once I went to Knotts Berry Farm in CA and found that my junior high teacher was seated in the row in front of me on the roller coaster. Another time one of my best friends sat on the same ride as me at Disneyland--we had spoken the week before but never mentioned our upcoming trips.

I suppose that might be explained as not too unusual since these are common vacation destinations. But how about the time my friend went to Germany, and met a man in a pub who turned out to be her next-door apartment neighbor back home (that she had never previously met?)

 
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Ramps are wild baby leeks that grow exclusively between the Atlantic and the Mississippi from Canada to the Carolinas. A member of the Allium [url=http://www.agoshow.net/Tigers-26-Boesch-red-2010-All-Star-Jerseys-34/]Tigers 26 Boesch red 2010 All Star Jerseys[/url] genus, ramps resemble a scallion with broader leaves. They taste a little bit garlicky and a little bit savory, a welcome taste of sweetness after a cold and dreary winter. Ramps are the first sign that spring is here, so I am never happier than when I see ramps for the first time each season.
The beauty of ramps is that they [url=http://www.agoshow.net/2009-All-Star-Philadephia-Phillis-26-Chase-Utley-Red-Jerseys-18/]2009 All Star Philadephia Phillis 26 Chase Utley [url=http://www.agoshow.net/Brewers-1-Hart-blue-2010-All-Star-Jerseys-31/]Brewers 1 Hart blue 2010 All Star Jerseys[/url] Red Jerseys[/url] are only in season for eight weeks a year. As a cook who gets excited about wild foraged foods, I love the transience of ramps. For the few short weeks during which they are available, I put ramps in everything.
Last weekend, Susi, Leo and I went north to pick ramps in the Columbia County woods. At a Manhattan farmer's market, these little leeks sell for $22 per pound. In the woods, ramps grow like weeds.
During late April and early May, New York chefs go crazy for ramps. They are without a doubt the trendiest of the lilies (so prevalent on restaurant menus that they made the New York Times Sunday Magazine's Meh list). Ramps benefit from their exceptional versatility. Ramps can be served whole or chopped; grilled, saut ed or pickled; with eggs, chicken, or fish.
Choose ramps that are firm with bright-colored greenery. Wrap them tightly in moist paper towels and place them in a loosely closed paper bag and refrigerate for up to a week. Trim the root ends [url=http://www.agoshow.net/2009-All-Star-Milwaukee-Brewers-28-Prince-Fielder-Red-Jerseys-19/]2009 All Star Milwaukee Brewers 28 Prince Fielder Red Jerseys[/url] just before cooking.
May is the latter half of ramp season. To preserve the transient taste of spring, we pickle ramps to use throughout the year. Pickled ramps can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks or they can be canned or shelf-stored and saved for up to a year.
This dish is as simple as it gets: al dente noodles with fresh garlicky ramps, chili for heat, and breadcrumbs for texture. It's the perfect zing for early spring.
Spaghetti with Ramps
Serves 4.
1 pound dry spaghetti or linguini
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh ramps
Kosher salt, to taste
1-2 tablespoons red chili flakes
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook according to the package instructions, until tender but still al dente.
Heat olive oil in a 12- to 14-inch saut pan over medium high heat. Separate ramps by the white root ends and the leafy green top. Add root ends to the pan and saut until tender.
Add salt and chili flakes. At the very end, add the greens and saut until wilted. Drain pasta and add it to the saut pan. Toss gently to coat the pasta with [url=http://www.agoshow.net/Rays-13-Carl-Crawford-Red-2010-All-Star-Jerseys-47/]Rays 13 Carl Crawford Red 2010 All Star Jerseys[/url] the sauce.
Divide pasta evenly among four warmed plates. Drizzle olive oil over top and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
(Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind twenty-four restaurants including Eataly, DelPosto, and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo. In this column, Mario answers questions submitted via social media and by people he encounters daily in Downtown Manhattan. Keep asking!)


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