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?


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, Anonymous Anonymous 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...

When I was a geeky introverted 17 year-old, plagued by my own self-induced loneliness, I fantasized about girls a lot. I often wondered if there was a girl out there (in the world) with whom I would ever form a "relationship" and experience some degree of "intimacy". Yes, I actually had such dry uninspiring thoughts. During one poignant bought of isolated reflection, listening to Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush sing "Don't Give Up", I carved the date into my styrofoam bedroom ceiling with a pencil. It felt profound to me at the time.

Years later, after leaving home, attending college, dating, trying my hand at acting, and generally learning how to socialize for the first time, I eventually met the woman who would become my wife. She was the first person I ever actively pursued, completely abandoning my once crippling shyness. During our first month of dating, I took her to meet my parents and see the house where I grew up.

I showed this woman (who would become my wife) the bedroom in which I had spent so many contemplative hours during my youth. She scanned the room, looked up at the ceiling, spotted the date that I carved there, and said to me, revealing as much for the first time, "That's my birthday."

Suffice it to say, during all our years together, I have never forgotten my wife's birthday.

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...


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!

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...


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...


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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I'm from Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. I travelled to europe last year for a trip around the Mediteranean, starting with Rome. This was my first trip to europe. My second destination was Florence. After a few days I decided to go to Vinci and went for some information at the bus depot. After leaving the depot, I waited at a street corner for the light to change and noticed a young man staring at me on the other side. This is when I had what I call my "Twilight Zone moment" with the "tananana tananana" music and everything. My nephew from Montreal was across the street! Dominic was across the street! I went over to meet him. We just didn't know what to say, it was too weird. We laughed at the incredible event we had just been a part of, wondering at the probabilities, literally amazed! He had just arrived in Florence with his girlfriend and was heading to find his hotel. We didn't make any plans to see each other and wished one another a pleasant trip. I mean, what are the odds! We try to give meaning to such events. We want to find some hidden string, linking everything together. I like to think there is some sort of magic happening all the time, but I can only accept that I know nothing. Mystery and the unknown is all I really know to be a fact. And I enjoy not knowing...

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