Tuesday, June 29, 2010

summertime statistics

I’m not good with statistics. Never have been. During the countless statistics classes I had to, for some reason, take in order to rehab somebody’s arm after a rotator cuff repair, I always came away thinking that statistics were a bit dishonest.

Like how Marilyn vos Savant will argue for 8 paragraphs that if you flip a coin and get heads, the probability that it will be heads on the next coin flip is not 1 in 2, but in fact 1 in 3. Or how two completely unrelated factors can be made to LOOK related if only the correct statistic is applied. I have pretty much concluded that all I ever needed to know about statistics I have learned from Mark Twain. (Go ahead, Google it. I’ll be here when you get back)

But lately, I’ve been thinking there’s another name I should be associating with statistics: Murphy.

Maybe my luck over the past week hasn’t been luck at all; maybe it’s divine intervention. I get so excited and giddy when summer arrives that maybe the universe has sent a few “gifts” my way in order to keep my head from spinning right off like a top. Or maybe its just my imagination. I guess I can let you judge.

Case #1:
Last year, we had a cicada infestation. These prehistoric looking insects were flying around in giant swarms, destroying vegetation and windshields alike. This year, not so much. There is a pathetic handful of cicadas sadly wandering around, in a bewildered state. I’m not sure if their alarms didn’t go off, if their invitations were incorrect, or if their transportation broke down on the way to the party, but clearly they are about 12 months too late for the fray. In light of the ridiculously small number of cicadas around this year, what do you think the chances are of me riding smack into a cicada on my bike? Three times? The answer: 100%.

Case #2:
Last weekend, I went on a group bike ride and somebody blew a tire. Since I am so super prepared for all situations, I was able to give her a tire tube to fix the flat. This weekend, just as I was going out, I thought “I gotta go get a new tube this week. Not that I’ve ever gotten a flat before.” What are the chances that I get a flat on the one day in a year and a half that I rode without a tube? Answer: 100%

Case #3:
I have a fleece blanket in the back of my Jeep with the name of the hospital I work at embroidered on it. (When you work in health care, that is what’s known as a Christmas Bonus) I keep it in the back of the Jeep “just in case”. It’s been there for 3 years without an “in case” ever coming up. Except that an energy gel exploded in the back seat and then with the hot weather, my fleece blanket cooked into a nice, crispy energy gel shellac. So I finally took it out to wash it. And neglected to put it back in on Saturday. What are the chances that somebody will say: “Do you have a blanket?” that Saturday? 100%

But wait; there’s more! Chance it will rain when my Jeep top is up and all the windows are securely zipped in? 0% Chance it will rain if the top is down? 100% Chance my last patient of the day will cancel or no-show during the summer? 0% Chance I will swallow a spider this summer? EWWW! I don’t even want to think about it!

Chance this is going to be a fantastic summer? Pretty frickin’ good.

And that’s not fuzzy math!

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