(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.