(Submitted by reader Carl Nichols)
Fifteen years ago or so I was working in London just around the corner from the House of Commons. Nothing unusual there, but one lunch time I was crossing the road and in the car in the front of the queue of traffic that had stopped at the lights was, to my surprise, my parents. My parents live a small village in Suffolk, about 90 miles from London (not a huge distance in the US but Britain is only 600 miles long so a reasonable distance here!)
They would come to London perhaps 3-4 times a year but coming into central London much more rarely. As I’m sure you’re aware London isn’t a small place and I would be reasonably surprised to randomly bump into anyone I knew, even if they lived in the city, and who happened to be in London for the day.
What are the odds on crossing the road in one of the biggest cities in the world at the same time as your parents are driving through that same spot?!
Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 197. Take a look and leave your comments below.
I found this story interesting, even though the odds of this happening are much higher than they are in most of the location coincidence stories that we get. In fact, I am actually more interested in why the author did not know that the parents would be in town. It seems that seeing their child might be part of their plans.
Well, the parties involved did not travel thousands of miles and see each other in a remote location, but it still feels unbelievable. I suspect the car is the reason. A car can move pretty fast, making it feel as though where someone in a car is at any given time is much more variable than someone on foot.
The placement of the car at the light might seem to make the odds of this incident even crazier, but if it was not in front, the author may not have even known that his/her parents were there. When crossing streets, people make eye contact with drivers, both because our parents taught us to and because it’s kind of a natural survival instinct (not that you could tell at my son’s middle school). The drivers in cars that are poised to run us over get our attention, but not those that are not. How many times has a similar incident occurred, yet nobody noticed because the parents were in the second or third car rather than the first?
If you have ever discovered afterward that a friend was at the same event—ball game, concert, trade show—at the same time as you were, yet you didn’t run into each other, think about how many times that must have happened, but because it didn’t come up in conversation, you never knew.