Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Chance Encounters

I don't really get how the odds work in this city.

There are about what... 8 million people in New York City? Via my Darien and Dartmouth experiences, I am familiar or friendly with probably about 200-300 people who live here, but I really wouldn't expect to just bump right into them with the frequency that I do. I saw one high school acquaintance at the Water Taxi Beach in Queens and another a mere two blocks from my apartment on the walk to work one morning. I saw a college classmate on my very own street as I was lugging my desk back from the Container Store. I bumped into a friend from a trip to Europe at a subway exit two blocks from my apt. What is it about midtown east that attracts the people I know?

The other thing that struck me recently was the sheer number of pregnant women I see... at least 5 a day it seems. But then I thought about it some more. I used to see probably ~100 people/day total in Massachusetts unless I went into Boston. And I'm sure there were some days where I only saw ~10 people. Now I probably see ~1000 people/day. So I guess I'd have to expect that more of them would be pregnant and pregnant people just seem to stand out.

Oh wait - math time!
Three hundred divided by eight million times one thousand = 3.75%.

Okay, assuming I see 1000 distinct people on any given day, the chance that I'd see someone I know is about 3.75%. But then the next day I see some of the same 1000, not a new thousand, so I don't know how to estimate it for the week. Maybe 200 are repeats and 800 are new? That gets too complicated for blog-land.

I will say this: I enjoy giving my business card to my chance encounters.


At 11:08 PM, July 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The odds are a lot less uncanny when you think of things in terms of geography and demographics rather than overall population. Given a Darien/Dartmouth background, I'm thinking you're not acquainted with a statistically significant number of people in the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and most of Brooklyn. Lop those off your map along with most of upper Manhattan (above 96th Street), and all of the primarily financial and business districts, and you're left with a pretty narrowly circumscribed bit of real estate where people you know might reside, shop, eat, or hang out. Throw in a Manhattanite tendency to travel by foot amplified by the enticements of warm weather, and chance encounters aren't all that shocking. On the other hand, if you were strolling down Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn (jerk chicken, highly recommended....occasional bursts of small arms fire, not so much) and happened to run into a few college classmates, I'd be a bit more nonplussed at the odds.

Having said all that though, there are some places in NYC where there is a REALLY intense "small world" vibe, and one of them is the waiting room at your darling medical center. I've been there literally dozens of times, but one visit that especially stands out took place about five years ago. I was accompanying my grandmother who was bringing her dog in for a follow up visit, and during the course of maybe an hour's wait (and really, could we do something about that?) I spent about 20 minutes chatting with a real, live, although ostensibly sleep deprived, supermodel (Paulina Porizkova), then ran into a high school friend whose dog had something that approximated the appearance of butcher's twine in his stool, and finally a literary editor to whom I had recently been recommended.

Ok, the last bit was kinda off the topic of your post. I just wanted to brag about making time with a supermodel. Hope the year treats you well. Cheers!!


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