Coincidences and the basics of the Theory of Probability

blooming Jacaranda trees
blooming Jacaranda trees

Do these situations look familiar?  You're driving, the radio on, your car navigation just tells you to turn onto road 368. A second later the morning news announces that the floods in the Philippines have killed, well guess, 368 people. .

You want to call a friend who has been silent for some time and ask how he is doing, you search for his number on your cell phone and at that very moment he calls you.

Here we go, one day in October we are travelling from Johannesburg to the Kruger Park, Paul is driving, I'm reading in the South Africa travel guide about what not to miss during the African spring, it seems now is the best time to see and admire the blue blooming jacarandas. I look up and we're just passing these trees by the side of the road covered in beautiful blue flowers. This wouldn't even be worth mentioning if the radio didn't announce at that moment: Good morning, You are listening to radio Jacaranda. Moments after that, we are waiting for the green light at an intersection when the radio announces that stripes are in fashion this year. Coincidence demonstrates this beautifully for us - I see a lady at the crosswalk in a striped dress walking towards a striped house. 

Quite a banal situation - coincidences. Some people don't even notice them. They happen to all of us all the time.

For predictable phenomena, the probability of the phenomenon can be calculated mathematically, the result is a number ≤ 1. 1 is a certainty, for example the probability that we die one day is therefore 1. The smaller the probability of the phenomenon, the smaller the resulting number. The probability that our government will make a good decision for the citizens is much smaller, it could even be 0.01, i.e. 1:100.

Coincidences cannot be calculated according to the probability theory. As the definition of a coincidence according to the Czech WIKI is: >> Coincidence. non-existence of predictability or regularity of some events or phenomena <<. That is why we are so fascinated by and attracted to them. Some believe in fate thanks to coincidences. Enough of mathematics and philosophizing, here I got a story for you describing a nice ancient accumulation of coincidences. If I could calculate the probability, I would get a very small number. Perhaps comparable to the probability result of me winning 10 million US$ today.

How I (did / didn't) meet Mr. X

It's 1984 and I'm about to travel alone to China and Thailand. I'm resident of Holland for the second year and I'm fulfilling my lifelong dream = to travel to as many countries as possible.

>>>>> for those born later some basic facts : In the early 1980s there was still no mass tourism, there were no charter flights, tickets had to be booked well in advance and picked up at the Travel Agency and were printed on special hard paper in the form of a booklet. Moreover, they are the same price even if you order them a year or a week in advance. There is no Internet, travel guide books are rare, the Australian Lonely Planet publishing house is only celebrating its ten-year anniversary, and few people know about them. The world is still authentic and tourists are actually travelers. Traveling is for adventurers, dreamers, lovers of freedom and improvisation. Once on the road, one has to accept that anything can happen. Stepping out of your comfort zone is part of everyday life. Random meetings and situations ( read coincidences) form therefore the main content of travels<<<<<

I can make the journey as for A/ I have time, for B/ got an invitation to Hong Kong and China from a West German company for which I interpreted at a trade fair in Brno, and for C/ I am an owner of a Dutch passport (which, unlike the Czechoslovakian one, allows entry to almost all countries in the world). 

On the way back, I want to spend a few more days in Thailand, an unknown country at the time. Of the foreigners, there were only forgotten hippies from the sixties and an American army base. I learned about this country from an American soldier I met in Hamburg. I don't have travel insurance, nor do I know that such a thing exists. (I realized this only after meeting my third husband - a Dutchman, who wanted to insure me for everything possible). To be sure, I want to have a contact in each country to someone who could help me in case of a problem. 

So first I ask acquaintances in the Netherlands who are originally from Prague if they know someone who lives in Bangkok; 'yes, we know Mr. Kopečný, but don't expect much from him, such a strange patron' was the answer. OK, a few weeks later on a visit to Brno I will ask the same question to a fellow traveler. Yes, I know Mr. Kopečný there, but I wouldn't even recommend him to you, nice idiot". Ok. Of course, I will immediately forget about Mr. Kopečný, probably the only Czech living in Thailand at the time. I'm flying in a month.

The trip went well, I didn't need any help. On the last day of my stay in the city of 5 million people, Bangkok, I will go to the local travel agency downtown to confirm my airline ticket back to Europe. The lady there looks at my NL passport and says: 'you have such a strange name; it doesn't look Dutch to me, where are you from originally?' I'm proud to answer: 'I was born in Czechoslovakia.' She: 'yeah, my brother-in-law is from Czechoslovakia.' I: 'isn't his name Mr. Kopečný by any chance? ' She was surprised: 'yes, how do you know, do you know him?' No, I don't know him personally, but please be sure to pass my best regards to him.