ever wondered how bad your day needs to be before random strangers have pity and try helping you?
i found out for myself a couple of weeks ago.
i occasionally travel home from work by bus, typically on days when i've got something interesting to read and nothing better to do once i get home - just like on that tuesday.
it was a lesser-than-usually-packed bus, and i stood at my favourite spot, the one which, from experience, has the greatest chances of getting me a seat and the least amount of pushing-and-being-pushed-around involved. there were only two guys standing nearby, both obviously having the same set of 5 seats as i had in mind. the people sitting on those 5 seats looked fairly typical, and i had every reason to expect a few of them to get up anytime in the next 10-15 minutes.
a couple of them did. unfortunately, the ones who got up were nearer to the guys who were standing in 'my zone'.
oh-kay. not the end of the world. i held on to my spot, moving closer to the seats where no one had got up from yet. in the meantime, more people got onto the bus, and some of them (intentionally or un-) stood in the places previously occupied by the now-sitting guys. no problem. i figured i had a better chance of getting a seat now, so no bother.
i guess i sometimes fail to sense the difference between probability and certainty. those new guys got their seats before i did. more people moved into their places.
i shifted around a bit to accommodate the new probabilities in my mental model of who's likely to get up next.
probability let me down again.
so what. only 20 minutes over, i have 45 minutes left. more people should be getting up anytime now.
i was right. more people did get up.
i was wrong. the people who got up weren't the ones who were supposed to. and that was after taking into account the fares on people's tickets (it's a long distance ride, so i can predict how long people are gonna sit from the colour-coded fares on the tickets :D)
finally, about 20 minutes before i would reach home, there were only 4 passengers standing in the bus. 3 of them didn't want to sit.
the 4th person was me.
i guess that's when i hit the threshold. the conductor walked the length of the bus, called out my attention, and *pointed out* the seat at which someone was going to get up at the next stop.
that's right, the conductor actually told me something to the effect of "that person is getting off at the next stop. please stand there before someone else beats you to it."
wonder why i felt relieved, considering that i was the unluckiest guy on that bus.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
bad luck and strangers
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