The Parable of the Boy and the Orange

Do things really go wrong at the exact, most inconvenient time possible? It seems that way in my life, even though statistically, that seems improbable.

Why just today, as I was getting ready to walk out the door, my son called and told me that his car stopped running. What are the odds? I was actually turning the knob on the door when he called. So now I need to call AAA, wait for a tow truck, and then meet him at the garage, my appointment cancelled due to this statistically unlikely event.

Thinking back through the parade of singular moments that is life, it seems like this sort of thing happens a lot. Kids are on the way when money is the tightest, cars break down when you’re on the way to collect a million dollar sweepstakes award, the phone rings when you’re on the potty, or you’re pilfering a hot baked good just as mama is entering the kitchen. All seem to me to be equally unlikely, and yet they all happen.

You’ve probably heard someone say that it’s “Karma” when something like this happens. I am not a superstitious person nor do I believe that there is some mystical being that watches over every step in your life to make sure that you get screwed at exactly the wrong moment at all times. I do think that the universe loves steady state. That is the idea that all systems want to move to some constant state of equilibrium that is a zero sum game. The wrongs need to balance the rights and the winners and losers need to balance in a cosmic algebraic equation.

This can all be exemplified in a simple parable:

There was a boy that found an orange on the street while walking to school. He picked it up and tossed it down a driveway, parking it right up against a cars back tire. Later, when he was walking home, the car backed out of the driveway. As it drove over the orange it sprayed rotten orange juice all over him.

How likely was it that the boy would be walking by at that exact moment? Seems to me to be almost a 0.0% probability, and yet there you are with rotten orange juice dripping off your nose and cursing the dumb bastard that put the orange there.

All content copyright of Christopher Hammond