Skepticality listener and friend of the blog Jeff Schwartz sent us a story describing his experience attending a Journey concert at a large complex with two friends. One of those friends, Michelle, had driven them all to the concert.
After the concert was over and the three friends left the stadium along with all of the other concertgoers, they realized that none of them had made a mental note of where they had parked the car. Jeff told us, “Michelle was getting seriously frustrated and was on the verge of tears. At one point, after searching the parking lot for over an hour, she sat down on the hood of a car, slammed her hand down on it and sobbed, in a tearful voice, “I can’t find my car anywhere! I’ll never find it! I’ve looked everywhere”
“With that,” he said, “I looked at her full in the face and said, ‘Michelle, perhaps you should start by looking under your hand.’ Miraculously, the car she chose to have her temper tantrum on, was her own misplaced car.”
Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 269. Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog ICBS Everywhere, and Insight at Skeptics Society, and watch her on Virtual Skeptics.
This is, of course, not a miracle. I think most people have experienced the frustration of parking at a large venue and not remembering where. I have spent around an hour looking for my car on at least two occasions, so I can vouch for just how frustrating it can be. Cars also tend to look different at night, even when parking lots are lit, which aggravates the situation. Chances are actually very good that the group saw the car at least once and did not recognize it. So what are the chances that a frustrated driver collapses near their own car? Well, it depends on the number of cars in the lot at that time, which would be greatly reduced from an hour earlier. But another thing to consider is that this is one of those cases in which you find something in the last place you look.
A couple of nights ago I visited an emergency room to check an injury my son received in a high school lacrosse game and we witnessed a very, very frustrated woman throw a bit of a tantrum in the waiting room over a blanket she didn’t receive. She stated that she had been waiting for 5 hours, and while I have no way of knowing if that was true, it seemed like one of those crazy coincidences that her name was called 10 minutes after she gave up and left. However, it is not crazy. Her name was going to be called at some point, and the longer she stayed, the greater the chances were that it would be called shortly after she left. The same is true in this case — that they were bound to find her car eventually. The longer they looked, the more likely it would be found shortly after she became frustrated enough to express her emotions, especially since the longer they looked, the fewer cars there were in the lot.
So, while it is interesting that Michelle sat on a car that happened to be her own, especially without noticing, consider the keys you spent an hour looking for, only to find them in plain sight. Is it a crazy coincidence that they were where you found them?