A mug’s guide to beat­ing the odds

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - — Rick Blaine, Casablanca

I START to­day with an apol­ogy.

This one goes out to all the fash­ion­istas and bearded hip­sters, the once-a-year gam­blers and Cup the­ory ram­blers, the hard-luck-Har­rys and un­der­the-weather Car­ries.

If you want to blame any­one for your sod­den Mel­bourne Cup ex­pe­ri­ence, blame me.

I made a clas­sic mis­take last Sun­day. I washed my car.

This is not the first time I’ve bro­ken a hot spell by wash­ing my car, throw­ing countless plans into chaos. It’s hap­pened of­ten enough to con­vince me there must be some sort of causal re­la­tion­ship.

Surely I’m not the only one to whom this has hap­pened.

Of course, this clearly is not an ex­act science. If it was, farm­ers would be out wash­ing their SUVs or utes ev­ery other day and droughts would be un­known.

Still, the fre­quency with which it has hap­pened is right up there with the Cats los­ing if I watch them on tele­vi­sion — or lis­ten to them on the ra­dio — not that I’m tak­ing sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for all of last sea­son’s dis­ap­point­ments. What are the odds? I’ve been think­ing a lot about odds and prob­a­bil­ity re­cently — and not just be­cause of the Spring Rac­ing Car­ni­val. For in­stance, our re­cent hol­i­day to China ex­posed us to hu­man­ity on a scale we hadn’t ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore and will likely never do so again. To set the scene, Shang­hai has a pop­u­la­tion greater than Aus­tralia, Bei­jing only slightly less so. No mat­ter what time of day or night we were on the road, our bus would in­vari­ably en- counter grid­lock. Each city’s sub­way sys­tem ac­com­mo­dates more than nine mil­lion peo­ple. Ev­ery day.

Among our itin­er­ary was a brief visit to the Great Wall of China at Juy­ong­guan. Most es­ti­mates sug­gest roughly 10 mil­lion peo­ple a year visit the Great Wall — which equates to just over 3000 peo­ple an hour for each hour it is open daily.

Among that throng, my wife and I found our­selves catch­ing our breath mid­way up our climb and stand­ing next to a young man who seemed fa­mil­iar to her, and she to him.

Turns out he used to be a park­ing at­ten­dant at Mar­ket Square. If that wasn’t far fetched enough, two days later we bumped into him again in Bei­jing.

What are the odds in­deed.

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