I found five bucks

Seriously, I was walking down the street the other day and there was five bucks, just sitting there!

I mean, someone just dropping some cash, that’s gotta be pretty unlikely. What are the odds that I would happen to walk into that exact spot — just walk into it and happen to also be looking down? Remote, if not astronomical. It happened, though, so in some ways the likelihood of it happening is actually 100 per cent. If I went back, it would have to turn out the same because that’s how it happened. Why would it change?

The reason I was looking down at that very moment, as it happens, was because I was feeling a little down; I was hanging my head, as they say. Incidentally, the reason I wasn’t my usual upbeat self right then was that I had just had a tiff with my cat. I gave her a little nudge, you see? Just a little nudge and, by complete fluke, she fell off the table and landed a little funny. Seeing her lying there after that fall, I guess I felt pretty bad.

Someone should really make a game show where you get to pick some challenge or whatever. You’d get two choices, each with marginally different odds, and maybe you’d win something if you made the right choice. Like, pick between rolling dice and thinking of a number between one and 10. Part of the game is to figure out which has the best odds. It would be a great game because you wouldn’t ever know the real probabilities unless you had all the knowledge. All of the knowledge. Like, a whole thing of knowledge.

Yeah, I sure felt awful about kitty, but it was a total fluke, right? Who could have guessed that that could have happened? If we’re going with pure odds, I believe I’ve read here and there that cats land on their feet 99.6 per cent of the time. Even though the odds that I’d give my cat a wee push at that moment were actually pretty high, anything below 50 per cent just lowers the odds. That makes sense, right? If it’s less than half, it is less likely? Once again, the probability quickly approaches astronomical numbers.

On that note, maybe the odds of finding that five bucks the other day were always 100 per cent. When measured from exactly one millisecond before seeing the bill, the probability of finding it would be somewhere pretty darn near 100. Almost nothing that could impact the probability of me finding that fiver could have happened inside of that millisecond, maybe nothing. It’s as though I know everything that happens in that millisecond — that being nothing — so the probability is 100 per cent.

An hour earlier, there would be a lot more that could interfere with my finding the bill. But if, like in the millisecond, I knew every detail at every moment during that hour, the odds would approach 100 per cent again, as if it had already happened and always would happen. Same thing’s true if I measured the odds that the cat would fall down the way she did — not on her feet (her fault) — and that the chair would push the window open. To me, it seems astronomical, but to the universe it was always going to happen. It’s a lot like we’re just cogs making the universe’s vast plan move forward. Could it be that our fate is sealed forever and we have no control over anything? I think so!

I think I was lucky to find five bucks, but not really. Say I’d been studying every single person in the neighbourhood for years, knew each one of them intimately, knew who tended to carry lots of cash, knew what days they generally went to the shop, knew when they were often in a rush — the odds improve marginally with each new piece of information. Say I knew all the wind currents that day and say I knew the amount of hand sweat on everyone’s hands and I knew exactly when they would reach into their pockets and which of them had fivers. Say I had a crystal ball and could know every little detail that the universe takes for granted. What once seemed like a pure fluke would then be a known fact.

If you have all the variables, it becomes a matter of deduction, pure and simple. Sure, I know that I live on the 14th storey of an apartment building and that that’s a long way down. And sure, I always leave the window slightly ajar and I know that the chair tips easy, but there are so many other variables (wind speed, relative humidity, my cat’s weight) of which I had no idea the value. Total fluke! The odds are astronomical so I needn’t feel too bad about anything. That cat could’ve had a thousand different owners and would have met the same consequence. It’s a total fluke it happened to be me.

Things either happen or they don’t, you see? We can go around thinking we know that something will happen based on trends and probability, but we never really have the slightest clue. In my history with cats, I’ve seen a lot of strange things happen — I mean a lot. If you took a measurement of the frequency of freak accidents among cat owners, it would certainly be very low. But then if you had all the knowledge of the universe, you’d know it happens all the time.