Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Are the Odds?

Grandma Wolfe at 88, Lambertville, NJ

Off in a totally different direction with this challenge…..the discussion of chance and coincidence got me to thinking about probability in general and the odds of events which in turn lead me to:

Celebrating her 97th Birthday!

There's a billboard along the highway near where I live in Northern California announcing that 1 in 3 babies born today will live to see their 100th birthday!  My initial response was "that's ridiculous", but with a little investigation, I learned that that is, in fact, the case.  That's pretty good odds!  Turns out that I have about a 1 in 6 chance of seeing 100.  When my grandmother was born in 1887, the odds of living to 100 were well below 1 in 100.  But she beat the odds and did live to 100 and we all celebrated the event.

In Grandma Wolfe's arms, Plymouth, CT

She was an interesting woman.  She worked for 50 years as a tipstaff in the Pittsburgh courts.  I don't think she had much use for small children and her home reflected it.  We maintained a respectful distance from each other.  Despite our rough beginnings, as she got older, she softened, a bit, and when I was in my 20's we actually bonded, a bit, over one of her hobbies.

She was an avid contest enterer - you know, all of those sweepstakes that you see advertised everywhere - -  win a free trip…win a new home…win a car - - the ones you don't enter, because you'll never win.  She entered all of those, hundreds of times!  She'd been doing it for many years and she'd won with some regularity; money, TVs, wardrobes, etc.  When she asked me to help her, she was already in her 90's and she had her methods to increase her odds of winning.  Every 3" x 5" with your name and address was exactly 3" x 5", so you couldn't be disqualified for not following the rules to the letter!  I filled out 3" x 5"s.  She had envelopes in every conceivable color, to stand out and increase the odds of being drawn from a bin of envelopes.  I addressed envelopes.  And she mailed several entries a day, from different parts of the county, thereby increasing the number of places her entries were in the big pile.  I mailed letters.  Whatever she did, it worked.  In 1980, at the age of 93, she won 1st prize in a big Warner-Lambert Sweepstakes -$16K in cash, audio and video equipment, a library of videos. The town came out to celebrate her win with marching bands and a big banquet and she got a letter from the Vice President!

On occasions, she had me enter contests in my name, and we won at least a couple times that I can remember.  One win I will never forget was a $100 check for groceries - which at the time, with 2 young children, living paycheck to paycheck, was huge!  I took the check to the grocery store and shopped with abandon, putting whatever I felt like in the cart and when the cashier rang it up, it totaled exactly $100.00!  What are the odds of that?

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story! Yes, what are the odds on coincidences?