Probability and Karl Rove

November 18, 2010
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I was getting ready to drive to the airport in Los Angeles his morning when I got an unusual cell-phone message from my son. He was in the Charlotte Airport, en route to San Francisco, and he spotted Karl Rove. He snapped an out-of-focus picture and sent it to me.

I was getting ready to drive to the airport in Los Angeles his morning when I got an unusual cell-phone message from my son. He was in the Charlotte Airport, en route to San Francisco, and he spotted Karl Rove. He snapped an out-of-focus picture and sent it to me.

It was a little surprising for me, because I considered Karl Rove to be on the fringes of noteworthy sightings–worth mentioning, perhaps, at a dull moment over the Thanksgiving weekend, but not meriting papparazzi treatment.

Anyway, six hours later, or so, as I step off one flight to change planes in Phoenix, who do I see walking right by me but the very same Karl Rove? I check, just to make sure I didn’t succumb to Karl Rovitis, mistaking him for an equally dashing figure with a briefcase. But as I suspected, the flight was from Charlotte.

So, what are the chances that two of us in this enormous country would both spot Karl Rove for the first time, some 2,500 miles apart, in the same day? At first it seems astonishingly small. But then I considered it differently. My son, Karl Rove and I are all inhabiting a much smaller realm today: The U.S. Airways Universe. It numbers in the tens of thousands, not millions, and those tens of thousands circulate in a group of hubs, including Charlotte and Phoenix. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem so special. Anyone else flying U.S Airways today? Maybe I’ll see you tonight in Newark.