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Don’t rhetorically ask “what are the chances” to a data geek

October 17, 2014

757With Sales Kickoff and another “cloud experience” shrinking in my rear view mirror, I met (Work)Joyce and Lisa Pratt for a taxi to the airport. The night before (actually I don’t remember when it was…) I learned about Lisa’s dislike of air travel and her tendency to uh, get a little queasy in coach. Oh, and then I discovered we were on the same flight home. I said, “that’s cool, as long as you’re not sitting behind me.”

The taxi ride was uneventful with one exception. The service. The staff at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and the crew at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport are friendly and accommodating. I guess that’s the “Southern Hospitality” thing. After leaving Joyce for her USAir flight, and arriving at Delta check-in, Lisa noticed I was in 39C. “I’m right behind you,” she said from right behind me… Duh, no kidding. What she meant was that the potentially projectile puker was sitting directly behind me for the 2 hour and forty minute flight… Nice. “Jeez,” I muttered meekly. I was sitting in a bio-hazard hot-zone. “What are the chances of that?” Now here’s where things get weird. My query was rhetorical, but “Ms. Data” took it literally and fired up the Cray between her ears. I was fine with the “Wow, man… It must be like a million to one,” but no, stat geek needed to know the number. Considerations and calculations commenced while I tried to ignore it by playing with my phone. “We have to exclude first-class because Kronos would never pay for that.” “Uh-huh…” Lisa’s processor was humming… I asked her to send me an email on the findings so I could blog about it. Here’s what I got…

“We were in a Boeing 757. There were 26 rows in economy cabin each with 6 seats for a total of 156 coach seats. Of which I could have been in any except the one assigned to you, so I had a 1 in 155 chance (or a 0.6% probability) of having the seat directly behind you.:-) Lucky you!”

Wow. 0.6%. Except it’s wrong. 21 of the seats in coach are “comfort” seats, and they cost extra. As do the 12 seats in 2 exit rows. So we must deduct those 25 from the 156 coach seats, and then one more for my seat, leaving a 1 in 130 chance (or a 0.76923% probability) of Nauseous Nelly sitting directly behind me.

Now I don’t know what the chances were of her actually ralphing, but she didn’t, so yeah, lucky me.

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