Friday, March 16, 2007

Making the World Brighter Through Conversation

I ran down to the local Barnes & Noble this afternoon to pick up some books on Scrum methodology for my new feature team leads. After waiting a few minutes in the checkout line, the young sales clerk invited me over with the usual "I can help the next customer down here!"

As I put the books on the counter, the sales clerk started her banter. "How is your day going?"

"Fine," I replied.

"I just know today will be a good day for me, too!" she said. "The past several days have been really bad, so today has to be good, doesn't it?"

"That's an interesting question," I said. "Are you familiar with statistics?"

"No, I'm not."

I warmed to my subject. "Well, let me explain something to you. Let's say you flipped a coin a thousand times, and ended up with a thousand 'heads'. The odds against that are astronomical, right?"

"Yes, I know that much!"

"Okay, but did you know that the odds of your getting heads on the next flip is still 50:50? In other words, regardless of how lousy the past few days have been for you, the odds are just as likely that today, and tomorrow, will be just as lousy, or lousier."

The poor woman visibly deflated, but bravely tried to recover as she handed me my books and my credit card back. "Have a nice day!"

"You, too," I replied as I left.