The Scarlett Stain

“He who ignores the Law of Probability challenges an adversary that is seldom beaten.”  Ambrose Bierce

* * *

It’s a waste of time to watch paint dry or speculate on the numerical quotient of angels on the head of a pin. The same might be said of trying to compute the coefficient of probability on the details of our life. Interesting, maybe, but useless.

I’m having spaghetti for dinner the other night. Red sauce, marinara, capers, garlic, the good stuff. I’m wearing a white shirt. I don’t have to spell it out for you. You know what happens. It’s the Law of Affinity at work…white attracts red.

A crimson-coated noodle falls from the fork. The scarlet speck grows. The stain takes hold, spreads like a metastasizing alien. You know the problem. Another shirt, victim of spaghetti.

“Quick,” she says, “get some Oxy on it. Maybe you can salvage it.”

I give it a squirt. Useless. So, I just sit there disgusted, wondering about the Law of Probability.

“Do you think it’s probable that I could ever have a meal without food leaving its footprints on my shirts?” It should have been a rhetorical question.

Unmoved by the disaster, she replies, “Yes, if you don’t wear a shirt. But then you will have to dine outside with the dog or do take-out.”

Suddenly I’m relating to a tune by Mose Allison, “I don’t worry about a thing ‘cause I know nothing’s gonna be all right.” I could have written those words.

I think back to my college days when it took two attempts to get a passing grade in Statistical Analysis. Math was not my best subject. If simple ‘on-a-napkin math’ won’t work, I’m doomed.

I ended up having to take that course in night school where most of the students were older and slept with their heads on the desk. I remember one night when the professor discussed the Coefficient of Variation, or Probability Theory.

I became distracted, confusing coefficient with coed. Not that there is any apparent relationship between the two, but it did occur to me that it might help evaluate the dating risk involving coeds. Three of them, as a matter of fact. All in the same sorority.

I flip through the formula of evaluating probability of certain situations. This is what I recall it looked like: (3 x 3y) = PA.   By way of explanation, 3 is constant; 3y is variable. PA is Probability Axiom.

So, I apply the formula to my dilemma to determine the risk of failure: 3 represents the constant, the number of girls I’m dating; 3y represents the variable (in other words, random events that could happen in any dating relationship). The PA indicates there is a high-risk probability of no long-term success.

After class I head to the sorority house for my date with # 2 of the 3. You already know how it goes. It’s the night I affirmed the Probability Theory.  All three welcome me at the front door.

Like I said, math was not my best subject. Apparently, coeds weren’t either.  But it did reveal one positive result: I had more ambition than brains.

There’s probably a moral, or at least a metaphor that can be gleaned from the scarlet stain on my shirt and crimson stain on my character. The shirt can be replaced; the shirt of character is worn daily. There’s only one way I know to clean it. Ponder that and repent.

* * *

Currently I’m studying the coefficient of probability between the relationship of ambition and brains. Initial results don’t look promising.


Bud Hearn

April 25, 2022