Infinite Monkey Theorem
A few weeks ago I was in the pharmacy picking up a prescription for my wife. Trouble was, the pharmacist wouldn’t give it to me.
“Can you spell her name again? he asked, holding a bottle of pills in his hand. My wife kept her last name when we got married. I spelled it out for him.
“Do you know the name of the drug her doctor ordered?”
“Meloxicam for a bum shoulder.”
Shaking his head in what looked like confusion, the pharmacist, said, “Sorry,” he said. “It isn’t here.”
“No worries. Her doc probably didn’t call it in yet.”
As I left the pharmacy I called my wife to tell her the prescription wasn’t ready. Annie said she’d nudge the doctor’s staff to call it in.
“I’ll go back in a few hours,” I said.
Later that evening I returned to the pharmacy. Once again, the pharmacist held a bottle of pills in his hand and asked me to spell out my wife’s name.
“This is very strange,” the pharmacist said. “I have a script for you wife, but it’s not Meloxicam.”
“Her doctor didn’t order anything else,” I said.
Then the pharmacist looked up with a start. “Does your wife live in Los Angeles?”
I chuckled. “She lived with me last time I checked.”
“Right here in town? At the address on your own prescriptions?”
“A woman with the same name has a script waiting for her. She’s on vacation and her doctor called it in from California.”
“I know who this is,” I said. “It’s my wife’s doppelganger.”
“When my wife searches her name on Google she gets two results – her name and that of a psychologist in L.A. The woman in California is older. My wife is 40.”
“What’s your wife’s birthday?” the pharmacist, said. I told him.
“Be right back.”
A few minutes later the pharmacist reappeared with a bottle. “Here it is. Meloxicam. Correct birthdate and everything.”
I grinned. “What are the odds my wife’s doppleganger would be visiting the town we live in and getting a prescription filled at the exact same pharmacy her and I use?”
“You should play the lotto using your wife’s birthday.”
“Not a bad idea.” I said. So, heeding the pharmacist’s advice, I bought a lotto ticket on the way out.
My wife was dumbfounded when I told her what happened. “The pharmacy is across the street!” she said. “I could have seen her!”
“I know you’ve seen pictures of her on the Internet,” I said. “But you probably wouldn’t recognize her.”
“We have the same name and live 3000 miles apart. What are the odds?”
“Astronomical.” I said. “That’s why I bought a lotto ticket using your birthday.”
“It had better win.”
My wife fired up her laptop and soon I was looking at other Annie on the screen. “What was she taking,” my wife asked. “The other Annie?”
“The pharmacist was a pro,” I said. “He wouldn’t tell me – patient confidentiality and all that. Just that she was from L.A.”
“Maybe we’ll see her in town,” my wife said. “Now I’ve got her picture burned into my mind.”
I put my hand on my wife’s shoulder. “My dear, there will only ever be one Annie – you, my beautiful and sweet pattotie.”
“Aw,” my wife said, blushing. “Thank you.”
I wish I has the math skills to figure out the odds of how, in a country with 323 million people, a woman on the opposite coast with the same name as my wife would be getting a prescription filled at the same pharmacy we use – across the street from our house. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But for the rest of that week we kept an eye out for other Annie. We never saw her.
So that’s the strange but true story of my wife’s doppelganger. Made me think the Infinite Monkey Theorem – how a monkey banging randomly on a keyboard, given an infinite amount of time, would eventually type out the complete works of William Shakespeare. Or how, in an observable universe that’s 14 billion years old and filled with trillions of galaxies, that the probability of life on other planets is almost a surety. Perhaps there’s even a mirror image of our world 10 billion light years away where my cosmic doppelgänger is busy typing out these very same words at this very same moment. But even if that’s all true, despite infinity’s vastness, there will only ever be one Annie – mine.
And the universe’s infinite monkey only decided to make one appearance that day – the lotto ticket was a bust.