When we think about a continuous variable, that is, one that can take on any value along the number line, we note that the chance that it will take on any pre-determined value is equal to zero. For example, if we want to know whether the variable takes on a value of two, would we be willing to accept a value of 1.9 instead? How about 1.99? Or 1.999? Or 1.999 with a sequence of 9s going on into the next county but, presumably, never actually equaling two? Since it is clear that one can get infinitesimally close to any arbitrary value without actually equaling that value, we say that the probability of a continuous variable actually equaling some predetermined value is zero. However, while the probability is equal to zero, as one former professor once said, “that does not mean that it will never happen.” I found myself thinking of this earlier this past week, as two unusual events happened at the same time. Both my daughter and I found ourselves with a “snow day” on the same day.
Although I live in what is known as the “snow belt”, snow days are rather rare for us, even for the elementary schools. Perhaps it is because, living here, we take pride in being able to deal with the snow. Indeed, a survey of the cars in the driveways of our neighborhood shows many cars with “all wheel drive” which are designed for driving in difficult conditions, such as snow. Presumably, we know that the snow will come, and we are ready for it.
In addition, Ursuline College hardly ever has snow days, perhaps because we are a college run by some very strong women. Indeed, I can recall times when our college was open and the Jesuit college (which, historically, taught men) down the road was closed. The women at Ursuline and are not distracted from learning by a few inches of snow on the roads. However, as rare as these two events may be, they both occurred on the same day this past week, extending what had already been a long weekend. And so I found myself alone with my daughter for the day.
If I had thought that the day would be spent enjoying time alone with my daughter, I quickly discovered that was not the case. The phone rang almost immediately with a call from one neighborhood girl, and our house soon welcomed several neighborhood children who spent the day playing video games and chasing each other around our house, often sliding in stocking feet on the polished hardwood floors of our living room. Occasionally I would hear attempts at playing the drums that Santa had left my daughter.
It was only after they left that I realized later that they had raided the kitchen’s supply of snacks. Indeed, the sharing of food seemed to be an important element of the day. I found myself cooking lunch for one girl, whose mother also shared some food with my daughter later in the afternoon. When my husband came home from his day of work that was not cancelled (you don’t get snow days when you run your own business), we were joined for dinner with the family across the street in an impromptu pot luck gathering. Eventually the day came to an end, and school and work resumed the following day. However, the surprise vacation day left warm memories in the midst of some of the coldest days in years.
Maybe it is because I did not grow up in an actual neighborhood, but, looking back, I don’t remember snow days as being so much fun. The whole experience leaves me wondering what other people do on snow days, especially snow days that, almost impossibly, fall on the same day for you and your children.