Probability of Meeting Someone(from HS)

Having just moved back to town which is fairly close to the one in which I attended HS, I am wondering if I will ever bump into someone from that (horrible) time. I consulted my old math text, but I could’nt begin to even calculate the probability. My question: how to do this calculation? What assumptions do I need to make first? I’ve been out from HS now 30 yrs., and have yet see any of them.

I would start by assuming you spend too much time worring about mathematic probability.

Magnificent to behold - Greatly to be praised.

You will run into someone when you are dressed like a slob, have hat hair and haven’t brushed your teeth in two days because of puking up a gut. So, always dress nice and avoid these people through the “Clean Underwear Tactic.” ( If you wear clean underwear, you will never get into an accident.)

Your problem is not probability so much as statistics. There are so many variables that the problem would be daunting for any mathematician.

If you want to approach it from a probability point of view:

a) How many new people do you bump into every day?
b) Of the people you “bump into”, how many are in an age group that would coincide with your high school years?
c) How many people that went to your high school still live in the surrounding areas?
d) What is the total population in the surrounding areas ?

As you can see, it’s a very difficult problem. How can you accurately estimate any of the above? Additionally those numbers can be influenced by any number of factors, such as the likelihood of you frequenting a location that would also be frequented by other HS graduates from your school.

The best way to find out a good estimate is live their a while, keep track of how many people you meet, and count how many of those went to your high school. Then you’ll have an answer!

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

Get out your high school yearbook, and find a part that lists the students alphabetically be last name. Then get out the local phone book, and just start at A to see who still lives in the area.

I suggest only looking up the guys. So many of the women will have changed their names that it’s not worth the effort. Just see what percentage of men still live there, and presume that a similar number is true for the women.

None of these solutions take into consideration the holiday and homecoming factors. Unless you leave the area during these times the probability increases that you will bump into your high school enemies.

This is semi-related but what the heck.

I noticed while I was in the navy people would always say things like “my cousin is in the navy too, do you know him.” The best I could do was roll my eyes but reality is often stranger than fiction.

A year after I left the navy in '85 I went to an obscure little Montana town to attend college. I found out that a classmate who did part time work at the same little computer store as I was recently retired from the navy. During a night of beer and sea stories we discovered we were on two ships that had collided with each other in '83. I was on the carrier Ranger and he was on the tanker Wichita.

Oh yeah, I know him. We went to different schools together.

There be a site, I think you can find out how many are in your city then find out how many people there are in the city & how many7 people you meet each day, & calculate the odds.

Personally, I meet far more people from elementary school.

Would you know them if you saw them? You have probably already “seen” some of your classmates, but did not recognize them after 30 years. I know this complicates matters. Sorry.

I wouldn’t worry about it. My personal silly belief is that you have to leave town to run into them.

Anecdotally: I went to a college prep high school outside the town where I grew up. I used to go downtown every weekend, and I think I never once ran into one of my elementary school classmates before my family moved away in my junior year.

Really strange anecdotes: I grew up in SE Michigan and my wife grew up in South Central Michigan. A few years ago we went to her high school reunion. While there, we ran into at least five of her classmates who had moved to the Cleveland area near where we live. This is not too surprising since Cleveland and Detroit seem to swap a lot of people. However, I ran into an employee of one of my college classmates: he from metro Detroit, she from Howell, now both living in North Central Michigan while I live near Cleveland. I have also encountered friends of another of my former classmates on this MB–although none of us live anywhere near where we did in our misspent youths.


I see a guy from high school all over. He’s a realtor, and has his big dumb face on bus benches, trucks and billboards throughout the area. I should have shot him in archery when I had the chance.

I’ll be there
Where I’ll teach what I’ve been taught
And I’ve been taught…

It varies tremendously by high school, and urban/rural nature of the area you’re from.

If I went back today to the city in OK where I went to high school, about 40% of my classmates would still live in the vicinity. I couldn’t NOT run into them. I knew about half of the 250 kids in my class well enough to know who my mom’s talking about when she tries to keep me up to date (I think she still hopes I’ll settle there when I get out of of the Army, but that’s another story).

My son went to 3 different high schools - in Wuerzburg, Germany (American school there with about 200 kids/class), in Montgomery County, Maryland (about 450 kids/class), and in El Paso (about 575 graduating this year). I doubt he remembers more than a dozen or so kids from each school, so while the chances of him bumping into a classmate are pretty good, the chances of him realizing it on sight are slim.

OTOH, every time I go home to visit, I can count on seeing lots of people I grew up with. Some visits make me sad for my kids not to have any place like that to call home; other visits, well, make me think they’re lucky… there’s only so many times you want to hear certain stories retold. And the expectations of how one dresses to go to Walmart’s (replaced downtown) get old pretty quick, too.

Sue from El Paso

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.

Here’s a really strange encounter:
On June 21, 1966, I rode a bike to downtown Los Angeles, about 15 miles. (I had just finished my junior year of high school.) Near the Coliseum (of the 1984 Olympics) I met a guy named Rick Norris, who had just graduated from the high school I was attending (in Redondo Beach, about 18 miles away)!
And a few minutes before, I rode through an intersection near the Coliseum; at the wheel of a car stopped on the cross street was none other than Mickey Rooney!!

I don’t know that you could figure out the probability. There are so many variables to take into account, it makes my brain hurt to think about it, so I won’t :slight_smile:

My husband lived his whole life in Memphis, TN, and it seemed like we couldn’t go to the gas station without bumping into someone he went to school with. Memphis is a fairly large city, but it seems like a lot of the kids stayed on for college and/or work.

Now I went to an US Army HS in Germany and I did bump into someone I knew once, in a casino in Mississippi of all places. We weren’t even great friends, but you should have seen us shouting and hugging and carrying on. It just seemed like the most amazing thing in the world to us! And oddly enough, her name was Tracy, too.

BTW, if any of you went to school overseas, there are a lot of websites devoted to alumni of the various schools. If anybody wants the specific link (I don’t have it handy right now) feel free to e-mail me and I’ll send it to ya.

Well, I was at a reunion a couple of weeks ago. Nothing odd about seeing people there, of course.

But while I was in the food line, the person behind me greeted me with, “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” He’d seen me getting my throat cut the night before, in the Haunted Village show at the New Jersey Renaissance Kingdom , 30 miles away.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams