Wednesday 14 August 2013

Realworld applications for statistics

This morning I found myself uncomfortably close to a stranger on a crowded Sydney bus. Generally speaking this is not how I like to make the trip to work. The two of us had found ourselves awkwardly positioned by the sudden influx of passengers, a desire to remain upright and an unwillingness to press our more intimate body parts into the faces of those passengers who had boarded the bus early enough to be seated. There was an initial mutual acknowledgement that neither of us would normally stand this close to a stranger without at least first being on the right side of a good couple of hours of drinking, then we both fulfilled the obligatory attempts at finding somewhere for our eyes to be that weren't each other. It's a ritual and it is time honoured.

Standing as close as I was, it was difficult not to notice the even coverage of his three (or four) day stubble. Those that have stood close enough to my unshaven face, will know that a man of my facial follicle spread is want to appreciate, and perhaps covet, a more consistent patterning. This isn't what caused me to stare, and I did stare. each hair seemed so similar in size to those that surrounded it, while differing from those situated around other areas of his face. Clear and neat patterns of length and direction swirled before me in tiny pitch black vectors against the consistent hue of his brown skin. They seemed so perfect that not for a second did I doubt that I could plot them in R, given the right formula. I imagined the elegantly nested loops that I would write, paying homage to Turing in my mimicry of nature. I could scan his cleanly shaven face, and call the image to set my plot against it. It could be a game. An exquisite game. A race to the formula that would reproduce the brilliant display that lay before me.

I don't know when he noticed, but it was definitely before I did. By the time I realised that I had been staring, I looked up into his eyes and saw a very particular kind of discomfort. I considered explaining myself and what I thought about doing with his face, but it occurred to me that this could be the wrong thing to do. You don't tell strangers that you want to make a game out of their face. Our previously discussed positioning prevented either of us from removing ourselves from this newly heightened discomfort, and we simply made the rest of the trip in silence.

He could've been famous.

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