Walk a Mile in My Shoes

What are the odds of getting dog dirt in your shoe?

Yes, in the shoe, not on the shoe. There have been more times than I care to account for where I have gotten dog dirt on the sole of my shoe. And it is not as though dogs make a habit of relieving themselves inside the shoes that you carelessly forgot to put away in the closet. No, dogs prefer to chew on such a prize. So you’re probably thinking what kind of a moron gets dog dirt inside his shoe?

An explanation is therefore in order.

I was sitting there on the couch watching Sigourney Weaver dispatch another batch of aliens in “Aliens Resurrection” when my son came in from walking the dog to glumly announce that there was dog dirt in my shoe.

“How did that happen?” was more or less what I asked him.

“I was walking the dog like you asked, and I decided to wear your shoes, and I had picked up the dog’s droppings in a plastic bag, and I guess as I was walking home, some of it fell out and landed in your shoe,” was his story.

Now I know a thing or two about statistics and probability. So let’s go over that little story and figure out the probability of such a confluence of events to transpire whereby I end up with dog dirt in my shoe.

First, my son agreed to take the dog out for a walk without the usual fussing and complaining that usually accompanies such a request until I get so frustrated that I simply take the dog out myself. Odds: 1 in 1,000.

Second, my son decided to wear my running shoes. Of all the times my children have exited through our front door – approximately one million times – until now, never has any child of mine decided to wear my running shoes. Odds: 1 in 1,000,000.

Third, my son did not bother tying up the shoes so that his feet flopped in and out of the heel. Odds: 1 in 1.

Fourth, the dog had a poop. Odds: 1 in 1.

Fifth, my child picked up the droppings without having to be sent back out to avoid the ire of one of my neighbours because he came home empty-handed. Odds: 1 in 5,000.

Sixth, some of the droppings, say, a single dropping, had to find its way out of the plastic bag and into the back of my shoe. This is a tough one to estimate because this particular child’s feet are the same size of mine so it is not as if there was a lot of clearance for such an event to take place randomly. What had to have happened is that at the precise moment when my son's heel flopped out of the back of my shoe, thereby leaving the back exposed, a dropping must have rolled out of a hole in the bag and into my shoe. Odds: 1 in 1,000,000,000.

When we multiply all these probabilities together to arrive at the random chance of such a sequence of events taking place, we end up with an extremely low probability, virtually nil in my professional opinion. When I am teaching in front of a class I always tell my students that if an event has such a low probability of taking place, then we must conclude that the event was not random, but rather purposeful.

This leads me to the distasteful conclusion that my son then put dog dirt in my shoe on purpose. I know that I can be a rather strict parent, but there is absolutely nothing that can convince me that I did something to raise the dudgeon of this child to the point where he would put dog dirt in my shoe, especially since his foot was inside the shoe with the dog dirt.

So we must look to Sherlock Holmes for an explanation. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” in one of the Holmes stories.

The truth of the matter must then be that I have been the subject of an almost miraculous prank played by God. As improbable as this sounds, it must be thus.

Anyway, the shoe has been cleaned and I am pretty confident that this event will not reoccur, for surely, such an event should only happen to a person once in his lifetime. So rest assured that if I were to ask you to walk a mile in my shoes, you could feel secure that there won’t be any dog dirt inside them.

Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.

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