There’s an old wives’ tale, sometimes bandied about in “did you know?” type lists, that every breath you take contains an air molecule once breathed by every single other person who’s ever lived.
I do not believe this for a second.
It seems possible to me that the number of molecules in a single breath of air is greater than the total number of humans that have ever lived, but I find it unlikely that the air breathed out by every person in history has been so perfectly distributed that every breath one takes contains a molecule breathed by (to pick some names at random) Caesar, Hiawatha and Yul Brynner. I just don’t see how the necessary air-distribution infrastructure could exist.
I suspect the story came about based on the (provisional) fact mentioned above – that a single breath of air contains enough molecules to give one to every person in history and have a good number left over. It’s a short leap from that to the idea we’re discussing – a variation on the fallacy that since many cats are black, anything black must be a cat (I’m sure there’s a better way to put that, something about Cretans being liars, but I can’t think of it at this time of night). It’s probably a fairly easy mistake to make – until you start thinking logically about it anyway.
(If any mathematicians or meteorologists want to correct me and prove that I am breathing the same air as Hitler, please feel free).
As unlikely as everyone in history sharing their air may be, I think it’s fair to say that a bunch of people crowded into a railway carriage do, in fact, breath the same air. And this brings me to the main thrust of this article, which is an extremely attractive girl on the train tonight.
She was fairly gothy (which I have to admit is a look I like) with long red (dyed) hair, and was standing more or less right in front of my seat on the journey out from the city. She was accompanied by another gothy chick and from what I could make out of their body language I think they may have been together (which is fine). She was really remarkably beautiful and quite captured my attention for the whole journey to my station.
I spent said journey entertaining the kind of melancholic thoughts that plague the lonely nerd – how I would more than likely never see her again, how I’d almost certainly never get to speak to her, and similar jolly imaginings. Then, when we were getting close to my station, I stood up to fight my way to the door, and she sat down in my seat!
So that’s my story. I didn’t speak to her, I’ll probably never see her again, but we breathed the same air, and she sat in a seat warmed by my buttocks. And in a strange, silly and probably slightly disturbing way that made me feel a little better about the whole thing.
(Of course some people are now going to suggest that I should have offered her my seat – providing a perfect opportunity to speak to her, and creating a good impression all in one. Yes, well, a stuttering, sweaty nerd offering an attractive woman a train seat always goes over so well doesn’t it?)