(Submitted by reader Carolyn Melendez de Lafuente)

As usual, I was late in prepping our tax documents for our accountant to meet the filing deadline.

I filled in all the information I had gleaned from the various support documents, including the letter from our mortgage company indicating how much interest we’d paid on our mortgage.  I completed the three pages, placed one in the scanner to be scanned onto my computer, and placed the other two on top of the scanner.

I then turned away and fiddled with the app on my computer. I heard the sound of falling paper behind me. When I turned around, the two pages that I had placed on top of the scanner were gone. I obviously heard the sound of them falling, so I gathered that they had floated away. SOMEWHERE.

My search began. Behind the garbage bin. In the garbage bin. Across the room. Behind the filing cabinet that the scanner was on top of. Between the filing cabinet and the wall. I WAS STARTING TO PANIC. Then I thought to look in the sliver of space between that filing cabinet and the immediately adjacent filing cabinet. I pushed it away and there were 3 sheets of paper there — the two I had been looking frantically for AND an additional sheet of paper — a tax form that I had filled out for the previous year, which included mortgage interest paid the year before last.

I noticed immediately that the number was WAY off…almost DOUBLE what I had just written on the current documents I was scanning. Then it dawned on me — our mortgage company transferred our mortgage a few months into the year! I had totally forgotten, and included only one mortgage provider’s numbers. If I hadn’t seen that additional sheet of paper, I would have provided an incorrect number to our accountant! I looked up and said thank you to the Universe for the assist. :)


Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 224.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own sarcastic and hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog.

Things always seem more coincidental when we feel that we have averted some harm. I’m reminded of stories about averting disaster, like people who miss a flight that crashes, or those who called in sick to the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.

The truth is that if they’d gone to work, there’s a good chance they would have gotten out alive (a majority of people working in the building did).  We forget all of the times that we missed a flight that did not crash or called in sick and nothing happened.

In this case, the chances are excellent that the mistake would have been caught regardless, but the urge to attribute the incident to “fate” is strong.

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