Felix woke up 37 minutes ago. But he was still in bed. He was going to be late for work. He checked the clock next to his bed again and saw that he now only had 23 minutes to shower. He decided that he would be fine with a shower as short as 15 minutes. He turned face down into his bed and put his pillow over his head.
Felix woke up. He checked the clock near his bed. He now only had 12 minutes to shower. He took a deep breath, let it out and then rolled over and fell off his bed. He got up and looked at the mirror on his wall. Felix forced a smile. “Today will be a good day,” he said to his reflection. His reflection didn’t look convinced. He was definitely going to be late for work. He walked over to the machine and turned it on.
“Calibrating,” the machine said, calculating new personality number.”
Felix wondered if his number would be different today.
“Your personality number is 972. Personality 972 is compatible with the personality 495. There are currently 22 million people who fit these criteria. There is a 0.03% chance of you meeting your match today.”
His personality number was always 972. The numbers only changed if the machine detected a change in personality. Some people’s numbers changed more often than others but Felix was the same person he had always been so his number was always the same. However the 0.03% chance surprised Felix and his forced smile felt more natural. That was higher than yesterday. No doubt today would be the day he found his match. He looked at the clock. He had 7 minutes left to shower and still be on time for work. He hurried to the shower room.
His alarm sounded through the whole house signaling it was time to leave but Felix ignored it. He was only halfway finished. The alarm continued as he finished his shower and got dressed. “0.03% is much better than yesterday,” he thought. He picked out his best shirt from the clean pile of clothes on the floor. It was yellow. Yellow seemed like a good color for today. Felix picked up a pair of pants from the floor and smelled them. They were fine; he could wear them for at least 3 more days before he had to wash them. He looked out the window, it was sunny, and so he decided it must be warm out, left his jacket behind, walked outside and locked the door.
Felix arrived at work 8 minutes late and it took him 3 minutes to reach his station on the second level. He apologized to his boss and hurried to his station. It had been much colder than he thought it would be and he wished that he brought his jacket.
He sat down at his station and powered on the work machine. “Good morning machine,” he said.
“Beginning work sequences,” said the machine. He finished his first assignment and looked at his clock. Work felt like it was taking much longer than normal. Felix could not wait to try his luck at The Dating Game this afternoon. He knew that his 0.03% chance was great and knew that he was sure to meet someone today.
He worked for 2 hours before a woman interrupted him. “Hello Felix,” said the woman. Felix turned towards her. He recognized her. She worked on the 5th level. What was she doing in his station? Now that he thought about it, she had come to his station before. He thought about what she had said to him last time she visited but found he couldn’t remember.
“How are you today?” she asked and when Felix didn’t say anything she said, “I love your shirt, yellow is my favorite color.” Felix wondered if she knew that talking about non-work related topics during work hours was frowned upon by upper management.
“Your shirt is also a pleasant color,” he said to her. He wondered if that was the response she was looking for. He still had 73% of his assigned work to complete today.
“Thanks Felix,” she said and smiled. Felix noticed that her cheeks had turned slightly pink. He wondered why she said his name so often. He thought hard, but didn’t think he knew her name. He was sure she told him once. It probably started with an S. He could never remember names that started with S. Why did people need to know each other’s names anyway? He rarely used people’s names in conversations with them. Memorizing what everyone was called seemed like it would take up a lot of time, time he could use to finish his daily assignment. He wondered when the woman would leave; he really needed to get back to work. “A few friends and I are going to go to have a few drinks after work tonight. There is a bar not far from here,” she said and then paused expectantly. He did not know why she was telling him this. “Do you want to come with us?” she asked. She said this a little faster than the rest of what she said and Felix almost didn’t hear her properly.
“I can’t, I have to go to the Dating Game tonight,” he said. “I have a 0.03% chance of meeting someone compatible today. 0.03% is a much higher chance than normal.”
Her posture slumped slightly and her smile faded. “0.03% doesn’t seem like such a high chance. How do you know that there won’t be someone compatible tonight at the bar where we will be getting drinks? How do you know there isn’t anyone compatible working in this building?”
Felix laughed. “The company looks for specific types of people. Most people that work here must be similar personality types. And there are sure to be a lot of people at the Dating Game, which means there is a higher chance of meeting somebody there.” Felix noticed lines on the woman’s face that weren’t there before. “Why would anyone go to a regular bar to meet someone?” Felix laughed again. The woman sighed. She looked like she wanted to say something else. She opened her mouth as I to answer his question and explain exactly why someone would go to a regular bar, but instead she turned around and walked away. She seemed frustrated. Felix wondered if she was frustrated because she hadn’t thought to try the Dating Game. Or maybe her chance of meeting someone compatible was lower than 0.03% and she was jealous. He decided he should really stop bragging about his chance. He didn’t want to make anyone jealous.
Felix worked extra hard to finish the remainder of his work. He had lost several minutes talking with that woman and so he had to work slightly faster to catch up. If he didn’t finish 100% of his assignments he would have to stay late and he didn’t want to stay late. Not today. He didn’t want to waste his 0.03% chance in an office building by himself. He finished all of his work with 2 minutes to spare, closed down his work machine, went down to the ground level and left the building. The Dating Game was hosted in the community center two blocks from Felix’s office. As he walked towards the Dating Game he noticed the woman from his office walking with a group of friends across the street. She noticed him watching them and made a little smile. Felix kept walking.
Finally he reached the community center and approached the door. Outside was a doorman. “Entry fee to The Dating Game is 10 dollars,” said the doorman.
“Of course,” said Felix, and he handed the doorman $10 dollars. The doorman handed him a name tag and a pen and then opened the door and stepped aside, allowing Felix into the bar. The room was filled with hundreds of tables arranged in a circle. Each table had two chairs. In the middle of the circle were hundreds of people standing around in silence waiting for the game to start. Felix wrote his name on his name tag, put it on and then put the pen in his pocket.
A short man climbed up on to one of the tables. “Alright everyone, take a seat,” he said. Everyone moved to a chair. All of the men sat in chairs on the outside of the circle of tables and all the women sat in the chairs on the inside of the circle facing them. “You know how this works,” said the short man, “Every 30 seconds you will hear this bell.” Here the man paused and shook a little bell. “When you hear the bell, the women will move one table over clockwise. Not all the chairs are full so if you are left without a pair for a round, just wait till the next bell.” Felix looked around the room at the several empty chairs. “Is anyone not ready?” asked the short man, nobody answered. “Begin.”
Felix turned to the woman sitting across the table from him and tried to smile. Her name tag read Elaine. “Hello,” he said. “My personality number is 972, are we compatible?” He always started conversations at The Dating Game like that. There wasn’t really a reason to start any other way. Why would he want to waste energy talking about anything else if she wasn’t compatible?
The woman sneered at him across the table. “Definitely not, my number is only 2 digits.” He didn’t think she had to be so rude but it made sense. He had noticed that people with 2 digit personality numbers tended to be rude. They sat quietly together until the short man rang his bell and Elaine stood up and moved to the next table.
In her place a short woman with black hair sat down. Her name tag in neat small letters said Daphne. “Hello,” he said. “My personality number is 972, are we compatible?”
Daphne shook her head. “No my number is 946 and I am compatible with number 579. I really hope I meet someone today, the machine told me I have a 0.04% chance of meeting a compatible person today. That’s how I knew I should come to the dating game. I never have chance that high.”
Felix was amazed. He had never had a chance that high. “My chance today is 0.03% and I thought I had a good chance,” he told her. “I’ve never even heard of someone with a 0.04% chance. You must be really lucky.” Daphne gave him a little smile. “I wonder how the machine calculates the chances.”
A small laugh escaped her lips. “I don’t think anyone knows,” she said. “They probably collect data through satellites. There are so many satellites now, you know. The short man rang the bell again and Daphne stood up.
In her place sat a woman Felix recognized. It was the woman from work. He looked at her name tag and saw the name Sophie. He knew her name started with S. “Hi Felix,” she said smiling. He wondered why she was here; she told him that she was going to get a drink with friends. “I wasn’t having that much fun with my friends,” said Sophie, answering his unasked question. “You seemed so excited about coming here, so I thought I would come check it out.”
Felix wasn’t sure what he should say. He was pretty sure they didn’t have compatible numbers. Since they worked together, he assumed that their numbers must be similar. But he decided he should ask anyway. It would be rude not to. “My personality number is 972, are we compatible?”
Sophie made a funny face. “How was work today?” she asked. “I noticed you were late I hope you didn’t get in trouble.” Felix still wasn’t sure how to respond. The short man rang the bell and all the women moved one table clockwise. Except Sophie, she didn’t move. Felix looked over at the table on his right. Luckily the chair at that table had been empty so there wasn’t anyone to replace her anyway. He looked back at Sophie.
“Today work was uneventful. Despite being late I finished 100% of my assignments.”
“That’s pretty impressive,” Sophie said, “I don’t always finish all of my work. Whatever I don’t finish gets pushed to the next day. Some days I have to work really hard to catch up.” She laughed. Felix was horrified. He had never completed any more or less than he daily assigned work. Felix wondered why she wouldn’t tell him her number. It didn’t make sense to continue their conversation if their personalities weren’t compatible. The short man rang the bell again and all the women rotated one chair over. This time there was a new person who came over to sit in front of Felix but Sophie still hadn’t moved so after giving Felix a strange look she skipped over his table sat down at the next table. Felix stared at her. He didn’t like that Sophie was breaking the rules and it was making him frustrated. How was he supposed to meet someone if she used up all his time? Maybe he could try with her one more time. “What personality number are you?” he asked. “I am curious to know what kind of person you are.”
Sophie sighed. “Well, you would think the best way to do that would be to ask me some questions and find out for yourself,” she said.
“But there are so many people in the world. How would you ever meet them all if we didn’t have the personality number system? “Math is always correct. Logic never fails.” Now he was agitated. He didn’t know why she didn’t understand. “The machine knows what kind of person everyone is and its algorithm can always find someone compatible.” His loud voice was drawing attention from the nearby tables.
“Always?” she asked. “Don’t machines ever make mistakes?”
“Never,” said Felix. “Not as long as they use the correct inputs.” He paused for a second looking at her. She was smiling again and her smile was making him uneasy.
“How do you know the machine uses correct inputs? She asked.
Felix slouched. He felt smaller in his chair. He knew exactly where she was leading him. He looked up at her and saw that she was still smiling. “The machine was designed very well, he said. “It takes inputs from hundreds of different places. Some people even think that the machine uses satellites to collect data.” He wondered if anyone other than Daphne thought that the machine used satellites. “It is very unlikely that it could be wrong with all of that data.” He found himself looking at her face. Their eyes met and he noticed how much he liked the dark brown in her eyes. He realized that he was smiling and when he looked at her he watched Sophie’s smile start to widen.
“Isn’t there a chance that even with all of the information the machine absorbs that the machine misses something, something small and important?” Felix started to answer but was cut off by the short man and his little bell. Again all the women stood up to rotate. All of them except Sophie, she sat still staring at him waiting for the room to settle. Once again a woman came to sit at the table across from Felix and then moved to the next table when she realized that his table was not free. Felix barely noticed this time. He was trying desperately to construct a valid response. The room became still again, but before he was able to talk Sophie asked him a question.
“What is the probability that you will meet someone compatible today given that the machine is wrong?” Felix thought about that. The answer wasn’t too hard to define. The probability of A given B is the probability of A and B divided by the probability of B. But there weren’t enough givens to give her a numerical answer. How was he supposed to know the probability that the machine was wrong? If the machine was wrong there was no way of even knowing the probability of meeting someone compatible.
“The machine is very accurate,” Felix said, but now he wondered just how accurate it was. His 0.03% didn’t seem as promising anymore. He looked over at Daphne who was several tables away. She was kissing the man across from her. He wondered if the machine had given them compatible numbers, was her 0.04% chance even accurate? He looked back at Sophie again. She was still looking at him and he felt himself become caught again by her eyes. He looked at her smile and he found himself thinking that that he liked her smile.
“Do you enjoy ice cream?” She asked.
“Of course,” he said. It was a strange question; he wasn’t sure how it connected with the rest of their conversation.
“What is your favorite flavor?”
He knew the answer right away and so he answered just as the end of her question left her lips. “Blue of course.”
She smiled. “Blue is the best flavor.”
He smiled back at her. “How do I know that you are telling the truth? Machines cannot lie. But people can. Maybe you said you like blue ice cream just because I like blue ice cream.”
“I would never lie to you, lying is impractical because it wastes people’s time.” She said to him, and for some reason he believed her. “There is an ice cream store just outside,” she said. With that she stood up and reached out a hand. He stood up and reached out as well. Together, holding hands, they exited the small bar and into the night. After they finished their ice cream they walked around the city for so long that Felix lost track of what time it was. When they were both tired they went their separate ways. On the way home Felix realized that although he didn’t remember most of what they talked about, the way that he felt while they were walking stuck with him. And while he couldn’t identify the feeling he knew that he enjoyed it. When Felix arrived home he was so tired that he fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning Felix got out of bed soon after he woke up. He walked over to the machine and turned it on.
“Calibrating,” the machine said, calculating new personality number.”
Felix wondered if Sophie would visit him while he was working again today.
“Your personality number is 974. Personality 974 is compatible with—” Felix turned the machine off. He didn’t need to hear the rest.
Felix took his shower and although he had plenty of time he finished quickly and put on a clean blue shirt and after a moment’s thought a clean new pair of pants. Smiling he left his house early and headed for work.