Allison DuBois and D.A. Manuel Devalos discuss
their cell phone choices on "Medium."
Well, not really.
I'm not a statistician. I know how to look at a bell curve a bit,
I know what is involved in taking a good random sample to acquire
research data, but that's it. I did know a girl way back who was a
graduate student in Mathematics and whose area was statistics, but
it's not as if her knowledge rubbed off on me simply because I was
rubbing up against her at the time.
Back in June of last year I bought a Blackberry Curve smartphone.
By default the phone was set to a certain ringtone as it came out
of the box. It only took me a few days to find that the Blackberry
was actually loaded with about 60 ringtones and notifiers that they
didn't even tell you about. I guess they assume that anybody who gets
a Blackberry is a bit of a geek or closet geek and that they will go
through every single menu on the phone when they first get it to find
Anyway, I didn't like the default ringtone much. So I went down their
offering of possible ringtones and listened to them. I wanted a tone
that was distinctive and perhaps unique, but one that wouldn't get
totally annoying after a few weeks or so (and I imagine that a lot of
them do). As a result I settled on a ringtone called Light Speed (or
Lightspeed). It's a nice ringtone that says "You definitely have a call
but I'm not going to drive you crazy about it." It was also a very clear
ringtone, which makes it easy to hear from a distance.
Well I didn't think anything about all that at the time. I picked a
ringtone, one among 60, no big deal.
A few months later, I think it was in October, I was watching an
episode of Medium on television. There was a scene in which Rosanna
Arquette's boss, the District Attorney, received a call on his phone.
To my great surprise his ringtone was the same as the one I had
selected — the Light Speed ringtone. I found it sort of cool really.
And I think my response was something like "Huh, imagine that, he's
got the same tone as I do!"
That was it for a while with regard to the ringtone. But in December
I was flipping through channels and came a across a movie. Pausing to
check it out briefly I watched a scene in which one of the characters
got a call on his phone. And it rang with the Light Speed ringtone. At
that point it seemed very strange. It seemed highly improbable that with
all the phones out there and with thousands of downloadable ringtones
available to choose from that somebody else — probably the prop
manager — had a phone with the same ringtone.
In January I was sitting having my lunch one afternoon watching CNN.
All of a sudden my phone went off. Or at least I thought it was my phone.
But no, after a few seconds I realized that one of the reporters on the
program must have inadvertently left their phone on. And hey, guess
what, they had the Light Speed ringtone. At that point the thing moved
from the realm of the strange to the realm of the bizarre.
But that's not all. I won't bore you with more details, but since then I
have run across 2 more programs where a phone used the Light Speed
ringtone. At which point it escalated from the bizarre to the freaky.
Like I said I know little about statistics. But it seems to me that assuming
everybody out there used a Blackberry Curve then there would be a perhaps
1 in 60 chance that they would also settle on the Light Speed ringtone
just like I did. But of course a person doesn't have to use one of the on-
board ringtones. You can download them just like any other phone. And then,
of course, there is the fact that the Curve is only one among hundreds
of phones out there. It would seem a lot more probable, in fact very probable,
that with all the phones and tones out there I would never run across my own
tone to the degree that I have, and that like most things in life people
have different tastes and chose different ringtones.
So I decided to look into the matter a bit. Using the string "most popular
ringtones" I checked out a good number of sites that listed what they called
the "most popular." I guess what was on my mind at that point was that the
reason I ran across the Light Speed ringtone so often was that it was in fact
a very popular ringtone. Well the first thing I discovered was that they all
listed different tones as being the most popular. In other words, they were
only getting part of the information needed to indeed represent the most
popular tones. It wasn't as if there was some overriding government or even
private agency keeping up with all the data.
I quickly became lost in all of it. Just too much data, too many download
sites, too many ringtones. But of course discovering all that only made
my original feeling of this being a incredibly improbable occurrence more
And perhaps even more improbable? That somebody should have read
through this entire geeky post.