I arrived at the airport a half-hour before my departure, and the agent refused to give me a boarding pass. Apparently, 45 minutes prior to boarding time is the hard stop at JFK. She said I could get on standby for the next flight. Sigh. Okay.

As the agent was setting up my standby reservation, I asked her what she thought the probability of my making that flight would be. She looked up at me and glared. “Sir, there is always a probability.”

I was stunned. Was she confusing the notion of probability for that of possibility and issuing a little snark to boot? Or was she making the offhand astounding claim that I, a one-time student of statistics, had never heard before? — that probability itself is eternal, that after I do or don’t make that flight, the probability that I would have made the flight will remain immutable for all of time.

I contemplated this during the six hours I had to wait until I found out that I did not, in fact, make the flight. But, thanks to her, I now believe there will always be a probability that I did.