Aside from the requisite Mythbusters episode, I wonder how many times the ability to find a needle in a haystack has proved to be worthwhile. A literal needle in a literal haystack sounds like a practical joke, or perhaps some arcane method of birth control intended to keep farmer's daughters from taking that literal roll in the hay. In which case, it seems that dumping a few more needles into the mix would make it more useful, but therefore making the odds of finding said needles easier.
It's a figure of speech, but it was what I was thinking as I saw a co-worker pull up to work with a flat tire. He had discovered a nail in the rear driver's side. and the air had all but left him and he was riding on the rim. Aside from the obvious next steps of finding a place to change out the impacted wheel, I started to be curious about just how that nail found its way into that tire. Like porcupines and balloons, these two items are natural enemies, but their interaction would seem to be necessarily limited. Once upon a time I could have imagined a world that was still being built, with cities full of ongoing construction. Nails would be pervasive, even more than the hammers that pounded them. Now? Those nails have been knocked into place, where they've been for ages, and many of them have even been replaced or enhanced by stronger stuff: rivets, concrete, Velcro. How did that lone offending fastener find its way deep into the tread of this one particular tire? The odds of this occurrence in 2014 seems awfully slight.
Unless, like those needles in that family planning haystack, they were put there with malice aforethought. My son plays enough driving games on his Xbox that I have vicariously encountered spike strips, but I'm reasonably sure that my colleague was not attempting to outrun a highway patrol pursuit, and that kind of damage is more than one note. Instead, I tried to imagine some young hoodlum creeping by curbside, and inserting that lone nail into that one tire. That made about as much sense, and wasn't nearly as exciting as imaging my fellow teacher in an episode from Grand Theft Auto VI: Elementary School Rampage.
It didn't make sense. That's what makes it an accident. That's probably why they don't tend to store hardware directly adjacent to freeways and also why quilting circles weren't held in barns.