Rome wasn't built by accident, and Hitler didn't decide to invade Poland on the flip of a coin. Society is shaped by powerful men with a vision, for better or worse.
Well, mostly. As it turns out, some of the most important changes in pop culture and world history have turned on some guy shrugging and saying, "screw it."
5The Mayflower Lands at Plymouth Rock for a Beer Run
Everyone knows the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth because they were searching for a place that would let them practice religious freedom (and that wasn't the Netherlands). What's stupid or arbitrary about that?
The Arbitrary Reason:
Actually, it was about beer. The pilgrims weren't even supposed to go to Massachusetts, they were set to settle in what is now the state of New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. That was the plan all along, and that's where they would have landed - if they hadn't run out of beer.
"It's not beer, it's just a rock!"
The more standard story is that the bad weather made navigation almost impossible and people were getting sick, so they had to stop somewhere. They began searching for a suitable place to settle. However, it was the fact that they were running out of provisions--especially beer--that finally made them realize they couldn't be picky. And as anyone who's lived in New England can tell you, the only way you can voluntarily choose to settle there is if you're not picky about climate, or really anything else.
"We could not take time for further search or consideration,
our victuals being much spent, especially our beer" -The First Goddamn Americans (1622)
Since beer was boiled, it was cleaner than what passed for regular water at the time and therefore safer to drink (especially during long trips). So, if the beer in the Mayflower hadn't been running low at the time they were passing near Plymouth, they almost definitely would have continued their trip further down south, as close to the Hudson River as they could make it.
Of course, once they had settled on land and found perfectly drinkable water there, they didn't really need beer... which didn't stop them from fighting over the beer that remained, and sending the first ship back to England with an order for plenty more.
The World-Changing Consequences:
Plymouth Colony became the oldest permanent English settlement in America, and their search for ideological freedom remained an important theme all through the history of the United States.
As did their obsession with beer.
The Pilgrims are responsible for much of American folklore, starting with Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, if the Pilgrims had run out of beer anywhere besides Plymouth, there's a good chance they would have been screwed. The Native Americans they happened to befriend (Pilgrim for "stealing their corn") at Plymouth had a guy who spoke English, and were friendly enough to teach them how to survive in that area. Without that stroke of good luck, the Colony doesn't survive that first winter.
In other words, if the murmurs of "keg's tapped" and "this party's lame" had started a few miles down the coast, none of us would be here right now.