Given the choice, ninety-nine percent of us would prefer to die quietly in our sleep. But the fact is, for ninety-nine percent of us, death won’t be peaceful. We’ll either get shot or drown or killed in a car crash or accidentally swallow a toothpick and die of peritonitis. I’ve often said that I don’t care how I go, just as long as its quick, painless, and as unhilarious as possible. You know, nothing along the lines of: “Former Stargate Producer Dies in Bouncy Castle” or “Man Decapitated by Frozen Pizza”.
Ultimately, it’s all in the odds. You have a better chance of dying because of texting and driving (6000 people annually in the U.S.) than, say, suffering some mortal vending machine-related mishap (13 unlucky snackers a year according to bizarre death statistics). It’s a relief to know you’re more likely to perish in some dignified manner (Aneurism? Saving an orphanage?) than by falling victim to Death by Beard or Death by The Goodies (http://list25.com/25-unusual-deaths-that-will-leave-you-scratching-your-head/).
But, seriously – what ARE the chances? Well, the fine folks at The Economist break it down for you:
I remember when my writing partner, Paul, and I were first starting out. We were working on a teen sitcom, Student Bodies, that shot out of an abandoned high school. Our office was a carpeted classroom that we made our own by adding a few personal touches: an air hockey table, the holes Paul had put in the ceiling practicing his backswing, and, best of all, a poster of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies. For those not-in-the-know, the latter was originally a book that explained the untimely demises of twenty-six unfortunate children – one for every letter of the alphabet:
I remember scanning the poster one day and, considering my partner’s hobbies and interests at the time, and playing the percentages, selected the ignoble black and white ending he was most likely to suffer. This one:
Ultimately, it’s a matter of balancing risk (a most unlikely death) and reward (enjoying countless delicious peaches – or glasses of gin). I, for instance, am certainly more likely to meet my end bleeding out from a nasty paper cut than a result of a hang gliding or sky diving accident because, while I accept the miniscule risks associated with reading and, thus (courageously) continue to read, I prefer not to subject myself to the remote likelihood of a splatterific death plunge and therefore will never ever hang glide or sky dive.
Your mileage may vary depending upon your interests – and how crazy you are:
There are those who will tell you you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to win the lottery. Perhaps true, but there is still the inescapable fact that people have won, do win, and will continue to win the lottery. I know that, given the choice, I’d sooner purchase a scratch and win than stand under an oak tree in a rainstorm. I ‘ve often wondered if there’s ever been an instant where a post-lightning strike victim, their consciousness ebbing, concluded: “I should’ve bought a lottery ticket.”. I like to think so. By the way, and for what it’s worth, my research places “individuals hit by lightning strikes” at 2000 annually, a not exactly overwhelming edge over “jackpot winners of $1 000 000 or more” at 1600 a year.
Like I said – it’s all in the odds. And in lieu of calculating your death (After all, who doesn’t like surprises?) you can always calculate the various other likelihoods of your life. FUNNY2™ – The Odds #1 offers some other interesting prospects:
Odds of winning an Olympic medal: 662,000 to 1 (I bet my odds would improve if I started training now)
Chance of an American home having at least one container of ice cream in the freezer: 9 in 10. (Yep, that sounds about right)
Odds that a first marriage will survive without separation or divorce for 15 years: 1.3 to 1 (This too)
Odds of getting away with murder: 2 to 1 (Them’s mighty tempting odds)
Odds of being considered possessed by Satan: 7,000 to 1 (Significantly higher if you’re in show business)
And finally -
Odds of dropping dead while reading this blog entry: Probably better than your chances of winning the lottery.