Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Odds Are

Last night the girls and I went grocery shopping.

Every time I reached for something off the metal shelves I got a shock. Not just a little spark, but those loud, sharp pops that feel like industrial rubber bands being snapped against your flesh by thick-fingered, Olympic weight lifters.

The second time it happened, we were standing next to this big, burly guy. I reached for some fruit cups and SNAP!

“Jesus Christ!” I yelled. I know I shouldn’t blaspheme, but the current must have traveled straight to my brain. That’s probably the same reason I turned to burly guy and said, “I almost wet my pants on that one.”

Burly guy heard this and looked at me as if I was wearing a pretty blue bonnet and ruffled petticoats. I can’t say that I blame him. Little girls wet their pants. Men are incapable of leaking urine even in the face of the most horrifying of circumstances. But there I was volunteering that a small static charge almost got the best of my bladder (actually, it hadn’t, but I was trying to be amusing which is something I really shouldn’t do in public anymore).

We wheeled away from burly guy in a hurry after that. But I continued to get shocked. I even stopped and looked around for cameras thinking I was on a Japanese game show. I didn’t see any cameras so I started picking things off the shelves as if I was playing Operation (take out olives, take out cinnamon, etc.). I found myself being drawn to products packaged in non-conductive materials. I’ll buy canned-goods the next time I’m at the store wearing a grounding wire.

Now that I think about it, I don’t even know why I have to do the shopping. I want to hire someone to stock our larder. I remember looking at some notes John Lennon wrote to his personal assistant that were being auctioned off by Christies. I could see John sitting at the kitchen table first thing in the morning thinking, “I’d like some fresh blueberries.” Then he’d pick up a pen and write, “Please pick up a quart of really sweet blueberries and find me some nice socks.” He’d hand the note to his assistant and before he knew it he would be eating blueberries and sitting around in a pair of nice new socks.

It takes money to pull off that trick. But I have a plan.

The lottery.

I know I’m not going about winning the lottery the right way. I usually buy a ticket every other month and when I do I always let the machines choose my numbers. According to the Powerball Web site (my personal game of choice) my odds of winning are 1 in 146,107,962.

This newfound Vegas mentality got me thinking about odds. Somehow I knew that I have a better chance of being killed by a moose in my own living room than of winning Powerball. I wanted to confirm this so I went to the National Safety Council’s Web site to see what my lifetime odds are of dying by whatever means were. I started small and looked at being bitten or stung by nonvenomous insect and other arthropod. Turns out I’ve got a 1 in 286,537 chance that I will be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a rogue cockroach decides to see just what it would take to bring a human down. Change the cockroach to a hornet or a bee and my odds increase to 1 in 68,981.

Because I’m not sure if I’m allergic to bees and the only cockroach I’ve ever feared lives (lived) down in New Orleans I thought I should examine something a little more germane. Like shoveling snow - Pay attention, Debbie because overexertion brings with it 1 opportunity in 29,101 for me to expire. Winter is coming and I want you to have these statistics in mind the next time I reach for the snow shovel before you do. The more I shovel, the more likely it will be you’ll have to do it on a permanent basis (or at least until the girls are big enough to take care of it). You think about that. . .

1 in 29,101. That number was still too big to have much impact. I needed to make these statistics a little more real so I looked for the lowest number on the chart associated with a specific cause. It was 212. I have a 1 in 212 chance of dying via accidental poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances.

When I think of all the diapers I’ve changed and all the ones I’m going to change, my blood runs cold.

212. That’s about the capacity of a movie theater. If death was an usher she’d have to walk up and down the aisles, choose a row, then a seat before she found me and made me leave before the end of the movie (where was she when I went to see Blair Witch Project?). Sure, I’d be a little nervous watching her comb the audience, but I still feel that I would have pretty good odds of surviving the death usher scenario.

So, if I apply lottery numbers to the death usher example, death would have to go through 689,189 theaters (212 seats per theater) to find me.

Why in the hell would I think I could ever win the lottery?

Because I’m a huge pessimist, that’s why.

I just know death will want to go see Batman Begins when it hits the second run theater market. She’ll sit down beside me and see me eating Dots with my popcorn. After about five minutes of me chewing next to her she won’t be able to take it anymore and reap me. When they empty out my pockets, that’s when they’ll find the winning Powerball ticket.

Just my luck.

By the way, the odds of being killed by that Moose (not necessarily in my living room): 1 in 49,665.

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