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Monday, 01 October 2012

Silverbacks, Stupidity and Actuarial Quizzes

By Jeanne Waite Follett of Gullible's Travels

I recently received an email that included a link to one of those internet quizzes, this one that purportedly could predict my longevity.

This wasn’t one of those things where you had to send it to your entire address book within 12 seconds or fire and damnation would fall upon you and yours. Nor was it one of the ones that would bring astonishingly good luck, which begs the question: Who or what is the final arbiter of that?

Seriously. Shamrocks don’t wear watches and time is eternal and therefore moot for angels.

Back to the actuarial quiz, I answered all the questions honestly, even giving my true weight rather than my DMV weight.

I had to guess at my height so I used the measurement that was valid in 1960, when I graduated from high school. Lately I’ve suspected that height is no longer accurate because it seems to be getting harder and harder to reach the top shelf in my kitchen cabinets.

Of course, the condition of my shoulder joints might have something to do with that. Seeing what’s on top of the refrigerator has never been an option.

Anyway, the quiz determined I was going to live to 94, leaving me 23 years in which to avoid killing myself by means of sheer stupidity. Of course, I’m aware that there’s always the possibility that somebody else would do something equally stupid and impact me. Literally impact me.

I actually committed a couple acts of sheer stupidity this past summer, one of which involved attempting to move from a stepladder onto an extension ladder while five feet above ground. It didn’t work as hoped, but resulted in making it even harder to reach any shelf, much less the top one.

Twenty-three more years. Think of all the places I could go in the next 23 years. After this November, I will have only one continent left to set foot on before I will have visited all seven.

That final continent is Africa and I have been considering various tours for the last couple years. I would really, really like to hike in to see the mountain gorillas.

What about the continent of Antarctica, you ask. Ah, but that’s where I’m going in November. “Shackleton’s Antarctica,” billed the travel company. That sucked me in right away because I have been a Shackleton groupie even since I read Alfred Lansing’s Endurance decades ago.

It’s a pricey trip, to be sure, so I’ve been sticking pretty close to home this year. That sacrifice, however, resulted in the failed ladder trick mentioned above because I decided to grind off all the finish on my house and redo it and that project required the use of tall, very tall ladders. I would be healthier had I gone somewhere instead.

I did visit Yosemite National Park for the first time, though, a trip that cost me $180 which is pretty remarkable considering I live in Alaska and Yosemite is more than 2000 air miles away. Wouldn’t even have cost that if I hadn’t insisted on paying the camping fees for a week for my pals. They brought all the food; paying the fees was my way of chipping in.

Come to think of it, $180 is exactly the same price as the prescription medicine I had to buy after my failed ladder trick.

The possibility of disproving the longevity quiz exists because I have one last wall to refinish, one that’s 24 feet at its peak.

To travel or not to travel, that is the question:
Whether tis safer to stay at home and suffer
The falls and injuries of outrageous stupidity,
or to take flight and see the world,
and by staying home to die, to sleep
no more, and by a sleep, to say we disprove
the actuarial quiz, and the thousand natural shocks
the flesh is heir to? Tis a consummation
devoutly to be avoided. To die, to sleep,
to sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
of silverback gorillas never seen,
must give us pause.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Bravo, well put! I vote travel!

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. And funny.


Looks like you won't be "shuffling off this mortal coil" any time soon so my vote goes to visiting the gorrilas.

At your age, by all means save your money and travel.In the meantime, stay off ladders!

Visit the gorillas and also step foot on the 7th continent. Great inspirational writing style.

Travel! Go! Everywhere! Live! Have fun! Write back and let us know how it goes!

Loved your closing poem. And every time I see "Gullibles Travels," it's good for a chuckle. My nomination for best blog title!

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