Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Trouble with Numbers

[Media prompt] Some bioethicists think that 75 years of life is enough for you.
The Trouble with Numbers

“Seventy-five,” said the professor. “That's how long I want to live, seventy-five years.”

“Why is that?” asked one of the audience members. “Why seventy-five specifically?”

The professor rubbed his chin, like he always did when he knew what he intended to say but wanted to build suspense. “By the time I reach seventy-five, I will have lived a complete life.” He watched the audience, silent now, waiting for their adulation. Their recognition of his potency. There wasn’t a person in the room, he thought, who didn’t envy him.

And why not? He was the unofficial philosopher-in-residence of the Democrat Party. He golfed with Obama. He dined with Hillary and her moneyed supporters. He had famously sung a duet with Babs Streisand at her mansion, published in the Atlantic, flown across the country with Bill and a bevy of underage girls.

“And how old are you now?” asked someone at the back.

“I’m fifty-seven.”

The audience clapped. He heard a women in the front row say to her friend, “My God, he doesn’t look a day over forty.” She was well beyond the threshold in his taste in women, but he reflected on how easy it would be to bed her. Or any woman in the room, for that matter. Most with their husband’s approval.

His forty-day tour had been sold out. More successful than even he had imagined. He felt a momentary twinge of regret about the thirteen-year-old who died in his bed at the hotel in Chicago last week, but it was best not to dwell on unfortunate events. That wasn’t how you lived a complete life. Besides, he had rectified the problem with the noose, so he didn’t envisage any such problems in future. Nevertheless, it was fortunate it happened in Chicago, where his brother was able to help out.

At 2,500 feet per second, the bullet fired from the back of the auditorium hit the professor in the left eye before most people heard its discharge. But to the human eye and ear, the lag was imperceptible. Most people in the room saw his face explode in a grisly mix of blood and bone at the same time they heard the bang. Pandemonium ensued.

Later, when the police questioned him, the shooter declared he had done no wrong.

“How’d you work that out, wise guy?” asked a detective with a crooked mouth.

“Well, he said he wanted to die at seventy-five. He was seventy-five, right?”

The detectives looked at each other. “He’s fifty-seven, you moron.”

“Oh, shit,” said the shooter. “I reversed numbers again, didn’t I?”

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