Playing the odds

If I asked you, “Do you play the odds?,” a lot of you would say, “Oh my gosh, Tony Davis, you know that I don’ t do that!”  And some of you might say, “Well, yeah, I’ll go risk a few dollars for entertainment.”  No, no, no.  I’m not talking about or asking you about Mississippi’s “gaming” industry and whether or not you partake of it.  I’ll let that be your business.

I walk around with the idea in my head that life and living is based on odds, based on probability.  Now, you might be wondering what in the world I’m talking about.  Let me see if I can come up with some examples.  Since just about everything is an example, it’s hard to come up with examples.

Last night, I drove to officiate a volleyball game.  I went in my 25 year old convertible car.  As I decided to go in that car, I said to myself that my odds of my car breaking down and me not getting to the game on time are going to be greater in that car than with another.  But the car has always been reliable and none of my other cars are exactly brand new.  In that I enjoy driving the old convertible, I decided that the odds of getting there versus the potential enjoyment were good enough for me to take the car.

Another set of odds that I always consider when I drive the old car is the probability of me surviving a crash in that car versus another car.  It has no top, and no airbags, and it’s a small car:  I’d say that my odds go way down versus driving my much larger SUV or my wife’s 2009 car when it comes to surviving a collision.  I guess if I don’t like the odds, I shouldn’t even have the car.  I’ve never had a collision when going over about 10 miles per hour, so I have an expectation that I won’t have one—but, of course, the more that I drive period, the greater the probability of me someday having a collision.

car
My old Mustang convertible, my daughter Casey, and me. Behind us is the Pearl River.

Let me change the subject, please, while I knock on wood.

You recently heard about a college student in Virginia who is missing, named Hannah Graham.  I hope and pray that she is found safe and she will return to her family and to her everyday life.  Hannah did some things that decreased her odds of getting home safely.  Wherever she had been, she left alone.  One’s odds of getting home safely go up when one travels with another person he or she knows, or better yet, in a group among several people.  She was alone very late at night; I think I read 1:30 a.m.  Odds are better at 9, 10, 11 p.m.  I have no idea if she had been drinking alcohol or drinking alcohol to the point of being impaired, but if she had been then her odds of getting home safely were decreased.

I tell my wife and daughters to always fill up their gas tanks before heading somewhere.  Avoid gas stations at night.  Be able to make the trip straight through if you choose to.  Drive the speed limit or only slightly above it.  Drive on 4 lane highways as much as possible.  Stay in the right lane as much as possible.  Be a trailer not a passer.  Don’t follow other cars closely.  Don’t text when driving.  If they listen to me, their odds go up.

Everyday probability is inescapable.  I love to eat, and I’m not a good exerciser.  Every time I eat a hamburger and French fries or pizza or something fried, I remind myself that my odds of getting type 2 diabetes go up, which makes my chances of living a long life go down.  If I would get out and simply walk every day then my odds would swing back in the positive direction.   

It’s still true:  the more education one gets, the greater odds one has of getting a good paying job. 

If one only buys what he can afford instead of what his credit allows then his chances of having a solvent financial life goes way up.

If one goes in the Pearl River and wears a life jacket then his chances of getting out go up.  If he has it on the seat of the boat, odds go down.

If one regularly changes the oil in her car then the odds of the car lasting to 200,000 miles go up.

If you fertilize your garden and keep the weeds out, chances are you might grow something good.

I told you, just about everything we do is rooted in probability/odds, and I’m all over the place with examples because everything is an example.  You leave that drinking glass close to the edge of the table over a hard floor, the odds of that drinking glass lasting….  You let that kid drink chocolate milk over your carpet….

Even when we consistently play the odds in our favor, there is still a chance that things won’t go our way.  On the other hand, there are people who started smoking at age 14 and lived to be 85.  But not many of them.

3 thoughts on “Playing the odds

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