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Safety Statistics

By Mordechai Schmutter

We’re all very backwards when it comes to safety.

We see people get hurt doing something, and we say, “Well, I guess I should never do that.” But when people don’t get hurt, we don’t make that resolution.

But that’s silly. It’s all about playing the odds. Because in general, before you do anything that might be dangerous, you always ask, “What are the odds that something bad is going to happen?” And then, based on math, you either do it or you don’t. So following that logic, if you know that one out of every two people gets hurt doing something stupid, and you see someone else get hurt, doesn’t that actually make you safer? If you act fast enough, you can be the other 50%.

So we really should learn our lessons from the people who don’t get hurt. If they’re the other 50%, then we’re the first 50%.

So today we’re going to discuss actual news stories where people were in scary situations but came out okay. And we should definitely learn our lessons from them. After all, if everyone else jumped off a roof, would you do it too?

Our first story today is about just that. Well, technically, it’s about kiddie pools, which, as it turns out, are extremely unsafe if you use them incorrectly.

Now don’t get me wrong. Swimming is very important. The Gemara says you’re supposed to teach your kids how to swim. But I don’t know if the Gemara meant kiddie pools.

Most of us don’t think of kiddie pools as dangerous. We tend to think of them as basically big puddles in which we cool our feet and yell at our kids to stop trekking in recently cut grass while they drink pool water out of toys they brought outside from the bathtub. The most dangerous thing we can imagine, as far as wading pools, is transferring absolutely all the air in our body into it to blow it up, and then having our children immediately jump on it and pop it while we keel over, the color of a tomato. Or getting a hernia from trying to pour out the water and grass clippings and turning our lawn into a swampland.

Enter a 53-year-old man in Colorado named Professor Splash, who is known as the only person in the world to have mastered the art of shallow-water diving. He’s jumped into kiddie pools from heights averaging between 30 and 80 feet up, and his most recent stunt—the one that earned him a world record—was diving 36 feet into 12 inches of water.

You have to wonder where he got his degree.

But that doesn’t mean you should do it too. Before his jumps, he does research, uses formulas, and develops special techniques, most of which involve belly flopping (hence the name “Professor Splash”), though we’re pretty sure that, at some point toward the beginning of his career, he went in headfirst.

I’ve actually seen videos of his dives, and, science aside, every time he gets out of the pool, he seems pretty surprised that he’s still alive. But in 25 years, he’s broken his neck only about two times.

Now I don’t mean to put ideas in your head. On the surface, this may seem like a great idea, especially if you want to get into the lucrative field of high diving but have only a kiddie pool and a roof. But below the surface, there are only 12 inches of water. So you should really only do it if you’re a professor of such things.

Diving Safety:

1. DON’T try this at home. (Have a friend try it.)

2. DO make sure your kids are out of the pool first.

3. DON’T miss the pool.

But it really is all about odds. Take the 80-year-old woman in Tampa, Florida, who partook of a charity event at her local women’s club. The idea was a little different from the regular events where you pay money and in exchange they give you a raffle ticket with the wrong number on it. For this event, guests paid $20 for a glass of champagne, and one of the glasses also contained a $5,000 diamond. The other 399 glasses each had a cubic zirconium, valued at $10.

So this woman got her glass, and she didn’t want to stick her finger into her champagne and take out her stone. That’s because this was a women’s club event. If it were a men’s club event, we’d have been rooting around up to our elbows, and the whole thing would have been over in about five minutes.

So she decided to drink it little by little. But then at some point she was laughing with her friends, and she forgot all about it, and the next thing she knew, her glass was empty.

But this woman didn’t panic, because she figured she’d swallowed the fake. What were the chances that the one she swallowed would turn out to be the real one?

“It can’t be,” she figured. “I never win anything.”

The organizers of the event didn’t know which glass was the one either. They knew approximately where it was, down to a couple of tables, but when no one came forward with the diamond, they had to go around with a loupe and peer at each one individually.

Yes, this was their plan for the climax of the evening: going around with a loupe while everyone sat quietly. What an exciting event!

Well, maybe it’s more fun after you’ve had champagne.

But then they went around the whole room, and it wasn’t turning up. And they were becoming increasingly panicked, because people were starting to think that all 400 had been fakes, and they’d given money to charity for nothing.

Well, except for this woman. She was thinking, “Uh-oh.”

So she confessed, and they rushed her to the hospital, where doctors took an X-ray, which revealed that you can’t actually see diamonds on an X-ray. So that confirmed that she’d in fact swallowed the diamond.

She has since gotten the diamond back, and she turned out okay, in the sense that when all was said and done, she got to keep the diamond.

Charity Event Safety:

1. DON’T swallow the prize.

2. DON’T buy a diamond from an elderly woman in Tampa. Though chances are you won’t anyway, because she said she wants to keep it in the family. Though probably not literally.

3. WAIT one second. The math doesn’t add up here. They’re selling 400 glasses of champagne at $20 each. That means they’re making $8,000 off this event. That sounds nice, right? But the prize is a $5,000 diamond, and the other 399 glasses each contain a $10 fake. So that’s $5,000 plus $3,990, which is way more math than you expected to do in a humor column. But that means that they’re losing $990 off this event. But it’s okay, because it’s for charity. Also, the champagne itself probably cost money. As did the event.

Our final story today comes from a power company in Great Falls, Montana, that wanted to educate people on what gas smells like so they would know when they have to call the gas company. Because you can never be too safe. Unless you’re up to your elbow in champagne to prevent yourself from accidentally swallowing a diamond.

So they put out some scratch-and-sniff cards, which they then gave out at safety fairs and women’s charity events. Maybe they stuck some in the mail with the gas bills, and then got panicked calls from their subscribers.

But eventually, according to spokespeople, the cards expired. I don’t know what happens when the cards expire. How much worse can they smell?

But unfortunately, they had a lot of them left over, because scratch-n-sniff cards that smell like gas leaks are not really something that people are clamoring to pick up. You smell it once at the fair, and you’re good.

So they put boxes and boxes of them out at the curb, and the garbage trucks picked them up. And then compressed them.

Fun Fact: Apparently, compressing thousands of scratch-n-sniff cards has the same effect as scratching them all at once. And then, as the garbage truck obliviously drives through the town, the smell wafts into the open windows of all the office buildings, and the entire town panics, calls the gas company at once, and then evacuates onto the street.

Anyway, they no longer need cards in that town. Now they all know what gas smells like.

Gas-Leak Safety:

1. DON’T put all your rotten eggs in one basket.

2. DO know what gas smells like.

3. DON’T leap out the window of your office building and just hope for a kiddie pool. ϖ

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to

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Posted by on July 31, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.