Edinburgh 2013: How do you think you’re going to die?
How do you think you’re going to die? In an accident? From old age? Being stabbed? It’s a question we’ve all considered at one time or another. Or at least it is now that you’ve read this. For most of us, thinking about dying isn’t an immediate concern. It’s more like a nagging feeling at the back of your mind that something isn’t quite right, like not being certain you locked the car or cleared your internet history. Then occasionally, the certainty of death hits you like a sudden memory of something horrible you said whilst drunk at a party. You feel clammy and a little bit sick until it passes and you wonder what to have for lunch.
So how do you think you’re going to die? By the way, I’m not going to tell you at the end of this article. I’m not a psychic or an incredibly brazen murderer.
It’s just a question I’ve been thinking about recently because I’ve been writing a show about all of the things that haven’t killed me and as a result I came across a list online of all of the different ways in which people died in the UK in 2011. It’s the most up to date information I could find, and reading this list has made me even more convinced that there are many things in my life that could have killed me. In fact, we’re all lucky to be alive.
For example, in 2011 100 people were killed by inanimate objects. Look around you. You are almost certainly surrounded by inanimate objects (unless you’re in a padded cell, in which case you have bigger issues to worry about). Every one of those inanimate objects is a potential killer. There’s an interesting gender split here as well: 76 of the deaths were men, and only 24 women, which suggests to me that either men are more clumsy, or that women get men to deal with dangerous stuff for them. And not just the big things like war.
The list also reveals some interesting contrasts. In 2011 only three people were killed by dog bites in the UK, and I am pretty certain that every one would have been widely reported in the press as a tragedy. And yet in the same year 693 people died falling down the stairs. I doubt any of those were reported, unless they featured a famous person or particularly noteworthy staircase. Stairs are far more dangerous than dogs, but people don’t write horror stories about stairs. Stephen King wrote Cujo, he didn’t write Stannah By Me. Or Step Cemetary. Or Dolores Stair-borne.
I’ve always been a little nervous of flying, but according to this list, in 2011 only 26 people died in “Air or Space Transport accidents”. Air or Space Transport? I wasn’t aware we had Space Transport yet? It seems a little suspicious that that is contained in the same category. Perhaps something is being covered up? A secret space programme? Evidence of alien life? Conspiracy theories have flourished with less evidence than this. By comparison nearly 2,000 people died in road traffic accidents, which as far as I’m concerned makes driving one hundred times more dangerous than flying. As long as you don’t think about the maths too much.
So how do you think you’re going to die? It’s illegal to bet on when or how someone might die (presumably to avoid bets like: “tomorrow with a hammer”) but cancer and heart disease are very much the front runners in this race. Disease in general kills 96 per cent of us in the UK, which means that for most people, the answer to how we’re going to die is in hospital. Possibly having just fallen down the stairs.
The main lesson I’ve drawn from this list is that every day is a gift because there is so much out there that could get you. Even staying indoors is no guarantee of safety: five people suffocated in bed. So get out there and enjoy yourselves. But keep an eye out for those inanimate objects. And watch your footing.
Matt Green: Alive – 20.10 – Jack Dome, Pleasance Dome, 1st July -25th August, not 12thTagged in: edinburgh 2013
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