Betting Our Lives

Dearest Rachel –

Well. Thank heavens that wasn’t anything more than a dream.

I couldn’t tell you the specifics, exactly. And in fact, it probably doesn’t make any difference as to who the teams were that were involved, other than the fact that they were playing football. All that really matters is that time was running out, the one team scored at almost the last second, but they were still behind by a point or two. Somewhere along the way, I must’ve said something about ‘I’d bet my life’ that they were going to lose, since there was only a second or two left on the clock; time enough to run but one play, the kickoff to the other team. Essentially, time would run out almost the instant the ball was booted into the air.

Now, of course, there are ways that a kickoff can go wrong for the receiving team, so a bet with those kind of stakes is still a foolish gamble regardless. But what happened in my dream was, I believe, in contravention of any of the rules of football. Essentially, what happened was that the kickoff sailed through the uprights on the other side of the field, resulting in a field goal – worth three points, enough to switch the lead between the teams – and, of course, the game ended with that, leading the other person I was watching the game with to turn to me about my earlier rash statement.


“Well… what?”

“A bet’s a bet, buddy.”

Yeah, he actually expected me to off myself for saying I’d ‘bet my life’ on that team losing. And, fortunately, it was it about that moment, while I was forced to contemplate exactly how I’d do it, that I woke up.

And that’s why I don’t have any friends who are rabid sports fans. The idea that who wins or loses as a matter of life and death… is just silly.

We tend to think of ourselves as humans as risk-averse; we certainly have a strong survival instinct, as a general rule. Nevertheless, we do take our lives in our hands literally every day.

Take, just as an example, the act of getting from any Point A to any Point B – Which, more often than not, tends to involve the use of multi-ton machinery that has a very good chance of killing you if used improperly. Just yesterday, I was watching a few videos from r/idiotsincars, and while it’s amusing to see how stupid some drivers can be, it’s also terrifying to observe the carnage they can literally wreck.

Somewhat more obviously, there’s also the matter of traveling somewhat larger distances, involving air transit. This is one of those cases where people start to think about how they are taking their lives in their hands. Which, when you think about it, is somewhat odd; we almost all realize how, statistically, it’s orders of magnitude safer to travel by air than by car (at least on a per-mile basis), but there are a lot more people (you among them, although I never realized that until after our Amtrak trip to San Antonio and New Orleans back in 2020) who fear traveling by air so much more. Perhaps it’s a terror of falling out of the sky, and the likelihood that one would not survive such a fall (or more to the point, the sudden stop at the end of the fall). Perhaps it’s the lack of control over one’s own fate; although that seems to be belied when you’re the passenger in the car (or train).

Of course, those are some of the more dramatic risks we take in every day life. We put our faith in a lot of ordinary things. One fairly standard analogy that is often used to illustrate faith is that of sitting down in a chair. We generally assume that a.) the chair isn’t going to be yanked out from behind us by some prankster, and b.) the chair will be sufficiently well-built to hold our weight without breaking. As a rule, those are both fairly safe assumptions – especially given our experience in sitting down – but there are no guarantees in life.

And it’s amazing how fragile the human body is sometimes. Despite its ability to survive so much, and in such dire circumstances, ‘death by falling over’ is a thing. There is, for instance, the story of a daredevil who went over the Niagara Falls in a barrel and survived, only to be walking along the street one day in his later years and tripped on a discarded orange peel. His head hit the sidewalk, and he died from the concussion. One doesn’t generally consider that one is taking one’s life in one’s hands to simply walk around a neighborhood (unless they’re afraid of the folks that inhabit it, and that’s another story entirely).

I suppose that this comes back to the fact that you bet your life – and lost – on that hill last year. It’s one of those gambles that we usually don’t realize that we’re making, even though I did sign a waiver when we first arrived there that day; it never occurred to me that it would be applicable to our situation.

And yet, here we are.

Still, if we were conscious all the time of the risks we were taking, and the possibilities of what could happen – especially the worst case scenarios – we would never do anything in our lives. It’s kind of the dilemma we’re facing on a global scale at the moment. And while the tide seems to be turning toward ‘let’s just live our lives and deal with the risks should they come,’ we’re probably not sufficiently there that those of us who want to can necessarily do so.


Anyway, until then – and actually, after that – keep an eye out for us, honey, and wish us luck. We’ll need it, especially when we’re free to take those kind of risks again.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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