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Are You an Accident Waiting to Happen?

ARE YOU AN ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN?Life can be a minefield, and not always at ground (or underground) level. Boats sink, planes plummet from the sky, I once tumbled from my elderly roller skates and skinned both my knees, a manoeuvre the instruction booklet claimed was impossible. And many of us fall headlong in love at some point, accidentally or otherwise.

Accident-proneness is sometimes used as a reason to refuse insurance to people who have a predisposition to suffer mishaps of one sort or another. I used to laugh at such an idea just as you are doing now, unless your bandages are too tight. But some examples are self-evident: young male drivers, apprentice lion-tamers, butchers' assistants, and welterweight boxers wrongly assigned to the heavyweight category. Gory wouldn't begin to describe that. Not to mention welter.

Common causes of 'accident frequency' are absent-mindedness ("I forgot my parachute! Again!"), clumsiness (falling downstairs in a police station) and impulsive behaviour (knocking a policeman's helmet off.) Or helping yourself to an idling helicopter, something James Bond occasionally does when necessary.

We could all learn a humbling lesson from Charles Darwin, who once shrank back athletically to avoid a strike from a poisonous snake, even though there was thick glass separating them. I would have thought he of all people would have evolved beyond such a reaction, but it just goes to show, if you're fit you'll survive.

David AitkenSome people are better at having accidents than others, by which I mean they survive more efficiently and can be ready for their next calamity in due time. Take the case of the 36-year-old woman who left a supermarket and hit herself on the back with her car door, fell into a small sinkhole, and only escaped by imitating Charles Darwin, plus a sprained ankle. It would be more dramatic if I could report that the supermarket then disappeared into the sinkhole, but what is an honest chronicler to do, it was just her car that vanished.

There are non-accidental self-inflicted afflictions, of course. Look at smokers, who read health warnings on cigarette packets and somehow persuade themselves the advice doesn't apply to them. They puff and wheeze short-windedly when you try to convince them otherwise.

By age 15, a friend of mine - no, really - had already set fire to his own tree house, fallen out of a friend's tree house, and been knocked unconscious after running into a tree during a game of blind man's buff/Easter egg hunt. A tree surgeon was summoned.

I am relatively lucky where accidents are concerned. Even when I almost choked to death during an embarrassing coughing fit in the Vienna Opera House, a man in knee-breeches and a powdered wig came over and gave me a cough sweet. What he was doing dressed like that, I never thought to ask. Well, you don't really, when you're waiting for the corpulent lady to sing.


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