I recently turned 60, so naturally I checked in with the Death Clock.
The Death Clock, which bills itself as "the Internet's friendly reminder that life is slipping away," is a website that promises to accurately predict your life expectancy. Not only can you discover your expected life span, but the site promises to tell you the exact day on which you'll die!
You plug in some basic information about yourself: height; weight; age; smoking status; and mental outlook. (Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Or, considering you're checking out this site, a sadist?)
Then, presto! The Internet tells you what your last day on earth will be!
In my case it's April 1, 2056. April Fools' day! How appropriate is that for a humor writer?
"April Fools', everyone!" I'll cackle at age 101. "I'm outta here!"
Am I really going to live another 41 years? While it's true that my dad lived to the ripe old age of 87, my mother died — far too young — at just 57. That I might come close to doubling her lifespan seems unlikely. But who am I to argue with the Death Clock? Why not just go for it and see what happens?
On a slow day at the library where I work, I showed a co-worker how to consult the Death Clock. Although she's 15 years younger than me, the Death Clock predicted that we'd die the same year.
Deb was flabbergasted. "This thing must be broken!" she protested.
The two of us, apart from our age difference, are quite similar. We're both tall and lean non-smokers. The only difference? I'm an optimist and Deb is a pessimist.
Which, apparently, is what will send her to an early grave. Then Deb decided to try a little experiment, and changed her outlook to "optimistic." Bingo — that one little change added over a decade to her life!
"I can outlast you!" she crowed. "All I have to do is become an optimist!"
"Good luck with that!" I said. As long as I've known her, Deb has been an Eeyore at heart. A consistently glass-half-empty person. Will she really be able to change? I hope so. But I wouldn't count on it. (And how ironic is that? The pessimist vowing to cheer up and the optimist doubting that she can.)
I was inspired to try my own experiment and see how much longer I'd last if I were a pessimist. The result? Only another 18 years. And if I were a pessimistic smoker? I'd only have another 13 years left! And what if I were a pessimistic, obese smoker? I'd already be dead! Just kidding.
Obese, depressed, chain-smoking Roz isn't dead yet. She's got another couple of years to sprawl on the sofa, smoke and scarf down chocolate cake and extra cheesy pizza. This is what the Death Clock teaches you. Even at age 60, you can tinker with your fate.
It's a fun game, if a little ghoulish, to explore the outcomes of alternate versions of yourself. If you lose 20 pounds? You'll add 10 years. Quit smoking and you'll add even more.
It's just as entertaining to look up friends, co-workers and loved ones to see who is going to outlast you. The blithely incompetent colleague who gets on everyone's nerves? Cheer up! She's a smoker, so she'll only be around 'til 2025. Your angry boss, the overweight sadist? Not to worry — he won't be harassing you for too much longer.
And for the man in my life, who happens to be an optimistic smoker? If I don't want to outlive him by decades, I'd better redouble my efforts to get him to quit. And while he's at it, maybe I can get him to lose a few pounds.
Consulting the Death Clock can be entertaining, but be careful. Telling friends, family and co-workers when they're going to die if they don't shed their bad habits could prove stressful enough to take additional years off their lives.
And it could prove to be bad for your health, too. The one thing the Death Clock can't measure? The danger that if you keep bugging everyone you know about its predictions, one of them might decide to prove the Death Clock dead wrong — by dispatching you ahead of schedule.