"Getting hit by lightning, getting mugged on the street - we all harbor fears about these things, even though our fears are disproportionate to the likelihood of it actually happening," Schlaifer said. "So you can't help but wonder, just what are the chances?"Schlaifer did more than just wonder. He wrote a book.
"Odds'R: The Odds on Everything Book!" is a breezy, quirky look at human nature and the chances of various things befalling us - some good, some bad. There are chapters about love, crime, sex, politics, art, sports and death, among others.
Schlaifer, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant, said that he has long been interested in statistics and probability, and he doesn't think he's alone. "We have an unquenchable thirst for information," he said.
He created the "Odds'R" board game last year and expanded it to a book in November. (There are also plans for TV and radio quiz shows and a Web site.) In doing so, he joined a wave of new trivia titles, including an updated version of "The Book of Lists," first published in 1977.
Schlaifer is reluctant to group his book with the others, though. "Unlike trivia books, there really is a lot of useful information in it," he said - information that you could, for example, use in deciding what state to stay away from if you're worried about avalanches.
Or use if you're trying to decide whether it would be safer for your kid to ride a skateboard or play on a trampoline.
Except that the book has a caveat, right there on the first page. "Do not depend solely on this book in making any major, or even relatively minor, life decisions," it says.
Schlaifer said the warning was included mostly to satisfy the lawyers, and that most people understand any attempt at calculating the odds of various human behaviors is loaded with variables. Chances are, it's at best an educated guess.
But that doesn't mean we can't learn a little about ourselves and have some fun in the process.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Here are some questions from Roger Schlaifer's book, "Odds'R: The Odds on Everything Book!":
1. In car crashes where cell phones are a factor, what are the odds a woman is behind the wheel?
A. 1 to 1
B. 2 to 1
C. 5 to 1
2. Other than sleeping, the chance is 1 in 5 that you'll be doing which of the following in bed tonight?
B. Having sex
3. Americans are most likely to believe in which of the following?
A. Higher taxes
B. Banning handguns
C. The devil
4. Which of these appliances is most likely to get someone electrocuted?
A. Air conditioner
B. Hair dryer
C. Electric drill
5. In the United States, what are the chances that a wife earns more than $5,000 a year more than her husband?
A. 5 in 100
B. 15 in 100
C. 35 in 100
6. When a marriage breaks up, what is the chance that the husband initiated the divorce?
A. 1 in 3
B. 1 in 2
C. 2 in 3
7. Odds are that most Americans having sex tonight will do so at what time?
A. 9:34 p.m.
B. 10:34 p.m.
C. 11:34 p.m.
8. What is the chance that a road-rage incident will end in someone's death?
A. 1 in 350
B. 1 in 1,100
C. 1 in 2,700
9. A sleepwalking episode is most likely to last approximately how long?
A. 60 seconds
B. 6 minutes
C. 16 minutes
10. Based on bankruptcies in New York state, in which industry are you most likely to go bust in the first year?
11. What are the chances it's legal to marry your cousin if you live in the United States?
A. 3 in 50
B. 11 in 50
C. 19 in 50
12. What are the chances that an American woman has asked a man out on a date?
A. 4 in 10
B. 6 in 10
C. 8 in 10
13. What is the chance an American is at least 100 years old?
A. 1 in 5,000
B. 1 in 50,000
C. 1 in 500,000
14. Odds are that the average American will consume approximately how many pounds of pork this year?
15. What are the chances that someone alive in the world today has never made a phone call?
A. 2 in 3
B. 2 in 300
C. 2 in 3,000
16. What are the chances that a book on the best-seller list has fewer than 400 pages?
A. 20 percent
B. 40 percent
C. 60 percent
17. What is the chance that someone will be murdered in the United States and no one will be convicted?
A. 1 in 3
B. 1 in 10
C. 1 in 30
18. If you stopped a car at random on almost any street in the nation, the odds are the radio would be tuned to what?
A. Country music
19. From 1987 to 2003, an average video store customer was most likely to rent which of these movies?
A. "Top Gun"
B. "Pretty Woman"
C. "Star Wars"
20. What is the chance that an American fourth-grader can't identify his or her home state on an unmarked map of the United States?
A. 1 in 3
B. 1 in 5
C. 1 in 7
ANSWERS TO QUIZ
1. (B) Two-thirds of ail incidents involving cell phones are attributed to women drivers.
2. (C) It's estimated that 20 percent of adults snore at night.
3. (C) Only 1 percent support higher taxes, 32 percent favor a handgun ban and 45 percent believe in the devil.
4. (A) The air conditioner is responsible for 14 deaths annually, more than the other two combined.
5. (B) Fifteen percent of wives are now the primary wage earners in the family. In non-married households, the proportion is higher, 22 percent.
6. (A) Women initiate two-thirds of all divorces.
7. (B) Schlaifer writes, "Maybe prime time TV isn't holding viewers' attention - or maybe the commercial breaks are now long enough to get it on and over with before the televised action starts again."
8. (B) More than 200 deaths and 12,600 injuries have been attributed to road rage in the U.S. since 1990.
9. (B) The wandering lasts longer than it takes some very fit and very awake people to run a mile.
10. (A) Plumbing businesses have an 83 percent failure rate in their first year, followed by truckers (81 percent) and restaurants (79). By total numbers, though, restaurant failures are almost double that of the other two industries combined.
11. (C) It jumps even higher, to 22 states, if you don't mind certain restrictions, such as no children.
12. (A) So much for gender equality - less than half of U.S. women have ever asked a man out.
13. (A) About 60,000 Americans have reached the century mark.
14. (B) Enough ham, bacon, sausage, ribs and pickled pigs' feet to equal almost 1 pound of pork per week.
15. (A) Two-thirds of the world's residents have never made a phone call.
16. (C) In 2004, the median length of a top 50 best seller was 368 pages.
17. (A) More than 5,000 of the approximately 17,000 homicides committed annually in America result in the killer being unknown or unconvicted.
18. (A) Country music is on more than 2,000 stations nationwide, compared to 1,300 for news/talk and 800 for oldies.
19. (B) More customers wound up taking the hooker home for the evening.
20. (A) "A state of ignorance was home to a third of fourth-graders," according to Schlaifer.
- "The Odds on Everything Book," by Roger L. Schlaifer (Bantam Books; $12).