It’s probably later than you think…

Does the incessant whispering of the Grim Reaper seem to grow just a little bit louder as each year passes? Do you sometimes wonder exactly how much time you’ve got left before some thoughtful public servant carefully ties a tag to your big toe and politely bids you bon voyage?

I guess we’ve all had these unsettling thoughts from time to time, but now – thanks to the wonders of modern research – we soon may have a better chance of estimating our approximate expiration dates and thereby not have to make a lot of unnecessary plans for the future.

According to a recent Associated Press report, researchers with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center have come up with 12 risk factors to help those of us over 50 years of age determine how likely it is that we’ll die within the next four years.

Boy, that’s something I’ve always wanted to know. I mean, it gives you something not to look forward to, right?

A variety of factors are involved, including whether or not you’re a smoker, diabetic, male (sexist pigs!) and if you’re in good enough shape to push a living room chair across the floor.

(Ah, yes, the old push-the-living-room-chair-across-the-floor test – better than wrasslin’ a greased pig…).

On the surface, it would appear that our tireless researchers have come up with a reasonably comprehensive test to determine how long we may have to live past 50.

In fact, it’s woefully inadequate.

From my own experience with firearms, British motor cars, ex-girlfriends and ill-tempered wildlife, there are a whole lot of factors out there that can curtail your vital signs faster than a living room chair.

I’d like to suggest a few necessary additions to the life quiz to make it just a bit more precise.

For example, do you:

A. Periodically swim in shark-infested waters because everybody knows you can drive the big predators away with a simple punch in the nose?

B. Consider methamphetamine nothing more than an energy-boosting dietary supplement?

C. Enjoy quail hunting with Dick Cheney?

D. Yell “Get a real job!” whenever you encounter a large group of fun-loving – but notoriously short-tempered – Hells Angels?

E. Yell “Get a real job!” whenever you encounter Dick Cheney?

F. Announce your arrival at unfamiliar taverns by shouting “Out of my way, scrofulous rabble!” and then greet the saloon keeper with a hearty “Set ’em up, barcreep!”

G. Decorate your sport utility vehicle with amusing cartoons of Middle Eastern religious figures?

For every “yes” answer up to six, deduct four years from your average lifespan of approximately 77 years.

If you’re a chain-smoking lunatic who likes to push living room chairs around for no readily apparent reason, deduct another four years.

If you answered yes to all seven questions, you probably died last Tuesday. Lie down and give the rest of us some room to breathe…

Originally published March 19, 2006