Sept. 30, 2003 — -- I can't believe I was ever afraid of being struck by lightning. I've got a better chance of dating a supermodel.
Look at it this way: In a typical year, fewer than 100 Americans are hit by lightning and killed. That gives me a 2.32 million-to-1 chance of being one of these victims.
I'd have a better shot at catching dinner with a catwalk superstar like Heidi Klum, at least according to Gregory Baer in his soon-to-be-released book, Life: The Odds (Gotham).
It's really quite simple: Assume all men are created equal, that they're all heterosexual and that even the married ones would forgo their vows for an evening with Heidi.
That means there are 110 million eligible bachelors in America and roughly 25 supermodels. Let's also assume the ladies are heterosexual and available. And just to be conservative, let's say a supermodel only dates five different men in a year.
That would give the average American Joe an 880,000-to-1 shot at landing the ultimate dream date.
Of course, life isn't fair, and if you're a rock singer, professional athlete or movie star, you've got a much better chance of being seen with a magazine cover girl.
Still, Daniela Pestova and Claudia Schiffer have dated photographers, café owners and less-than-renowned artists.
Alright, maybe my chances of dating a supermodel still stink, but it sure puts the risk of being hit by lightning into perspective.
And if you're a woman, you've got even less to worry about — a whopping 84 percent of lightning victims are men.
Why? Perhaps God likes women more, or perhaps women are just smarter when it comes to practicing common sense like stepping in from the rain, staying away from tall trees and bodies of water, advice your mother (a woman) probably gave you.
And as long as you're practicing some common sense, you've really got nothing to worry about.
Good News for Gold Diggers and Tax DodgersIf you're a nonstop worrywart, the laws of probability may be your salvation.
Are you sweating over the possibility of an audit? Rest assured that the chances of being called in by the IRS have dropped from better than 100-to-1 10 years ago to 175-to-1 these days.
Want to avoid an audit? The best tactic — stay poor. There might be some perks to making $100,000 rather than $25,000, but Baer says that six-figure salary will make you six times more likely to have Uncle Sam breathing down your neck.
Your chances of marrying a millionaire are improving, too, thanks to the swelling number of rich Americans. Their ranks are estimated to grow to 5.6 million by 2005. About 8 percent of them are single, divorced or widowed. Rich women account for a lot of the growth, and that's great news for us gold-digging guys.
In other words, you may soon have a 215-to-1 shot at finding a sugar daddy or mommy. Of course, like supermodels, millionaires have their own mating rituals. Luckily, Baer has advice for those who plan on "moving in for the will."
Is Sainthood in Your Future?
Life: The Odds takes on all sorts of probabilities — catching a foul ball, getting away with murder, dying of the plague, and winning at Keno (your best move is to switch to blackjack). Baer even calculates the chances of achieving sainthood at 20 million-to-1. It's really a simple calculation.
Since the dawn of time, about 100 billion people have walked the Earth (give or take a few hundred million, of course). There are about 5,000 saints recognized by Catholics. Do the math. Again, Baer has advice on improving your odds.
"Become the pope," Baer says. "It's really the best proven path to sainthood."
Perhaps you never thought of yourself as a numbers person. But I've collated some numbers from Baer and other number meisters, and these might help you keep some perspective on the future.
I'll leave the chances of grave illness and catastrophic illness aside, and I won't report your chances of winning a state lottery, because the odds are, Heidi Klum's cell phone number would be astronomically more valuable to you.
563-to-1: Catching a Foul Ball About 50 balls are used in the average major league game and the average team draws about 28,000 people. Want to improve your chances for catching a foul ball? Don't root for the Yankees — a winning team that draws a lot of fans. Tigers fans don't have much to cheer about these days. But they go home with a lot of souvenirs.
Of course, no matter where you are, most of the foul balls go to the people in the good seats. 685,000-to-1: Drowning in Your Bathtub This Year Interestingly, tub drownings are only slightly less probable than being dealt a royal flush (649,739-to-1). 6 Million-to-1: Suffering an Unprovoked Shark Attack Scared of going in the water? There were only 47 serious shark attacks in the United States last year, according to the International Shark File. You actually have a slightly better chance of dying from a bee sting.
10 Million-to-1: Becoming President
Given that presidential years roughly range from 40 to 72, you'll have eight chances in your lifetime to make a run at the Oval Office.
Being a native-born American is a requirement. But being tall and male also helps. Eighteen presidents were at least 6 feet tall. You should also go to law school, serve in the military, teach at a prestigious university and pray, because agnostics and atheists are rarely elected.
That excuses me from service as chief executive. But odds are, the country is much better off. I just hope Heidi accepts me for who I am.
Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.