a vestige of thought...

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Measure of a[n Average] Man

"The average person will spend two weeks over their lifetime waiting for the traffic lights to change."
~"Forgettable Fact" from the Northminster student newsletter

I read this random fact after dinner this evening and it sparked a brief but lively discussion about the veracity of such statements about "average" people. Mom said that was an unfortunate waste of time. Lisa commented that on the Disney Channel they had said three weeks. Dad believed two weeks to be too short a time.

I want to know how the "average" person is determined. A literal statement beginning "the average person" should be about the average of all people all over the world. As in, "It takes the average person seven minutes to fall asleep." I don't know how this statistic was determined, but I find it more likely to be true of people all over the world than the statement above. According to some random website that came up when I googled the topic (which may or may not be completely accurate), only 18% of the world population own a car. Even with the increased amount of people that ride in cars but do not own them, I would think that the 82% of non-car owners would dramatically bring down the average time spent waiting for traffic lights to change. Another googled website tells me that 92% of American households own one or more cars. I do not find it hard to believe that Americans spend two weeks waiting for lights to change. I also suspect that "the average person" should be read "the average American."

On a completely unrelated note, I am rereading Christy by Catherine Marshall because the first time I read it and Marshall's other fiction book, Julie, I liked the latter better. Laura insists that people always like books best when the main character shares their name and that I was ruining her theory, so I needed to read Christy and Julie again. I think that, upon second reading, I do like Christy better, though not because she shares my name. Shortly before my first reading I saw several episodes of the show that is based on the book. The actress who played Christy drove me crazy and I think her image spoiled the book for me. As it has been a long time since I saw any of the show, I am now whole-heartedly enjoying the book.
posted by Christy at 7:07 PM


76.3% of statistics are made up on the spot.

It is proven that the celebration of birthdays is healthy. Statistics show that those people who celebrate the most birthdays live the longest.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. -Benjamin Disraeli

9:09 AM  

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