Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
Not long ago, I introduced my fairly ordinary wife Nancy to my newly-divorced friend Bert who went to business school back when I went to law school. Was my introduction a mistake? Apparently so. Bert, who became very rich during the dot-com boom, is planning a ski trip for early next year and has invited me, Nancy and our three kids to go along. Even though Nancy has never skied in her life, Bert and his ski trip is all she talks about anymore. It doesn’t seem to matter that Bert is fat as a hippopotamus and rarely washes his hair. Did I mention I didn’t get rich in the dot-com boom? Excuse me if I sound bitter, but I’m a lawyer, not an entrepreneur.
Maybe I am bitter. In fact, I’ve decided I must put a stop to the ski trip. I’m just not sure how to do it. Yesterday, it occurred to me that I might be able to appeal to Nancy’s motherly desire to keep our three children safe. If she’s anything like me, the whole idea of skiing, once she really starts to think about it, should leave her feeling too nervous to care about Bert anymore. While it’s easy enough to avoid the danger posed by trees by simply wearing a helmet, I'm concerned about the ski lifts. Don't they regularly crash to the ground? Frankly, I’m not sure, but it occurred to me that since you seem to have an opinion about everything else, maybe you know something about the safety record of North American ski lifts. Do you?
Signed, Losing a Wife in Los Angeles
Dear Losing a Wife:
It just so happens that I know a lot about the safety record of North American ski lifts. But before I tell you about it, I think you deserve a smack-down. You are truly a sad and pitiful man. Am I really supposed to feel sorry for you because you didn’t get rich in the dot-com boom? You’re the one who decided to go to law school. And I’ll tell you why you did: you went to law school because you were afraid of what would happen to you if you went to business school. You didn’t want to take the risk that you might fail. So you chose the safe alternative: law school. It’s true of almost every bright kid who considers law school as a means to a career. They’re what the psychologists call “risk averse.”
It’s also why you’re afraid to ski. What you don't realize is that all things considered, the ride up a ski slope is one of the safest forms of transportation. Accidents are rare. In 1976, four skiers died and eight others were injured when two cars derailed on Vail’s Lions Head gondola. In 1978, four people were killed in an accident involving the Squaw Valley tram in California. In 1985, a bull wheel snapped at the top of Keystone’s Teller lift, creating waves along the cable that threw sixty people out of their chairs. Four people were critically injured. In 1995, two people were killed and seventy others injured at British Columbia’s Whistler resort when the Quicksilver lift operator accidentally activated the emergency brake, sending shock waves down the cable that caused the chairs to come unhinged, slide down the cable, and crash into one another.
Other than that, the North American ski industry has a fine record of ski-lift safety. Despite the handful of accidents, millions and millions of people have ridden ski lifts to the top of a slope in the past thirty years without an injury. It’s a sort of litmus test for distinguishing a lawyer from an entrepreneur. If you’re still thinking right now about the dangers of ski lifts, you’re probably more of a lawyer. If, on the other hand, you’re thinking about the happy millions who could be riding your ski lift to the top of the mountain at your new ski resort, you’re probably more of an entrepreneur.
Let Nancy take the test and you’ll know in a second if she’ll end up with you or Bert. Personally, I recommend you start packing.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer
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