Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Google Some Life Insurance

I don’t know if you knew this or not, but Google is very handy. Not only can you use it to instantly find information on the theory that Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are really the same person, or how to get your hand unstuck from a Pringles can (Note: I have only Googled one of those things), it also has a feature called Google Alerts.

Google Alerts allows you to create an alert based on any keyword or phrase, and once a day, Google will scour the web for you and email you the results. I like to keep tabs on my books, so for The Tree of Death, and Other Hilarious Stories, I created a Google Alert for the phrase “tree of death.”

That may have been a mistake.

The book is a collection of humorous essays, and its title comes from the smell the tree in my front yard gives off in the springtime. It has nothing to do with actual death, but once a day, I get a nice email from Google giving me all the stories from around the world about people who have died in some gruesome manner due to trees.

It’s kind of depressing.

There are an inordinate amount of people who are killed when the tree, which they themselves were purposely chopping down, falls on them. You would think that would be something you would be keenly aware of as a possibility, when chopping a tree down, and take the necessary precautions to avoid. Like, jumping out of the way, for instance. Many people – especially a surprising number in India – are apparently unable to jump out of the way in time.

I can see getting hit by a tree that someone else is chopping down, I guess, if they fail to yell “Timber!” as is the standard requirement obviously set forth by the International Congress of Lumberjacks sometime in the early 1700’s. This is never one of the news stories, though. No one ever gets killed by a falling tree that someone else was cutting down. It’s always the cutter himself. Go figure.

The other people that are getting killed by falling trees and large branches out there are all either in a car or a tent. Those are dangerous places to be, based on my Google Alert.

I have also learned that stationary trees can be just as dangerous. Besides the countless stories of out-of-control vehicles and skiers running into trees, many other folks climb trees for one reason or another, only to meet their maker when they touch a power line. That seems easily avoidable to this casual observer.

All this news of death at the hands of trees got me thinking. I own six trees. Two in the front yard and four in the back.

Holy crap. This place is a deathtrap.

This sobering revelation caused me to increase my life insurance recently. If Google Alerts is any indication, with this many trees – surrounding me constantly, I might add – I could go at any minute.

I applied for a new policy and had a phone interview. To tell you the truth, I don’t think the people at Minnesota Life have any idea what they’re doing over there. I mean, do they even have trees in Minnesota? The lady on the phone was perfectly nice, and made more than a few inquiries about my life and habits, but missed the big question.

Life Insurance Lady: “Do you currently engage in, or plan on taking up in the next five years, any of the following activities: Aviation, parachuting, skydiving, BASE jumping, bungee jumping, car/bike/powerboat racing, hang gliding, hot air ballooning, rock climbing/mountaineering, SCUBA diving, skiing, surfing, white water rafting, rodeo, professional or amateur wrestling, boxing, or demolition derby?”

Me: “No, I don’t do any of that stuff, and I’m not planning on doing any of it.”

Life Insurance Lady: “OK, sir, moving on…”

Me: “Wait, don’t you want to know about my trees?”

Life Insurance Lady: “Your trees?”

Me: “Yes, I’m not going to take up bull riding any time soon, but in the interest of full disclosure, I want you to know that we own six full-size trees, and there are at least three more owned by our neighbors that are near our fence.”

Life Insurance Lady: “OK, sir, that’s fine. Moving on…”

Me: “We also own two cars and a tent!”

Life Insurance Lady: “Have you or anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with a mental disorder?”

Me: “No, why?”

Life Insurance Lady: “OK, sir, moving on…”

They didn’t care. I own six whole trees and they didn’t even care. Well, the joke will be on them when they have to pay my wife big bucks after I’m inevitably attacked by one of these killer trees. They can’t say I didn’t warn them.

I was raving about this to my wife after the phone interview, and she suggested that maybe I should cancel the “tree of death” Google Alert.

Maybe she’s right. Google can be very useful, but it can also be scary.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my axe and take care of all these trees before they kill me.

Actually, I think I’ll practice jumping out of the way first.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. March 20, 2014 HIGHGATE, Vt. (AP) — Vermont State Police say a man who tried to cut down a maple tree behind his house died after becoming pinned underneath the large trunk...

    C'mon, Vermont, you're better than that!

  2. April 3, 2014 - Southeast Nebraska man dies 4 days after being hit in head by tree he cut down.
    Et tu, Nebraska?