Thrill Junkie

Dear J-

I like to work out little word problems in my head while I’m riding my bicycle through deserted streets, as it gives me something to chew on instead of how old and slow I’ve gotten this winter. The one for today went something like this: what accelerates faster to 60 MPH, a Corvette or an unnamed automobile that has a 1g accelerator, where g = earth’s gravitational constant? It’s sort of a loaded question, but the answer is that you want the no-name car, as it’s faster than virtually any other street-legal vehicle out there. First, convert MPH (miles/hour) into feet/second by multiplying by 5280 feet/mile and 1/3600 hour/seconds: if you’re stuck with the calculator between your ears, it works out to multiplying by roughly 1.5 to convert MPH to ft/sec — so 60 MPH is 90 ft/sec, give or take. Gravtational constant is 32 ft/sec/sec (meaning that every second you pick up another 32 ft/sec), so with the 1g car, you’re at 90 ft/sec or 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds, which is incredibly fast.

Maybe it explains the appeal of bungee jumping and skydiving: more of us will probably jump, as the number of race car drivers is fairly limited in comparison. We humans are speed junkies, looking for the next best (or fastest) way of getting around or, barring that, another thrill to pique our interest. If you ever watch The Amazing Race, there are three constants: Phil’s always got some colorful local with him on the mat, there will be flight or limited-business-hours equalizers every couple of legs, and teams will bungee jump at some point in the race — acrophobics like me need not apply.

Sometimes I wonder whether the choices I’ve made were the right ones, but it’s kind of pointless — if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here at the moment, wondering about the choices. And given another set of choices, another opportunity to change, which would be the right way to go? Not all choices are quantitative (this car is not 20% better than that one) and not all choices move you as fast as you’d like, perhaps. Is it better to work wondering what you’ll be doing day to day or better to be the indispensible fellow everyone knows by name or better to live in terror of the unknown challenges with no instruction book? I dunno. What kind of thrill junkie did I turn out to be, J-, what did your life lead you to?



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