Would you sabotage an amusement park ride knowing that there is a 10% chance that fatalities would occur?
Would you do the same for $10M knowing there is a 50% chance of fatalities?
It’s no secret that I have my share of neuroses, and for some of them I blame the never-ending stream of disaster films of the ’70s. Hollywood gave us a catastrophe for every day of the week, and then some. You had buildings collapsing (Towering Inferno), bloodthirsty bees (The Swarm), flooding (Tidal Wave), earthquakes (in — wait for it — Earthquake), avalanches (the aptly-titled Avalanche), ocean liners in peril (The Poseidon Adventure and Juggernaut), crashing planes (Airport), hungry sharks (Jaws). Hell, not even vegetables were safe (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes). Well, at least embattled citizens could relax with a day at the local amusement park. Or could they? Not if Timothy Bottoms had anything to do with it! In Rollercoaster, the actor plays a psychopath who loves nothing more than blowing the eponymous rides up real good — and the more people he can take out when he does it, the better! What this cinematic gem impressed upon me (aside from how sad Bottom’s career trajectory was) was the relative ease with which a huge mechanical set-up could be derailed and destroyed. Family trips to Cedar Point were never the same after that. I’d scan the park nervously before I stepped into my seat on The Spider, wondering if out in the crowd lurked a maniac bent on deadly sabotage. Now, older and considerably more money-hungry, I ask myself (and you, gentle reader): For a million dollars, would I become that maniac? With only a 10% chance of causing fatalities, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I’d consider it. Up the odds to 50%, though, and you get a firm “No way” from me. Now, before you start condemning me as a soulless monster, let me emphasize that I said “consider.” Ultimately, I don’t think I could go through with it. Even the thought of possibly having someone’s death (even a faceless someone I’ve never met) on my conscience is too much for my fragile mind to bear. I shall remain poor and morally upright.
There are a lot of terrible things I’d do for a million dollars (Oh, just you wait and see. I’m going to horrify — H.O.R.R.I.F.Y. — you with my answers to some of these questions), but I don’t think this is one of them. For starters, one of my personal rules is an immediate “no” to any dare that involves — or might involve — murder. So the discussion kind of ends right there except not, because I’m not done yet. Two, even in the first scenario, although there’s only a 10% chance of fatalities, there’s also a 10% chance you’d kill 100% of the people on the ride. Didn’t think about that, did you? And since this is an amusement park, guess who most of those people would probably be? That’s right — children! The whole equation is too much. I really think the guilt of killing anyone, and especially a kid, would literally drive me insane. There are plenty of scary situations I might put people at amusement parks in for money (whatever. I would.), but the potential for death and murder…well, I can’t do it.
That said, I’d totally accept the $10M on 50% odds. I find that it’s best to refuse to do a dare until you’re offered the right amount of money. Hold out. You deserve it! (Just kidding.)
This question reminded me of something, btw. Right here. Have a look, won’t you?
Stories like that one only reinforce my decision to go no further than the funnel cake stand on the rare occasions I find myself at a carnival or wherever. Step right up? No thanks.