I was made aware of my own mortality this morning when I picked up the newspaper and read that I was rather likelier to die than I’d previously assumed. The cause of my misfortune, it seems, is that I’m very tall – 6 feet 51/2 inches, to be precise, or, as the French would say, 1.97 metres. Tall people, we’re told, are more likely to develop cancer than short people.
On reading this startling fact, I immediately googled the price of coffins, as you do, where I found the incredibly informative website www.comparethecoffin.com. There, my eyes were opened to a whole range of exit vehicles, including cardboard boxes – the pink cardboard coffin was Reduced! to a mere £375 – rainbow coffins presumably aimed at diversity groups, and things constructed more robustly from wood or steel. (You might think I’m making this up, but I’m not.) Comparethecoffin.com also sells cremation urns in many tasteful shapes and sizes and a selection of rockets so that the bereaved can scatter the ashes by firing them several thousand feet into the air.
My personal favourite was the “DIY flat-pack coffin with red liner” which would presumably allow the about-to-die the opportunity to while away his or her final hours wrestling with a screwdriver and some glue. I did check to see if it was IKEA-branded, but it didn’t have one of those meaningless Swedish names like Splorg or Kubrask, so I assume that at least it would come with instructions that made sense. In reality, of course, one has to live with the knowledge that the whole thing would probably fall apart at the most unfortunate point in the funeral. Incidentally, one of the rockets came in DIY form as well.
Then I saw something that made my blood run cold: one of the coffins described itself as ‘oversize’. I hadn’t really given this much thought, but I suppose I’ll need a bigger box, too. I should be used to this, actually, as my clothes are more expensive, I need to book extra-legroom seats on flights, I even have to look at a far more limited selection of cars, all simply because I’m a big guy. It’s not fair; being a monster costs a lot of money. We bump our heads a lot as well.
Nobody quite knows why tall people are more likely to develop cancer, but it seems the most credible hypothesis is that there are more cells in me than there are in someone shorter – I don’t have ‘bigger’ cells than average. That means that there are more cells in me to go wrong. I don’t feel I’ve been given a large number of cells, and when confronted by two short people trying to beat me up, I truly feel outnumbered two-to-one. Nor do I even have an extra finger or toe to show for my extra cells. Just an increased risk of cancer, thanks.
But a little time in amongst life’s coffins, urns and ash-scattering rockets at least gave me time to renew my perspective on life, and more relevantly here, death. I can only die once. What that means is that if I’m more likely to die of cancer, then I must be less likely to die crossing the road or in a plane crash, of being murdered, or of dying of other illnesses such as a heart attack or a stroke. So the good news about being more likely to die of cancer is that I can go back to enjoying all the good things in life, so it’s back to the burgers, pizzas, crisps and deep-fried Mars Bars. (That last one’s a lie – the very thought makes me want to throw up.)
And there are compensations in being tall. I can see over crowds. I can reach shelves in my house that no-one else can get close to. I can also paint ceilings, although that’s a horrible job and I try to pretend that ‘even I’ can’t manage to reach. Best of all, though, is that 1.97 metres, which you square and then divide the resulting 3.88 into my weight in kilos to produce my Body Mass Index. So the taller I am, the more weight I’m allowed before I have to admit to being obese – back to those burgers again. Being obese, we’re told, is a contributory factor in developing cancer.
So being tall helps combat cancer? Hang on...