Other Writing Index

Pennies From Heaven

The news came in over the wire service with cosmic simultaneity: Astronomers at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have discovered seven asteroids and one four meter piece of Skylab that may, at this moment, be hurtling towards earth at the speed of asteroids, and the American Numismatic Association announced that it is releasing ten (count them, ten) rare coins into circulation in New York City in an effort to promote public interest in coin collecting.

Due to the virtually unprecedented coincidental nature of these reports, and because it is our job ,we here at the It Could Happen But It's Not Likely Center in Pueblo, Colorado, will attempt to predict, in strict mathematical terms, the likelihood that a person will be struck by an asteroid while holding a 1914 Lincoln Penny with a D mark.

Our calculations will take into account all available data on both asteroid detection and coin collecting, as well as a myriad of seemingly unrelated statistics. For example, we will compare the likelihood of Karen Finlay's ever again receiving an NEA grant with the probability that, in our life time, Queen Elizabeth will swim the English Channel. We will evaluate Roger Clinton's prospects of becoming a member of the band REM. We will discuss as candidly as possible and without prejudice whether the hobby of coin collecting is really any fun at all.

We will conduct countless interviews with everyone from the Mayor of New York City to a guy we know, Busty Linfroo, who carves replicas of the 18th century sloop, My Mistress, The Sea, out of soapstone and who is known to possess a woolen cardigan with buffalo nickel buttons. We will spend many long and sleepless nights drinking Chardonnay and blubbering over the impossibility of it all.

We will empty our pockets of change in the hopes that one of those precious D pennies has turned up because they're worth eighty smackers apiece.

And finally, we could use the dough. And, finally, we will burrow like prairie dogs into the deep, dark crater of asteroid history. Not including the 150-foot meteor responsible for the Arizona Crater, so called because it is somewhere in Arizona and because no one can remember its real name, the Barrington Crater, or the 300-foot jumbo that cut a swath through a Russian forest, the last truly devastating asteroid to hit the earth was the terrible and loathsome "Biggy," responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Happily, though, there is some evidence that the tyrannosaurs rex may have developed a type of barter system, and there is a belief currently under evaluation in some scientific quarters that one group of T-rex's may, in fact, have perished while in the process of some sort of monetary exchange.

All of us here at the I.C.H.B.I.N.L. Center are hard at work on the answers to these and many other probability issues. If you are wondering what your chances are of falling into an open manhole while wearing a fez and humming Copland's Appalachian Spring , we'll let you know. If you ought to contemplate remaining in your suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesdays so as to avoid an attack by a rabid lemur, you'll hear from us. And if you find yourself holding a 1914 Lincoln penny with a D mark on the corner of Broadway and Houston and you look up in the sky and see an asteroid heading your way, don't say we didn't warn you.