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Discussion 2 to Meditation 336
The Average-Adjuster

by JT

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I've been reading Punch from 1910 lately. (Years ago on a whim, I picked up a bound set in a used book store.) In the 22 June 1910 issue there's a short story that reminded me of Meditations 335 & 336 which both originate from the idea taught at at least one Christian "University" that God personally makes sure that statistics turn out correctly.

The story reprinted below originated long before the idea that God guarantees that statistics will hold was first taught in Trinity Western's Business 275, Quantitative Methods. Even without a deity involved, the idea that some mysterious entity fixes statistics was funny a hundred years ago, and it's still funny now that Christian academics give God the credit.

THE AVERAGE-ADJUSTER.[1]

SOMEHOW his appearance seemed quite familiar to me, but for the life of me I couldn't say where I had met him before. There was a curious look in his face—something which struck me as being both indefinite and universal. It didn't make any one special impression, but seemed to be trying to make all sorts of impressions at the same tone. His clothes were of no particular age or cut. Nondescript clothes, I should call them. He wore a bowler hat, a black tie and a pair of brown lace-up boots. During the whole of our conversation, which, by the way, took place in the Strand, he was smoking a briarwood pipe, or rather, his pipe was always going out, and he was continually lighting it again. He must have spent at least fifty wooden matches in ten minutes.

It all began with the blowing off of my hat. He was good enough to capture it and restore it to me.

"Pray don't mention it " he said when I thanked him. "If it hadn't been yours it would have had to be mine."

" What do you mean? " said I.

" Well, you see," he answered," our people are compiling statistics about hats for a private investigator, and if there hadn't been one more hat blown off in the Strand at this very moment, all his tables would have been wrong. I was ordered to watch, and if somebody else's hat hadn't been taken, mine would have had to go. It had to be an actual hat: we never fake our results.

" You've done me a good turn to-day—nothing makes a man more ridiculous than running after his own hat—so I don't mind telling you who we are and how we work. Our people are Average-Adjusters, the greatest organization on the world. There's nothing in America to match it. They don't know everything over there, not by long chalks. How do we work? Well I'll give you an example. I daresay you've noticed paragraphs giving an account of the things left by passengers in railway carriages--umbrellas, so many handkerchiefs, so many babies' feeding bottles, so many cuckoo-clocks, etc. Then there's a statement of the total number of passengers carried by all the companies, and from that they calculate the forgetfulness per thousand. Most of it's our doing. We work for the companies, of course. Last year for instance, they wanted something striking, so we had two hundred of our best men told off to litter the rolling stock of the United Kingdom with dogs, pictures, mowing machines, kangaroos, musical boxes, boots, bangles. and purses stuffed full of sovereigns. We were at it for a week. There was an article about the whole thing in The Moonbeam. You wrote it, did you? Well, I couldn't have done it better myself.

" I daresay you 've wondered why the consumption of beer and spirits has been going down. No, it isn't the Budget: it's our organisation. Two of our Directors have turned teetotalers, and the consequence is all the employes have had orders to give up alcohol and drink water or dry ginger-ale. You can't cut off a couple of hundred thousand steady drinkers without making a difference. I forget the exact decrease in gallons per head of the population per annum, but it's something pretty substantial. Personally I don't like the change. My imagination doesn't seem to work so well on ginger ale; but I daresay it's a good thing, take it all round.

" Then there are the traffic accidents. We do a lot in that; it's one of our best lines. Not the deaths, you know—we don't touch them, except now and then on very special terms—but the ordinary accidents, where people are knocked down or slightly run over. If it wasn't for us, there wouldn't be any average worth mentioning. The motor-cars have made people so careful. We've got twenty picked men and women out in London to-day on that kind of job. Do you see that old lady there in the middle of the street? She 's one of our champions. Ah! she 's running back now. It's not a bit of good their all shouting and blowing their horns. She's bound to be into that motor-bus just as it stops. There! She's done it as neat as ninepence. I must go and help to pick her up and identify her. She's my aunt, you know." And with that the Adjuster plunged into the crowd and I lost him.

 

Footnote:

  1. The Average-Adjuster, author unidentified, Punch, or the London Charivari, June 22, 1910 p. 452