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Ol’ Man Levitt: The Answer to the Freakonomics Quiz

Earlier this week I posed a quiz to blog readers: what happened twice to me in the last few days that had never once happened to me in the first 45 years of my life.

Well, it turns out that the answers readers posted turned out to be a pretty interesting data for analysis.  At the time that my researcher Sara Kuse crunched the numbers, there were 280 guesses (some commenters guessed more than once, and we counted all their guesses) that fell into roughly 110 different categories. 

The most commonly made guesses were getting robbed or mugged, making a hole in one, getting recognized/asked for an autograph, winning a prize, losing something like a wallet being in a car accident, and being stung by a bee.  Over 30 percent of all the guesses were one of those items.  None of those would qualify, however, because they’ve all happened to me at least once before.  Getting robbed and a hole in one were two great guesses – both have happened to me exactly once in my life. 

In fact, of the 280 guesses, 232 have already happened to me, and thus can’t be the right answer.  (I have seen both a bald eagle and a double rainbow, stepped in dog poop, been in a fist fight, and been approached by hookers, just to name a few).

The most frequently given answers that haven’t ever happened to me are getting stuck in an elevator (5 guesses), having my car towed (3 guesses), and being hit by lightning (3 guesses).  I’ve also never fainted, administered CPR, or had a politician take my advice.  Those last three are all great guesses.

I was beginning to think that the question was too hard and no one would get the right answer, when blog reader Molly finally nailed it, two or three days after the initial post went up.  Congratulations, Molly, you’ve earned some Freakonomics swag.

The correct answer: I was given the senior discount!

The first time it happened, I thought maybe it was a mistake.  I was at Boston Market, and the person ringing me up could not have been nicer and then without saying a thing about it, handed me a receipt with a 10 percent senior discount.  Who knows, maybe it was an accident.

The second time, it was no mistake.  I was at a golf driving range – one I go to a lot – and the guy handed me back a dollar more than the amount of change I always receive.  I told him he gave me one dollar too many, and he told me the senior rate was a dollar off the posted price.  I was so busy updating my priors on how old I have become that I didn’t even think to protest.

I must really be going downhill quickly because this week, after the quiz went up, I got the senior discount for the third time!  This time in front of my wife, who asked “Did he really just give you the senior discount?”

Why shouldn’t he, everyone else does.