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1400 people….

On the news, talking about fires in California, they said 1400 people were evacuated. (Or maybe it was 1200--it was either twelve or fourteen. Hundred.) I always assume, when I hear a number like that, that it's rounded off. The chances that it's a perfect fourteen hundred--not 1,396, not 1,407 or 1,421--seem low to me, though I suppose it's possible.

But if it's rounded off, that means the actual number is either higher or lower. If it's higher, that means there are displaced people who aren't counted--how would you like to be among the unnumbered? You are an untidy extra, a scrap cut off the piecrust.

And if it's lower, that means there are phantom people swelling the ranks. Imagine sitting at the shelter, maybe having a package of Funyuns that have been handed out, and next to you are these barely visible disturbances in your visual field, like heat ripples--the ghostly extras who have been added to round out the number.

I'm not really distressed. I understand the necessity and practicality of rounded numbers: truly! But still--it's thought provoking.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 29th, 2014 03:48 pm (UTC)
Phantoms in the counting box
Yes - the image is a bit disturbing. Especially if 1400 food packets are handed out and they rounded down. . . .
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Phantoms in the counting box
I guess IRL organizations do always try to overestimate when it comes to supplying food and things.


The difference between the world of estimates and summaries and the world of reality is … so big.
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:01 pm (UTC)
I am tucking this post into my plot bunny hutch. I LOVE that second to last paragraph.
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC)
Hee, yeah, it's got potential as an idea.
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:08 pm (UTC)
Definitely makes one think.
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:23 pm (UTC)
I feel like the post maybe has too much of a righteous or activist-y tone? And I don't really mean it that way at all--I was just musing on the difference, though, between estimates and reality.
Jul. 30th, 2014 01:59 am (UTC)
I'd rather they kept busy Doing Stuff rather than counting my nose. As long as they get me somewhere to sleep. . . .
Jul. 30th, 2014 02:09 am (UTC)
Sure, this wasn't supposed to be an attack or criticism of estimation--it's definitely necessary, and yeah, not the most important item on the agenda, in any case. It was just a random thought I had.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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