In the 'Gale Book of Averages,' the mean is really the message

January 31, 1994|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff Writer

As you know, the average person produces 10,000 gallons of saliva in a lifetime. The average number of people killed in a year by hair dryers is 17. And the average kid laughs 400 times a day. The average adult laughs just 15 times a day -- on a good day.

More, more.

Right-handers live longer than left-handers on the average. The average weight of Miss America is 117 pounds. The average cost of owning a dog for its lifetime is $13,350. And Baltimore has an average of 1.4 bookstores for every 100,000 households.

OK, says who?

Introducing the 1994 "Gale Book of Averages," which is not your average reference book. This $50, 617-page info-book comes from Gale Research Inc., in Detroit. There are 1,249 tables in 15 chapters, which include subjects such as Allocation of Time and the Human Body (we shed an average of 100 hairs a day).

"This book might be useful," says Marcia Dysart, a librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. "It will take awhile to try it out."

The book's editor, Kathleen Droste, worked on the project an average of six hours a day for 15 months. No other single source of averages exists, so Gale decided to publish a trivial pursuit of averages.

"The Guinness Book is fascinating, but what is the average person doing?" Mrs. Droste asks.

The average person is sending 44 Christmas cards each year. The average person is spending $13,370 on a wedding and $3,800 on a funeral. The average person in Montgomery County is paying $698 in monthly rent -- the sixth-highest rent average in the country.

So, what does all this brain candy say about us? Are we all average?

"That word 'average' is so nebulous," Mrs. Droste says. "You should take it with a grain of salt."

Would that be an average grain of salt?

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