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Today's topic is: Living Smart. What do I mean by living smart? Let's look at a simple example: Suppose that two people -- call them Person A and Person B -- are late for appointments in New York City and need to cross the street. Person A rushes into the street without looking and is instantly struck by a taxi going 146 mph. (This taxi has engine trouble, otherwise it would be going much faster.) But Person B -- even though he's in an equally big hurry -- pauses on the sidewalk and looks both ways. While doing this, he is severely beaten by muggers.

So we see that the choices we make affect the quality of our lives, and we must always try to make the smartest choice, which in this case would be the one made by Person C. He decided to skip hisappointment and remain in his hotel room watching the movie "Laundromat Lust."

I'll give you another example of living smart, from my own personal life. On a recent Friday night, my son, Rob, and I were in the Coconut Grove section of Miami, playing laser tag, a game wherein you skulk around in a darkened maze, wearing a special electronic vest attached to a laser gun. The object is to shoot your opponent in his vest or gun, thereby scoring valuable points.

I was standing in the dark, with my back pressed against a wall, a few feet from a corner. I knew Rob was around that corner. Quickly, I ran through my options: Option One: Run around the corner with my gun held out in front, thereby exposing it to Rob'slaser fire. Option Two: Protect my gun by holding it back and running around the corner with my face out in front. Looking back on what happened, I realize that I should have gone with Option Three: "Find some activity more appropriate for a 49-year-old man, such as backgammon."

Instead I went with Option Two, running around the corner face-first. This turned out to be a bad idea because Rob had gone with Option One, running around the corner gun-first. As a result, my face -- specifically my right eye socket -- collided violently with Rob's gun. But at least he didn't score any valuable points! After the collision, I lay on the floor for awhile, moaning and writhing. Eventually I was able to get back on my feet, and in just a matter of seconds -- the recuperative powers of the human body are amazing -- I was back down on the floor again, moaning and writhing.

"You need to go to the hospital," said Rob.

"Gnhnong," I said, "Gnhime gnhowaagh."

That was me attempting to say, "No, I'm OK."

Actually, I didn't feel so hot. But in my experience, if you go to a hospital for any reason, including to read the gas meter, they give you a tetanus shot. So my plan was to tough it out. Leaning on Rob, I staggered outside to the sidewalk, where I had anexcellent idea: Why not get down on all fours and throw up for a while? So I did. Nobody paid much attention. In Coconut Grove on a Friday night, it's unusual to see somebody NOT throwing up. By this point Rob had gotten somebody to call a cab, and he insisted that we go to the hospital.

When we got there I attempted to explain to a nurse what had happened. This was difficult because (a) I wasn't totally coherent and (b) the nurse had never played laser tag.

"He shot you in the eye with a LASER?" she asked. "Gnhnong," I said.

"Have you had a tetanus shot recently?" she asked. "YES!" I said, demonstrating the brain's amazing recuperative power to lie in an emergency.

They stuck some kind of needle in me anyway (hey, rules are rules). Then various doctors had a look at me, and, after a fair amount of peeking and probing, they determined that I had been hit in the face. They also told me I'd be OK.

And I'm sure I will, although at the moment part of my face is numb, and my right eyeball could pose for the cover of a Stephen King novel. Also I feel sleepy all the time. This made me a little nervous, so I did what medical experts recommend that you do whenever you have a question concerning your health: I called my friend Gene Weingarten, who is a professional newspaper editor and probably the world's leading hypochondriac.

Gene spent a day researching my symptoms and called back to tell me that, in his opinion, I have a condition known as somnolence. In laymen's terms, somnolence means you feel sleepy. Gene recommended that I get a CT scan, but of course Gene would also recommend a CT scan for earwax, so I went back to bed.

But forget about my problems. The point I'm trying to make is that, by considering your options and making the right decisions -- living smart -- you CAN lead a happy, healthy and financially successful life. And if you do, please buy a bunch of groceries and have them delivered to my house, because I really don't feel like going out.

Knight-Ridder Newspapers