Have you been mulling over the significance of 36,500 lately? I know I have. And even though my friends have been … okay, even though my friend has been giving me that look of suspicion, I continue to ponder the implications of that particular figure.

Thirty-six thousand five-hundred seems to be a substantial number; it’s quite large but, when you get down to it, it’s just not that big. As I understand it, there are quite a few whole, positive numbers bigger than 36,500. It can even

be demonstrated if not proven that their legion is infinite, making 36,500 look insignificant indeed.

Perhaps the reason it looks large is that, as people, we deal every day in small quantities such as one dollar, six beers or ten fingers. It’s not easy to acquire 36,500 American dollars to purchase something like an overpriced pickup truck or an old house that’s in really poor condition but will allow you to move out of your parents’ garage. $36,500 is the amount of money you earn working an entire year with a full-time job when you are making $18.25 an hour. If I had to write a check for $36,500, I would have to write very small and make sure I spelled “thousand” correctly.

The reason that I have fixated on 36,500 is because it’s the number of days you’ve got to do everything you’re going to do if you live to be 100 years old. Most of us won’t live to be 100. Suddenly, 36,500 is just not that big a number. 36,500 is the number of seconds in just over ten hours. It’s the number of inches in just over half a mile.

I kept doing the math over and over in my head hoping that I misplaced a decimal point but the math isn’t that hard: 365 days in a year times 100 years gives you only a paltry, trifling and geologically irrelevant 36,500 days to live. It’s not even a flash in the pan of the universe’s kitchen.

Doctor: “I have some grave news for you.”

You: “Go ahead, Doc, I can take it but I don’t like how you use the word ‘grave’ in this context.”

Doctor: “Well … it seems like you’re headed in that direction, and that direction is six feet under.”

You: “Oh no, Doc, I’m just a newborn. How long do I have?”

Doctor: “Sorry, but at best you’ve only got 36,500 days to live, and that’s only if you exercise, don’t take up smoking, avoid taking selfies on cliff edges, escape poverty, and avoid conflict.

You: “I have … I have to exercise?”

Remember those 10 days in summer camp? That weeklong business trip to Atlanta? That first marriage? The stint in that little Southern town slammer? Those days add up and get subtracted from the 36,500.

Back around the summer of 1975 I spent three whole days on the gravel of the local airstrip at Pitka’s Point on the Yukon River in Alaska waiting for a plane to come back and pick me up. The pilot said he “would be right back.” I just assumed the pilot spoke English as I do but he was busy making his 36,500 days count — and I could wait.

There are not a lot of things to do, or places to go in Pitka’s Point. There is a road that leads to a couple of small river villages miles away — and calling it a road is generous. If you opt to hike, see the sights and take your chances with the bears, you could miss your plane that might show up any day now. I stayed put. Subtract the days.

It’s now July; the year is half over. Years go by 365 days at a time. A hundred of them and you’re done. Finished. You start out with three years in diapers, then there’s 20 years of schoolin’, a number of “gap years,” 15 years in that dead-end job and hopefully a productive decade or two before you head for a few more years in diapers and then oblivion. Yikes.

Oblivion is a somber word. It’s best defined by example: oblivion is that special place in the hearts of anyone who has a memory and gives a care for that mosquito you swatted dead on your forehead in 1989. Can’t remember that incident? Can’t find anyone who remembers and regards the event as trivially significant? For the mosquito, that’s oblivion.

Okay, I’ve got to go.