My sister has the most wonderful collection of books. One end of the shelf is Ayn Rand-heavy. It’s tough going through that section. Not being a big fan of angst, I have left it largely unread. But the other end contains an entirely charming edition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with an intricately cut pop-up vignette for every one of those days. The five golden rings shimmer and you can almost snatch yourself one of the eggs those geese are laying. She has three shelves of cookbooks, which are as untouched as Ms. Rand’s offerings, and everything Jon Stewart — possibly the smartest and funniest man in America — has ever written. There is a deceptively small volume titled, “Bad Cats.” “Bad Cats” is full of disturbing/hilarious photographs of 24-pound cats lying around on a pillows, which is really the only thing 24-pound cats can do, soaking wet cats fresh from the bath with murder in their eyes, fang-baring cats that look possessed, and cats playing with Barbie dolls. Or maybe trying to kill Barbie dolls. It’s hard to tell with cats.
One of my favorites, though, is a yellow-covered hardback called, ‘Worst Case Scenarios.” As you might have assumed, this little gem offers advice on what to do if you should find yourself in a truly dire situation. One chapter deals with how to land an airplane if the pilot keels over dead. It took me two months to learn how to land an airplane and here it is condensed into three paragraphs. It’s almost correct, too. The author made a startling error about how to read the altimeter. Not to worry (too much). My guess is the fact you are hurtling through the skies with a corpse beside you is going to weigh more heavily on your mind than what your precise height is. The trick is to avoid unplanned contact with the earth.
The book touches on bear attacks, too. And shark attacks and mountain lion attacks. This is a totally unreasonable fear of mine … being attacked by a bear or a shark or a mountain lion. My response to any of the three would be to just immediately die from fright and get it over with. I had talked myself into believing the chances of being set upon by a mountain lion or a bear are pretty darn remote. Then one of my sister’s neighbors reported finding bear droppings on her property. And THEN (cue horror movie overture da-da-daaa) someone else reported seeing a mountain lion. Not just its doo-doo. It. Being eaten by a mountain lion would be a bad, bad way to go. And I know, I know, the odds of its happening are almost zero. But as Bill Bryson brilliantly pointed out, even once would be quite enough. I swear if they spot sharks in Lake Erie, I’m never leaving home again.
Happily, I don’t have to worry about many of the worst cases that are outlined. To actually end up in some of these scenarios would require putting my fragile self in places I would never go. Surviving an avalanche, for example. Being caught up in an avalanche would require at least three things: unstable snow, a mountain (preferably without lions), and being on top of both of them when the action started. I used to love to go skiing. Skiing is exactly how I ruined one knee. Thanks to a really good orthopedic surgeon, my metal replacement knees work great. I can’t get through airport security without getting intimate with a woman and her wand, but the knees themselves are top-notch. It would take a more foolhardy person than myself to risk those knees schussing down some hillside. So I’m feeling pretty secure about avoiding avalanches.
Another topic deals with living through a parachute failure. To review: Living through a parachuting accident would require, you know, parachuting. Let us, for the sake of argument, examine what is involved in parachuting. A person, certainly not me, straps a few wisps of flimsy fabric all tied together with strings onto their back and then catapults out of a perfectly good airplane. Did you get that part there at the end? A perfectly good airplane? One which, given a moment or two or ten, would gently alight back on the good solid ground after a soothing and gradual descent? A descent that does not involve plummeting toward earth at terminal velocity? An airplane with a live pilot?
Even if the pilot suddenly ceased to be among the living, you could land the plane yourself if you had read the book.
The writer resides in Covington and writes for the Sidney Daily News, Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.