Admit it. At one time or another, we’ve all thought we were pretty bad ass. Whether it was facing down that huge man at the bar who smelled of one too many lost rounds with Jack Daniels and looked like a leather handbag soaked in rage, or successfully completing Rush’s “YYZ” on Expert, or just telling off your boss in a hilarious tribute to Half-Baked, sooner or later everyone experiences a moment worth bragging about.
Well guess what, my loyal readers – nothing you or I have ever done begins to compare to what I have lined up for today.
You can go on and on about guys like Les Stroud and how hardcore they must be to venture alone into the wild with naught but a video camera to document their struggles to survive in the remotest locales the natural world has to offer, frequently feasting on bugs or giving themselves manual enemas to stay hydrated, and not only avoiding an ignominious end worthy of Christopher McCandless, but actually coming out on top. But these are trained professionals you’re talking about – Les Stroud is called “Survivorman” for a reason, folks. It’s his job. The show wouldn’t be nearly so entertaining if it was called “Regularman Expiring in the Woods”, would it?
Okay, you have a point. It might actually be awesome.
But I digress. My point is the average person living in the 21st century has a survival index of nearly zero outside an urban environment – and even within one, given the right (or wrong) conditions. So when John or Jane Q. Public step up and endure a scenario that would make most of us curl up in a ball and cry for our mothers, I think it’s worthy of note. So here it is: State of Affairs’ Top Three Most Badass People You Might Meet In The Street for January 2010.
Jaws Ain’t Got Nothin’
I hate swimming in the ocean. It’s a recurring nightmare of mine, actually. I know it’s all majestic and beautiful and it smells great, but when you stop to consider the sheer number of ocean denizens capable of, if not downright willing to eat you, you have to start questioning why anyone in the last hundred years would ever want to venture into the watery deep. Unsurprisingly, sharks top my list of “shit I don’t want to meet whilst swimming” coming in just slightly ahead of barracudas, piranhas and Cthulu. I know the stats – you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than get attacked by a shark – but guess what? The way I see it, with my luck the lightning will strike my scared ass just before or just after the shark bites off my legs.
I was once told a story by an Australian friend of mine about how she went snorkeling with her father off the Great Barrier Reef and literally watched a twenty-foot Great White shark swim by about fifty feet down from where they languished on the surface. Because she’s Australian, it was no big deal to her – but of course Australians deal with all manner of creatures both on and off land more than happy to bite you in half at first opportunity (ever notice how you never really see out-of-shape Australians? Guess why.) If it had been me, I would have propelled myself back to land by the sheer force of shitting myself.
Which is why I’m happy to give props to 14 year-old Lydia Ward, a New Zealander with a penchant for body boarding. For the record, New Zealanders are as hardcore – if not more so than – any Australian (it’s the the Maori influence, I’m sure), and Lydia is a perfect example. While boarding with her brother at Oreti Beach in southern NZ, she stepped on something in the water that moved – enough for the average person to either a) freeze in utter shock or b) panic and start flailing and screaming like, well, a little girl. Not Lydia. When she realized her foot had come to rest on a five-foot long shark, she calmly and methodically beat the ever-loving shit out of the beast with her body board. The shark gave as good as it got, mind you – Lydia was hospitalized for a pretty deep bite – but all things considered it might have gone much worse for the sprightly teenager. As it stands, however, I have to give credit where credit’s due – the closest thing to a man-eater I had to deal with at age fourteen was my ex-girlfriend, and I couldn’t even deal with that without breaking down into tears, rocking back and forth in a corner, muttering incoherently about “all work and no play”.
Lydia, for quick thinking and a mean right hook, State of Affairs awards you the Ellen Ripley Medal of Honour for Heroism Against Ugly Creatures Bred To Kill.
And You Thought It Was Just For Illegal Downloading
Much has been made about Apple over the last few years, most of it malignant. The prevalence of iPhones and iPods have made social introverts out of an entire generation, not to mention single-handedly killing off the ability to retain information for longer than it takes to type “wikipedia” into your little hand-held encyclopedia. More recently Steve Jobs and crew have come under fire for the unfortunately-named iPad which many bloggers have noted is little more than an oversized iPhone without the phone part. Applications for these little technical marvels span the gamut from the periodically-useful to the patently silly – one Correspondent of mine recently showed me an app that consists solely of a animated nine-millimeter pistol which responds to the touch screen by reloading clips, cocking the slide and firing. All this wonderful technology for a gun sim?
Well, not quite. Apparently the iPhone is a valuable survival tool. I know, I was blown away too, but it’s true.
Dan Woolley is a filmmaker from the United States who journeyed to Haiti to film a documentary about poverty in the island nation at the most inopportune time ever – shortly after landing he got stuck in the earthquake that devastated the entire region in early January. Crushed by a pile of rubble with nothing to aid him except his camera equipment and his iPhone, he used his SLR to light up his surroundings, locating an elevator shaft to shelter in while the earthquake shook everything to pieces. Injured, he turned to his iPhone, onto which he had conveniently (if inexplicably) downloaded the Surviving Natural Disasters application; this application would quite literally Save His Life. It provided information on how to fashion a tourniquet for his leg and a bandage for his bleeding skull – the app even politely suggested that he not fall asleep because he might go into shock and never wake up, so he programmed the phone’s internal alarm clock to wake him up every twenty minutes. A scant sixty-five hours later, a French rescue team located him and he was taken to safety.
Now, I’ve never been trapped in a disaster situation, thankfully, because as I mentioned regarding the shark thing I’m a tremendous pussy who would probably fold in half under pressure (in fact, my friends have mentioned that when the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse befalls us I’d better rely on my role as Comedy Relief to survive, because otherwise I’m pretty much useless), so I’m hardly going to castigate Dan Woolley for his quick thinking even if I’m a little puzzled why he would think to use his iPhone to look up how to make a tourniquet instead of, you know, calling somebody. My Correspondent Dr. Rob (coincidentally the same guy who has the gun app) mentioned that not all apps require a 3G connection to run, and even if he had access to a server he probably wouldn’t have had much luck getting in touch with anyone – “help, I’m trapped in rubble in Haiti” has probably been a common thread topic this month. Either way, I’m forced to take back most of the mean things I’ve said about the iPhone making us lazy by providing limitless information to everyone, because I don’t know about you, but I would have absolutely no idea what to do whilst trapped under a building other than screaming at the top of my lungs until somebody came by either to rescue me or just to shut my whiny ass up.
Dan Woolley, for technical savvy that aided in your rescue, State of Affairs awards you the MacGyver Tongue-Depressor-and-Elastic-Band Cross for Most Innovative Use Of Technology In A Desperate Situation.
Grandma Will Kick Your Ass
The third and final instalment of today’s look at hardcore people who are probably way tougher than you deals once again with Haiti, because really, where else do you think you’re going to find the toughest people ever at this point in history?
Dan Woolley’s story was admittedly pretty impressive, but when you take into consideration he was a relatively healthy, youngish guy with an iPhone (henceforth referred to as Essential Survival Equipment, apparently) his survival is more of a “close call, good thinking” moment than a “holy shit, how did you do that” moment.
Now imagine, if you will, a similar scenario playing out (not like there’s been a lack of these scenarios in Haiti), but instead of playing the role of intrepid filmmaker with technology at his fingertips, you’re instead thrust into the guise of an 84 year-old woman crushed under a building with no way of contacting the outside world and nothing to rely on for your survival but your own resilience and what I can only imagine are balls made of adamantium. And now imagine you had to hold out for almost four times as long as Dan did.
Seriously, dear readers. We’re talking about a woman literally over three times my age who not only survived having a fucking building fall down on her head, she stuck around for ten days before her son and the neighbours heard her cries for help and dug her out with their bare hands. That in itself is pretty intense – if it had been you or I stuck under the remnants of our former homes, what are the chances that after ten days with no food or water whatsoever, you be able to massage your bone-dry vocal cords into anything resembling more than a Darth Vader-esque croak barely audible above the sounds of the entire world crashing down around your ears? And yet Ms. Roman managed to shout her way through stone and mortar and probably bodies to get herself rescued.
And that’s the other thing: have you ever tried going for ten days without food or water? Hell no you haven’t, and don’t even try to convince me otherwise. To call it unpleasant is an understatement of spectacular proportions. Hell, even those of us who’ve participated in the 30 Hour Famine are usually supplied with water because our fragile little North American bodies can’t hack that amount of time without stuffing something in our gullets. I spent my university years training my body to get by on a minimum of food, but even with water I can only go about three days without eating before I start to get happy-slap googly-eyed with deprivation – and that’s as a relatively healthy 25 year-old male with a distinct lack of personal injuries. When they pulled Ms. Roman out of the wreckage her leg was busted up something fierce and, apparently, she was covered in maggots. A nurse friend of mine tells me this may have helped her survive because the maggots kept her wounds clean (insert your collective disgusted retching here – I know I am) but regardless, this would be traumatic as hell for anybody of any age. Let’s not forget, my friends, that we’re talking about someone who realistically could have dated Winston Churchill. How many octogenarians do you know with any real chance of surviving a minor two-kilometer jog, let alone the kind of physically destructive strain being buried under a fucking house for a week and a half?
As it stands right now Ms. Roman is stable, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for more information on her condition as it becomes available. This is one tough old broad and she’s deserving of all our respect for clinging stubbornly to life when most of us would have given up the ghost.
Marie Roman, for your tenacity and your indomitable spirit, State of Affairs awards you the Dame Judi Dench Ribbon of Proving Age Is Not A Deterrent To Being Hardcore.
So What Did We Learn?
Like I said at the beginning of this long-winded diatribe, there are a lot of people out there who like to think they’re tough shit. But in my mind, it takes a lot more strength and courage to survive a situation you didn’t ask for – earthquakes and shark attacks count, bar fights don’t – than it does to beat somebody up or talk smack to an authority figure. The people I’ve written about today have more balls than I have in a very major way, and while that might not be a high bar (I mean really, bitching about music and film behind the comfortable anonymity of my computer screen? Apparently I’m a troll), it’s still worthy of our collective respect.
So the next time you decide you’re a bad mammer-jammer, dear readers, why don’t you try taking on the most efficient predator in history with a slab of hydrodynamic foam or weather the effects of a devastating natural disaster with only an iPhone and some maggots for company? Unless you’re as badass as these three award winners, which you’re not, I guarantee nature will put you in your place.