Tag Archives: disasters

96. Rebellion

Don't Do It

I’ll repeat the question: What is it about these warnings that make us want to do them?

What godawful curse of curiosity requires us to do the exact opposite of what someone explicitly told us not to do? It seems so wrong, doesn’t it? Here we get truthful, honest advice and we simply won’t take it. Sorry. You even know we won’t take it. Half the time we tell someone not to do something it’s because secretly we want them to do it. All of us fall for it. Before finishing this paragraph you probably already searched everything we suggested you don’t.

Regret it, don’t you?

Well, you’ll get over it. And you’ll do it again.

To be absolutely honest, I haven’t yet searched “blue waffle.” I’d rather just stick with my own imagination than get something even worse cemented into my brain. This time, I’m adhering to the advice. I won’t play those mind games anymore.

Update: Goddamn it. I looked.

Why? Why ignore the warning label? Why rebel so openly? What is it about human kind that seeks trouble? What gene within us begs us to pull fire alarms and run red lights? There have been proven, repeated, often negative outcomes from the very things that we are advised to avoid, yet we seek them anyway. Everyone wants to shoot a gun, even if we’re scared of them.

From the small, “Don’t run around the pool,” warning to the big, “Stop or I’ll shoot,” warning, we’ve got this collective desire to ignore negative commands. We don’t like being told what not to do. We hate it. All of us. Secretly or openly, we feel that the last thing we were born on this planet to do is take orders. No mattress has its tag left on it.

I will NOT wait thirty seconds before opening my steaming bag of microwave popcorn.

I will NOT come to a complete stop.

One random piece of advice I picked up in my lifetime was, in the case of trying to remember things, the trick is to frame it positively. Rather than saying, “Don’t forget to go to the store,” you should say, “Remember to go to the store.”

Hell, I’d probably still forget. No one tells ME what to remember!

The point is, we’re an interesting species. We’re prone for trouble. The last thing we want is a neat and tidy universe. No wonder the news is full of madness and mayhem. It’s no wonder that the fighting won’t end, crime won’t dwindle, and drugs will prevail. If you tell us to be happy, we’ll only get sad. If you tell us to behave, we’ll only light fuses. Sorry.

I’m not saying that any of this is excusable. Rules are usually made for a reason, and when we run around breaking them, we know very well what we’re doing. It’s a cycle of self-destruction. We won’t break it until we actually listen to our own advice.

When the aliens come, perhaps not long from now if the Mayans have anything to say about it, these extraterrestrials will have no idea what to make of us. They’ll come in peace and we’ll give them war.

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74. Butterflies

I’ve changed history.

Not the history we know of, but the history of our future. Everything that happens from this moment on, it’s all because of me. I can’t tell you where it’s all leading. No one knows that. But regardless of how things turn out, let me be the first to apologize for taking all of our fates into my young hands.

I was twelve when it happened.

Recess time. Elementary school. Sunny day. Out on the field. I can still smell the freshly cut grass. I’m there with my buddy, Joey, and we’re having the time of our lives, being young and away from our desks.

The butterfly was orange, with black around the edges of its wings.

Beautiful.

To be fair, butterflies usually only live for weeks or months at a time (at most, a year). This butterfly could’ve been close to the end of its days, anyway. Alternatively, the thing could’ve been fresh out of the cocoon. Either way, the butterfly didn’t deserve to die.

Did you know that butterfly wings are comprised of tiny colored scales?

I’d like to grab a quotation from Wikipedia here:

Butterflies feed primarily on nectar from flowers. Some also derive nourishment from pollen, tree sap, rotting fruit, dung, decaying flesh, and dissolved minerals in wet sand or dirt.

I’m not going to defend my murder, but what if I killed the sort of butterfly that derives nourishment from “decaying flesh?” That thing could’ve been carrying diseases. I might’ve prevented some kind of viral outbreak at my elementary school.

Okay, Okay. You’re right. That’s a lame excuse. We all know that butterflies never hurt anybody.

I killed it. That’s the truth. I admit it.

I saw it fly by and something inside of my twelve-year-old brain decided to give chase, like a cat catching sight of a red dot, and I pursued it across the field. I was fixated. Homing in. I was so enthralled by the chase that I didn’t know what to do when I caught up to it. Like the cat that doesn’t know what to do with the live mouse in its jaws.

So I stepped on it.

Did you know some butterflies take the toxins from plants to use for themselves? Clever little creatures.

However, any toxin that orange beauty possessed on its fragile wings did no good against the rubber sole of my sneaker. Physically, it felt like nothing, like stepping on a leaf. Emotionally, it felt like I’d just smothered a dozen kittens in a pillow case.

When my foot crunched down and the butterfly vanished from sight, I knew that I’d done an immeasurable wrong. Darkness fell over me like a solar eclipse. An ominous shiver followed, a slight jolt, as if the soul of the butterfly had passed through my body and whispered, “You’ll regret that.”

An alternate universe was born then.

Sorry.

You know the theory of the butterfly effect. Man goes back in time, steps on a butterfly, a small occurrence with enormous consequences on the future, usually for the worse. I’m that man.

Not to say I’m a time traveler. Gosh, I wish.

But who’s to say the effect isn’t the same? A butterfly doesn’t ever deserve to die of anything but old age. I’ve never met a bug more deserving of a healthy, stress-free existence. Butterflies are flying works of art. I love the crap out of butterflies. Always have. So to take one out in the savage manner like I did, you just know that the universe was pissed.

Who knows what would’ve been different if I’d spared that butterfly?

I know no other guilt bigger than this one. Trust me when I say, regardless of your opinion of creating an alternate universe, the cost of killing a butterfly is at least a hundred negative karma points, and that’s a hard debt to crawl out of. I’ve been chipping away at that debt my entire life. I might as well have the truth tattooed to my chest like the guy from Memento: BUTTERFLY KILLER, because I’m never going to outlive that one.

Sorry Butterfly.

Sorry Universe.

53. Stuck in an elevator

Useful as they are, I’ve never trusted an elevator.

Here we’ve got this metal box in a shaft controlled by a fallible computer system suspended by machinery that requires consistent maintenance. There is a weight limit posted above the squeaky doors, but who knows how accurate that is.

I feel like most of those certificates they post claiming the elevator passed its examination are outdated by a decade. Anyway, we pay about as much attention to those certificates as we do the Terms & Conditions we blindly agree to on the internet.

The floor is sticky. The handrails are dirty. The lighting is awful and the occasional mirror-lined walls only make me feel more claustrophobic when I’m surrounded by clones.

Obviously whenever I can, I choose to take the stairs.

However, elevators do happen, especially when you’ve got work on the fifteenth floor and you don’t want to lug a briefcase and a belly full of Krispy Kreme donuts up a billion steps.

One good thing about elevators: those cables that control the fate of your life, every elevator has about five or six cables and each one of them, independently, can support the weight of the elevator. So barring any Dennis Hopper terrorist activities, you should be fine.

There is still the chance that your elevator will simply malfunction. One second you’re humming the theme song to Reading Rainbow, next thing you’re stuck between the eighth and ninth floors with a panic attack.

I imagine being trapped in an elevator is a lot like how Richard Dreyfus felt in the shark cage when Jaws was gnashing at the bars. Or maybe it’s closer to how Dave felt stuck outside of the spaceship, asking Hal to open the pod bay doors.

Hello, Elevator, do you read me?

I’m sorry, Chris, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

What astonishes me the most about this idea of being trapped in an elevator is how aware I am of its likelihood. Yes, the chances are low, but I’m not going to pretend like it’s not common. One day it will happen. I know it will. I better face up to that fact now, rather than let it blindside me at 5:45 on some quiet winter evening.

I think there is value in accepting such truths.

We shouldn’t fear the inevitable because the fear is futile. One day we will get stuck in an elevator, as sure as we’ll pay our taxes to the man and recycle our body to the earth. I think it’s time we consider how we’ll react when that moment comes.

Hopefully, with foresight, the panic will be subdued. Remember: those cables are strong and you’re not going to plummet to your death. All you have to worry about is starving or dying of thirst. But that takes time. Chances are, you’ll be rescued in less than an hour. Maybe.

It will be a good time to think about your life. I can imagine myself running through the list of all the little things that had to happen in my past that led me here, to this building, to this moment with this elevator. Imagine how different my day would’ve been if I’d skipped on the half-dozen original Krispy Kremes.

Maybe you’ll have a book. Maybe you’ll have companions with you. You’ll probably have cell signal, so you can always post dramatic Facebook updates and post photos of your rapid deterioration as the hours drag on.

This will be a good story.

Just sit tight. Help is on the way.

When it’s all done, you’ll feel as fresh as a sixteen year old with a learner’s permit. If getting stuck in an elevator is something that everyone has to do once, then you’ve checked it off your list. Congrats. Now, just hope this doesn’t happen to you:

14. Lost at sea

Plane goes down, cruise ship sinks, or a strong tide takes you away from the shore. You’re on a raft in the middle of the ocean, alone. The sun is laughing at you. The lapping waves are in on the joke. No one is coming to rescue you because no one knows where to look. What do you do?

You’re stuck in an elevator on the fifty-sixth floor of a skyscraper. The brakes on your train ride to grandma’s house give out. An earthquake strikes while you’re fighting the crowds of a shopping mall. What do you do?

I think about this stuff sometimes. I think it’s important to run through the scenarios every once in a while, to ask yourself if you’d be prepared to survive an unexpected disaster.

In school we often had fire drills, but after a half-dozen of them, they became little field trips instead of life-saving practice evacuations. Perhaps I was lucky that none of those drills turned out to be true because I certainly didn’t take them seriously. And outside of elementary school, what organization enforces such drills? We pass evacuation maps in stairwells every day but we rarely stop to study them. Instead we have faith in the stability of our worlds. I’m not saying we should worry about fires and disasters all the time, be we take a big risk by not at least acknowledging the possibility.

So don’t freak out.

Just, look around at the wild things that can happen in this world. Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who survived a hurricane or outran a charging rhinoceros. Think of those who were trapped for days in caved-in mines or were lost in the wilderness after falling from a hiking trail, yet lived to tell the tale. How did they do it? Learn from them and take notes. At the very least, we all need to know what we’d do in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Cross your fingers that you live a long and disaster-free life, but don’t fall victim to a blind-spot. Have adventures. Be courageous. Take risks. Be smart. After all, according to Tom Hanks, all we need to survive on a desert island is a volleyball.