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How to Stay Alive
Really, it's just a matter of behavior modification.
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Now on to this week’s column!
The weekend, once again, brought tragedy to the Reno Air Show when two racing airplanes collided upon landing, killing both pilots.
The news was unfortunate, and it got me to thinking, “What could have saved the lives of Nick Macy and Chris Rushing?” All at once, it dawned on me. Perhaps, had they not flown in the Reno Air Show, or any air show, they’d still be alive today. It was Reno’s 23rd such fatal incident since 1972, and around the world the 39th fatal air-show tragedy in only the past 10 years. That is a high incidence of things not going as planned.
Were you like me (the sort of person who does not wish to suddenly die), such statistics are instructive, because: DANGER. Same with heroin and Titanic-ruins spectating. Maybe that’s just me, I always check the grip of my rubber tub mat twice before I get into the shower.
It turns out, though, that incautiousness is not the only issue. The problem is that hazard lurks everywhere, requiring vigilance and sometimes also sacrifice. It is for that reason that I presume now to dispense a bit of important safety advice. This is for expecting parents: If you are moved to dramatically announce to friends and loved ones the gender of the baby, consider scaling down the spectacle.
Gender-reveal celebrations, as a social custom, have suddenly exploded — often literally.
In October 2019, in Knoxville, Iowa, an improvised firework, constructed of gunpowder and baby powder within a metal cylinder, instead worked like an Improvised Explosive Device. The explosion knocked guests off their feet and a piece of shrapnel fatally pierced the body of an onlooker, and then flew another 144 yards.
In September 2020, a similar device sparked a brush fire in Yucaipa, California, which spread to become the El Dorado Fire that destroyed homes and thousands of forested acres and led to the death of a firefighter. Similarly, in May 2021, an exploding gender announcement ignited a fire that burned half a forest hectare in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
And just two weeks ago, in Navolato, Sinaloa, Mexico, a crop duster filled with colored powder was preparing to break the gender news when what broke instead was its left wing, which somehow under the g-forces of a maneuver separated from the fuselage. The pilot was killed in the subsequent crash. (P.S. Pink powder … it’s a girl!)
All of a sudden, there are many such incidents, which is unsurprising in the sense that fads do erupt, but strange in the sense that there are so many alternatives for celebration. These proud almost-parents could have thrown a backyard picnic, perhaps with horseshoes and cornhole games. (Try Googling “cornhole death.” Zero results.) Or they might have sent out lovely announcement cards. Facebook is usually safe and affordable. But instead, there is suddenly this cult of pyrotechnics. And for what?
If the announcement requires an explosion, and everything goes sideways, there is a chance that you’ll have defeated the purpose of celebrating the baby news. Just one massively destructive wildfire risks changing the subject altogether. Nowadays, it would be especially ironic if you fatally shrapnel-perforated an attendee and, 16 years later, the unborn-baby guest of honor went, genderwise, in a different direction.
Hey, here’s another headline that caught my eye:
The thrill-seeking practice of scaling skyscrapers and riskily documenting yourself dangling off narrow ledges might make for Instagram gold, but the urban exploration community is speaking out as young rooftoppers are increasingly plunging to their deaths.
The brief article documented the untimely death of Remi Lucidi on a Hong Kong sidewalk. He did not die of sidewalk lying, however. He had landed there, from 68 floors above, when his human-fly stunt went awry. He was part of a “rooftopping” subculture that cherishes the thrills — and Instagram posts — of skyscraper scraping. I would interpret this all for you, but luckily The New York Times has already contextualized the sport for us, taking care (of course) not to editorialize.
“Rooftoppers” get a thrill from taking photos atop skyscrapers and sharing them on social media. Detractors call them reckless.
Oh, those detractors. All the time wildly detracting. But never mind The Times. The point is, scaling tall buildings for a photo-op comes with some significant risk. The only conduct carrying more risk of fatal skyscraper plunge is being a Russian oligarch.
Now look, there are a couple of obvious categories of reckless behavior of which you are well aware. For example, the notion that trailer parks are “tornado magnets.” This was a meme before there were memes, and it has been frequently dismissed as urban myth. Except, no. It’s exurban truth. According to a study of 60 years of data from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, tornadoes overwhelmingly touch down in so-called “transition zones,” on the perimeters of cities and towns where the cityscape gives way to farmland, or in less populated areas where forests give way to plains. Thus, severe weather tends to occur not in city centers but on the outskirts, where trailer parks tend to be situated. Add to factor construction flimsiness. Even a double-wide is essentially a spacious, well-equipped tin can. Yes, trailer parks are affordable. So is fentanyl.
In other news — and now I am begging you — never, ever, ever get into a church bus. If you Google “church bus deaths,” alas, you will not get zero results. It is a suicidal act. If you are riding in a church bus as you pass a trailer park, immediately lie face down in the aisle. If you have your smartphone, call loved ones and apologize for everything.
There is one last thing to discuss. This is not gleaned from news headlines, but I feel I’m on safe ground, because I have watched many Agatha Christie dramas and similar mystery fare produced for British television. Listen carefully: If you are an aristocrat, especially a baroness, do not live in a small village or an estate in the West Country. DO NOT. Otherwise, you will be murdered. By an acquaintance. It might even be the vicar. Please take this to heart, before you take a bullet in that very organ from a gun wielded by a killer behind the velvet drape.
For God’s sake take care. You have been warned.