Monday, April 19, 2010

Five Ways I'd Rather Not Die

I'm not particularly afraid of dying — mainly because I'm not yet convinced that I will, despite the undeniable evidence of human history. I've always been lucky; who's to say I won't beat the odds? (In related news, I didn't win the Powerball on Saturday night, but nobody else did either, so I might buy another ticket for Wednesday.)

Anyway, having once been stranded by snowstorms in central Missouri, I sympathize with the people in Europe who can't travel because of the volcanic ash. But I am puzzled by demands that the planes go back in the air, and damn the consequences. Because seriously: of all the different ways I don't want to die, "in a plane that falls out of the sky" is pretty close to the top of the list.

I'm flying tomorrow, if all goes well, and will hope for the best. In the meantime, here are my top five ways I'd prefer not to die. Yes, it's a morbid way to start a Monday morning, but we manage our fears by mocking them . . . leave your own in the comments section.

1. Burned at the stake. Yeah, I've read that asphyxiation kills you before you actually burn — but who lived to be asked about this? I burned my hand on the coffeemaker this morning, and will whine about it for the next week. Open flames scare me (although, in true pyromaniac fashion, I'm drawn to them). If I believed in reincarnation — which I don't — I might wonder whether I was still traumatized by a past-life experience.

2. Crushed partway by a large object. Did you ever see that "Homicide: Life on the Streets" episode "Subway"? My friend Gary directed it; Vincent D'Onofrio got an Emmy nomination for his role as a man crushed under a subway car, who will die as soon as the train is moved. He's not in any pain, and he doesn't know he's doomed until the very end, but this is still not how I would want to go.

3. Killed in a plane that falls from the sky. The unifying theme to these is simply that I don't want to be afraid before I die. A midair explosion is one thing; one minute you're there, one you're not, and you don't have time to realize what's happening before you're gone. That strikes me as a blessing, if you don't have time to prepare for what Catholics call a "happy death." Even at terminal velocity, you'd have time to realize you were falling, time to brace for impact, time to be afraid and time to be seriously pissed off at whatever airline decided to take the risk of flying through volcanic ash.

4. Buried alive. I used to have nightmares about this as a small child. Years ago I had to have an MRI after a back injury, and still count that as one of the most terrifying experiences of my life (yes, I know how lucky that is). I made the mistake of seeing the original version of The Vanishing (Spoorloos) in the movie theater, and it scared me so badly I don't even remember who was with me. If I saw it with you, I apologize.

5. Mauled by bears. I saw Grizzly Man. Stephen Colbert and I are of one mind on this issue. Fortunately, it's relatively easy to avoid bears, even in central Maine.


Karen Olson said...

I take Xanax when I fly because my doctor told me if I do, I won't care when the plane crashes.

I would totally not get on a plane in Europe or to Europe right now. I don't care how many airlines are begging to open up the skies. Even if I had to stay in London for three more weeks, I would rather than risk it. I wonder how many people will opt to fly?

And that episode of Homicide was the best hour of TV ever. Kudos to your friend Gary.

Anonymous said...

Number 4 are your list is chilling to me. I once read a story entitled, "84 Hours Till Dawn" about a girl that was kidnapped and buried alive in a box, true story. She had food, a pump that provided oxygen, tranquilizers to calm her down and a means to toilet. 84 hours later she could hear digging above her and she was eventually rescued. All these years later I still think about her being buried in that box in the dark for all those haunts me. Also, what you said about airplanes and knowing your outcome. I think about those passengers on that plane on 9/11 and how they decided to take matters into their own hands. I can't imagine what they went through and/or making that last call to their loved ones.

Kevin Wignall said...

B is for Basil assaulted by bears.

Actually, several of your choices are covered by The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

val said...

I'm with you on your choices, but I group burning with drowning, which seems perfectly logical to me, but may not to anyone else.

I can barely watch that episode of Homicide. I am a HUGE Vincent D'Onofrio fan, and still don't understand why he didn't get the award for that performance. What does he have to do?

I can't walk or even stand on the edge of the platform on the London Underground because of that show.

Mike said...

The great thing that commends being burned at the stake to reexamination is the endless amount of speculation you can engage in as to just what exactly one would have to do, how heinous, perverse, crooked, devious, debaucherous, sundry, sordid, and foul an act one would have to commit in this modern age to be sentenced to it. All I can say for sure is that it would likely involve banking.

SteveHL said...

Mike, that's hilarious.

Anonymous said...

They all sound pretty bad.

They all seem to have in the common the realizing there isn't much time left in the rest your going to be short and very painful life.

I'd also add trapped under the ice to the list, although it is just a quicker variation on buried alive. The scene in, I think it was, The Omen where a guy falls through the ice and looks up and out through the ice trapping him really scared me.


AnswerGirl said...

Lord, yes, trapped under the ice. That would be really, really bad. Thanks for putting that in my head, Joe . . .

Anonymous said...


I found this while googling Gashlycrumb Tinies

and thought you might find it amusing especially the last one. . . Joe

Jack said...

I like the joke, "I want to die quietly in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like his passengers."

Kieran Shea said...

Shark attack. Chimp attack. That fish hook thing from HELLRAISER. Fire. Boredom.