I suspect that there are few men or women alive who haven’t, at some point in their life, done something extraordinarily foolish, ill-advised, dangerous. And there are plenty of dead men and women who’s last act on earth was doing something extraordinarily foolish, ill-advised, dangerous – and, in their case, fatal. I know that I did my share, mostly back in the day. But I’ve done some pretty dumb jay-walking things in the past decade, and have done a few household tasks like changing a too-high light bulb where I’ve been perched precariously on a step stool. In the last couple of years, I’ve become far more conscious of foolhardiness, especially in the home. I live alone. If I’ve fallen and can’t get up because I’m sprawled on the floor with a bashed in noggin, well, I don’t want to think about that.
It has been said that the sorts of feats that turn out not to be death-defying but, rather, death inviting, are often not a bad way to die. (It’s living if you don’t have the good fortune to die right away that can be a problem.) Sudden accidental death may not be painless, but if you’re lucky it’s quick – and you die thinking “Oh, shit” not “This is it.”
In this category, I always place my friend Marie’s namesake Aunt Marie who, in her seventies, fell off a stepstool while painting on the top floor of the steep back staircase of her Worcester three-decker. When Marie told me about her aunt’s death, I thought it was a pretty awful way to go. But as Marie pointed out to me, as Aunt Marie tumbled into oblivion, she was thinking “Oh, shit” not “This is it.” Which was how I learned that this was how sudden deaths so often go.
So not a bad way for Aunt Marie to pass into the great beyond, especially as she got a decade more out of life than my friend Marie, who died a long drawn out, sad, and painful death – and was well aware that she was dying.
Anyway, it’s generally sound advice when a little voice whispers in your ear that you might want to avoid really hazardous activities.
What brought this to mind was an article in the Washington Post last week that was a follow up to an earlier story about a young guy who, last spring, fell into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park and – there’s no delicate way to say this – pretty much dissolved. All that was left was a pair of his flip-flops, which had apparently flipped off before he flopped in.
The initial report was that the guy – who was visiting Yellowstone with his sister – had just strayed off the boardwalk and fallen into an acidic and supremely hot drink.
A Freedom of Information Act filed by KULR 8 and released in November revealed the details of the accident. The pair had more than an unauthorized stroll in mind. Rather, their goal was to find a thermal pool and take a soak — illegal conduct that the park described as “hot-potting.”
This brother and sister combo – in their early twenties – were, of course, recording their excellent adventure. Sister watched brother, smartphone in hand, making a video for instant fame and posterity:
…as he made his way toward a 4-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep pool. In the report obtained by KULR 8, [the sister] witnessed her brother as he “was reaching down to check the temperature of a hot spring when he slipped and fell into the pool.”
However sorry I feel for this young woman to have witnessed this horrific event, and for the kid’s parents, who I’m sure can’t shake this out of their minds, this incident has got to be a candidate for the Darwin Awards, no?
First, to so stupidly ignore the signs and truck 225 yards into a dangerous basin. Wearing flip-flops, no less. That’s the length of 2 football fields, and 2.5 end zones.
Then to reach in to test the waters.
I guess if he’d been lucky, all that would have dissolved would have been the fingertip he stuck in there. But this guy was both foolish and unlucky, and those flip flops weren’t enough to hold him onto the path.
I’m guessing that death was pretty damned instantaneous, with a brief “Oh shit” rather than a reflective “This is it.” But, other than being eaten alive by an alligator, it’s hard to imagine a worse sudden ending than this.
Let this misadventure be a warning to all the young fools out there. Some waters just aren’t worth testing.