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Almost Darwined 3 October 2008

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Memes, Ponderings, Recommendations.
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Yesterday, as part of a generally less than productive day, I found myself perusing, at great length the Darwin Awards. If you have not come across these they are light-hearted but deadly serious stories and have been given for people who “do a service to Humanity by removing themselves from the Gene pool”, i.e., lose the ability to reproduce either by death or sterilization in a stupid fashion. According to the Darwin Award books: “The Awards honor (sic) people who ensure the long-term survival of the human race by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.” Most awards arise from a lack of common sense brought on by intoxication either from drugs or sheer “good fun” – although some just show how unbelievably dumb some people can be without any help at all.

I warn you now – they are addictive reading, so beware.

And this morning, while in the shower pondering the sense of soaping the soles of my feet and precariously balanced on one leg, the thought popped into my head. What is the most dangerous thing I have ever done? Not what felt the most dangerous, but what really was the most dangerous, and given the context of the awards, probably the most stupid.

Or more to the point, what is the most dangerous thing you, dear reader, have ever done, of your own volition and free will?

So, it’s a Friday meme. And I will start. I can think of two incidents carried from which I could be considered lucky to walk away.

An obviously dangerous one – feeding an electrical cable with exposed bare wires through a hole in the side of a wardrobe, while the cable was still plugged in. I thought it was fine as I’d turned the socket off at the mains. Except I hadn’t – I’d turned the other, empty, socket of the double power point off. And yes, I did touch the cables with my fingers. And yes, it did hurt – a lot.

Maybe more dangerous, and only realised after the event. High summer in the Alps on a Geography field trip walking back along the ridge to the campsite with some fellow degree students. It was hot, very hot indeed, So when we chanced up a lake, one of those deep, semi-circular depressions scoured by melting glacial ice and now conveniently refreshed by a mountain stream, a cooling dip seemed to be in order. I think it was my idea, but I can’t be sure now, to say “race you to the middle and back!” In very cold, and very deep water, high in the mountains… No means of rescue save the few others with me, and, of course, I didn’t know who could swim.

By the time I got to the middle I could no longer feel my hands and feet, it was that cold. Which gave an added incentive to get back again, and quickly. A fun race became a race for survival.

On a providentially related note Thought for the Day on Radio 4 was the Chief Rabbi (IIRC) speaking about the opportunity as individuals and corporately to admit our mistakes and try to move on from them. I could write more theology on that, especially on what he didn’t say, but I’ll save it for another day. Worth listening to, though.

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1. Jane - 4 October 2008

Not all that dangerous, but…
Dave and I were touring Scotland with our old Landrover – SIII 109 safari, for those who know these things. Enough kit on board for two weeks camping. It weighed about 2.5 tons or so.
We had a blow-out on the motorway (Landrovers being the stable vehicles they are, we didn’t notice for another few miles.) We stopped on the hard shoulder, prepared to change the wheel. Now, a vehicle that size, and with that sort of ground clearance, you don’t use a normal jack. By choice, you use a trolley jack, but we didn’t carry one of them. What we had was a “high-lift”: here’s a picture that should give you some idea. This is a great device for off-road recovery, but less stable than one might like for changing wheels.
We jacked the thing up, we got the wheel off. Dave went round the back to get the spare (too heavy for me to lift), I stayed next to the bare axle ready to put the nuts on when he’d got the wheel in place. At this point, a lorry came past, swerved in for a better look, and blew the Landie off the jack.
2.5 tons of vehicle, falling towards me, about 2 feet away and with about 2 feet to drop. What did I do? I tried to catch it and push it back up on the jack again.
Did I mention that Landrovers are stable vehicles? Despite the missing wheel that side, it failed to fall on top of me and crush me: I have no idea how. At that point we abandoned changing the wheel and called out a Very Nice Man and his trolley-jack.


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