How to Survive a Plane Crash

Part 1 of the 2003 Antarctic diaries. Today is Saturday, October 25th, 2003. I am alive in Los Gatos, California.

The world is small. It's a global village. It's a small world. We're all connected. The circle of life. Birth and death. Pollution. Cometary impacts. Tax bills. Mastercard interest. My brother has a friend who knows a guy who went to school with Robert Kennedy. There is an astronaut who covered the entire earth with his thumb on the spaceship's window and realized everything that had ever happened to humanity was behind his fingernail.

It's a great big world. It's a wonderful world. It's a green world. There's a whole lot of there, out there. It's a big blue marble hanging in space. It's a fun place. It's a family place. It's a world of hurt. It's a world of pain. It's a world of confusion. This land is my land, this land is your land, under God, with liberty and justice for all, God save the queen, she's not a human being.

We can see, then, from this analysis, that the purpose of travel is to trade one set of local problems for another, more remote set. Travelling extends our reach and body slams the fundamental yin-yang of the qi force within us from rail to rail. Thus we can experience full-load maximum yang after a suffocating spate of PMS-grade yin. Even though I will still have to pay my November tax bill, I will be over half an earth away from my sources of income and a mailbox. Thus the reach of my tax paying misery is extended by a like amount.

Conversely, I'll be entering a new environment. Antarctica is a very dangerous place and I have signed paperwork guaranteeing I will bear the federal government in no ill will should I become mamed or dead by being there. Thus, I can add new and exotic worries to my existence. If I am rendered a vegetable, Jeb Bush will remove my feeding tube.

This is the benefit of world travel.

While I am in Antarctica I will not worry about catbox conversations. I will trust my children will not set fire to my house when they're out from under my watchful eye. I am confident my workplace will remain intact--that all the tasks I've meted out to my subordinates will be performed with professional aplomb. I am sure California will not be taken over by invading hordes of mechanized weapons dispatched by Skynet because we have elected an atomic-powered killing machine as governor.

Instead, I will worry about losing my toes. I will worry about sliding off the face of a glacier. I will worry about the detrimental effects of hypothermia and dehydration.

Do you see how this works? See how accomodating the world can be?

If I am killed suddenly and unexpectedly in a terrible airplane malfunction, my surviving family will be protected to $1,000,000 US by the American Express company because I used their credit card to purchase the plane ticket. I need not worry my wife will be able to pay my children's college tuition or mortgage payments.

Conversely, if my 747 is brought down in a flaming ball of gelatanous fuel and burning flesh by a rocket, shoulder fired by a guy with a lot of 'a's in his name, I will have been killed in an act of war. This will be a death of impoverishment, which I am told will feel much worse than a heroic death, such as being dragged into space by the plane's roof delaminating over the earth's equator. My family will receive no insurance money. American Express will turn their corporate backs on my widow and babies.

In that case, I might as well have bought my tickets with Visa, for all they care. And the worry-after-death will be all mine.

See how this works? Are you getting this? Take notes. I'll only do this once and then you're going to have to try it yourself. Ok? Let's continue.

It would seem, then, that the most logical approach to the situation would be to avoid expiring in a plane crash or outdoor incident of any kind. One would need to know the techniques necessary to survive the flaming wreckage of a jumbo jet as it plummets from the stratosphere. One has to master the technique of remaining calm and warm in temperatures below that of frozen carbon dioxide.

One needs to learn to survive heart attacks and drive-by shootings. Accidental maulings by mastiffs. Meteor impacts. Ebola. Chronic, brain melting tooth decay. Shotgun blasts. Electrocution. Drowning. Over eating. Strangulation. Starvation. Immolation. Space shuttle accidents. Mercury poisoning. Unintentional plutonium inhalation.

One would learn to violate the laws of physics, becoming a sort of Emersonian, physically disobedient being.

There is a joke we used to tell when I travelled a lot for business. It's a technical joke. A kind of high-brow, those in-the-know, know, joke, that makes everyone hate you who doesn't get it immediately.

The joke was that we'd write Fermat's Last Theorem in the margin of whatever trashy book we'd brought as airplane reading along with the words -- "The solution to this is trivial, I just don't have time to write it down now."

Of course, the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem took 168 pages of brain-blistering elliptical mathematics, so we know Fermat was a liar. But us travellers figured that in the world of statistics, the chances of dying with the solution on one's lips were at least halved by the fact it couldn't happen twice, cosmically speaking.

Of course, we always landed safely and came home with jetlag and the Asian flu.

It is in the same spirit that I offer you now, dear reader, the solution of how to survive a plane crash. Any plane crash of any magnitude. In fact, any death of any form.

As soon as I get to Antarctica, I'll node the solution, as I have to run. The airport shuttle has just arrived.