by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
April 21, 2002
THE ALAN WATTS SCHOOL OF SURVIVAL
SAN DIEGO -- It was early morning in Little Italy and I was indulging in one of my very favorite therapeutic modalities ... purposeless wandering in an unexplored region.
I'd ambled past the men outside cafes watering red geraniums in window boxes and the friendly, white haired man carrying carts of "Big Loaf" flower sacks into the bakery. Past the fish trucks and produce trucks lined up on the still damp streets. It seemed there were men with hammers everywhere working on streetfront housing projects and in towering orange cranes swinging large metal objects in the air.
Gleaming silver planes flew overhead on descent into Lindberg Field and the whole scene reminded me of the Richard Scary books I used to read to my son; the ceaseless, overlapping and interwoven activity of ordinary people doing ordinary things. Perfectly ordinary and perfectly magical.
I bought some coffee and spilled a third of it on my shoes crossing the street.
I found myself in an art supply store happily taking in the different colors and textures of writing paper and oddball cards when I stumbled onto a find which set off paroxysms of delight. The repressed Girl Scout within nearly swooned from excitement when I read the title: "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook."
Now here was something a girl could really sink her teeth into. Furthermore I thought, it could be highly useful information to people I work with who regularly find themselves faced with life's more untenable situations. Though the situations might be more ... exotic, surely the principles of survival are the same.
In the next few minutes I learned how to survive quicksand, how to hot-wire a car, how to fend off a shark and a bear, how to wrestle an alligator, escape killer bees and win a sword fight. But my favorite was how to survive a charging bull. The easy answer? Take your clothes off and throw them in the opposite direction of the one you're running in.
There were instructions on how to jump from a building into a dumpster; how to maneuver on top of a moving train to get inside; how to leap from a motorcycle to a car and so forth.
Then it was onto performing tracheotomies, setting broken bones, finding water in the desert and being adrift at sea.
There were several basic themes which were repeated with varying twists: don't panic, carry a big stick, if there's a life raft get in it, if completely lost get to a high vista and look around. If on top of a train approaching a tunnel get down quickly, when jumping do it feet first and if into water, protect your crotch. When fighting alligators cover their eyes to make them more sedate. When being eyed by predators look and act bigger than you are. When your chute doesn't open, hook up with someone else.
Surviving the outer limits of human physical experience, otherwise known as aging, calls for some of the same techniques: staying calm, using the resources you've got to get through and having a friend you can hold onto when things get rough. To those I would add keeping a good sense of humor as of primary importance.
I left the store with a copy of my new survival book under my arm and proceeded to waltz down the street, looking at the shopkeepers, bakery eaters and coffee drinkers, noticing how much more awake the city was than before. I'd gone blocks past my car when I realized I had no idea where I was. As I turned back toward my car I giggled at the prospect of being so absent-minded.
"Is it early Alzheimer's?" I asked myself. "Frankly my dear," I answered, "I don't give a damn." I remember something especially useful in surviving attacks of the gremlins of "what-if-itis" - something the enigmatic philosopher Alan Watts used to say, "Life may be fatal but it's not serious."
I'll try to remember that, Mr. Watts.
Cindy Hasz is a nurse and writer living in San Diego. She can be reached at email@example.com.