Many years ago, I read a newspaper article that changed my life. It was about an elderly man who had been raking leaves in his backyard when he inadvertently stepped on the cracked lid of a septic tank, fell in, and was overcome by the fumes. The article went on to say that the man had lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and worked as a carpenter until he retired at the age of 75. I remember finishing the piece and thinking, if a man like this could be killed by an underground vat of poop, someone as fragile as I seriously needs to watch his step.
Every morning while my coffee brews, I make a to-do list for the day. As someone who is well aware of his own limitations, the list never exceeds more than five or six items. Numbers two and three are reserved for work-related tasks such as “begin article that was due last week” or “file tax extension,” while lower items generally refer to home and personal care like “alphabetize bookshelf” and “mani-pedi.” But every single day, the number one item on the list is always the same: Don’t die.
Some might argue that I don’t take this task seriously since I often skip my annual physical, consider charcuterie a major food group, and purchase Tanqueray by the barrel. Sure, I obviously could do more to improve my health and extend my life, but it’s not a far off death from heart disease or liver failure that worries me. It’s the bizarre and unexpected means of expiration that keep me awake at night.
For years I could only speculate on the variety of accidental ways to die. But now this data is just an Internet search away, and it’s terrifying. Septic tanks, as well as elevators, escalators, golf balls, roller coasters, and falling coconuts kill multiple people each year. Even vending machines are merchants of death, toppling over and crushing an average of three people annually. And what about that stepladder in the closet? The wet tile in the bathroom? The cork in the bottle of Champagne chilling in the refrigerator? All seemingly innocuous objects just waiting to send me to an early grave unless I remain vigilant.
Recently, I read a article about a woman in South Africa who was out for a leisurely walk with her dog when she was trampled by a giraffe. “But the woman lived near a game preserve,” R.P. said after I showed her the article. “Yes,” I responded. “And I live less than half a mile from the zoo, and who knows what kind of security measures they have in place there!”
So if I’m playing in your foursome, chatting with you at a party, or strolling beside you at the park and seem distracted, please don’t take it personally. Like a Secret Service agent, I am always on full alert. Ready to dodge that golf ball, cork, or escaped giraffe that most people never see coming.
Each month, the Man About TOWN will share his Upstate rendezvous, which may or may not involve cocktails.