Juggling chainsaws or busting a pop-and-lock on a crowded dance floor are totally impressive talents, but unless you want to teach at clown college or plan on a career as a competitive breakdancer, they're not super useful. However, there are certain skills that are important to virtually everyone. If you haven't already, you really should make sure that these essential abilities are part of your repertoire. There's really no excuse not to know how to do things like ...
Even if you don't plan on ever competing in the 200m butterfly, you need to know how to swim. Your life or someone else's may depend on it.
Remember, when saving a life, it's always best to wear disturbingly tiny trunks.
Humans are born with the mammalian diving reflex, which greatly increases our odds of survival during accidental submersion. However, studies have indicated that our natural diving response only lasts until we're around six months old. After that, our abilities in the water need to be nurtured, like a newborn tree or gamer rage. For many people, swimming was one of those skills acquired before they even had a choice in the matter. My vague recollection involves being tossed in a pool, sinking, and thrashing around until I came to the surface with a newfound distrust of adults. While there are probably ways to teach someone how to swim that don't risk a visit from child protective services, it got the job done.
Please don't teach me how to fly next.
It's surprising when you find out that someone's made it to adulthood without the ability to even dog paddle their way around, but it's actually more common than you'd think. One out of every five adults can't swim, and nearly half of adult Americans can't swim well enough to save themselves. That's a whole lot of people floundering around if they suddenly find themselves in a Waterworld situation.
One of the more bizarre facts of Natalie Wood's already pretty bizarre drowning death is how, even though she and her husband Robert Wagner owned a yacht and often took it out on open water, she did not know how to swim. While the booze probably hurt her chances of surviving a "fall" into the water, not being able to swim certainly didn't help Wood's aspirations to continue enjoying the luxuries of air.
"Why are you throwing a donut at me? I'm so confused."
Swimming skills are relatively easy to learn: you float, you kick, you tread water, and at some point you stop screaming. So what's the problem? For many non-swimmers, the big issue isn't ability -- it's conquering the fear of water. And if you think you can just avoid pools, lakes, and water-based reality shows, you better think again. Seventy percent of the Earth is covered in water, and when non-swimmers unexpectedly end up in it, the results can be devastating.
#5. Parallel Parking
Driverless cars are coming, but until that particular science fiction wet dream becomes a reality, if you drive an automobile, you better know how to park it. And no, pulling in headfirst or reenacting the "like a glove" scene from Ace Ventura 2 does not constitute an adequate parking job.
That's nowhere near close enough.
Even if you live in the midst of suburban sprawl with ample strip-mall-style perpendicular parking, there'll be times you'll need to parallel park. As courtesy to other drivers, and for your own sanity, it's best if you don't come like as a virgin awkwardly fumbling with their first condom. There's nothing more frustrating than sitting behind a driver blocking an entire lane of traffic while they air kiss a parking spot with no hope of actually landing it.
Unless it's watching someone spend nearly half an hour on video attempting to do it.
The California DMV no longer requires parallel parking on their road test, which may explain why I see so many cars circling my block searching for the elusive end spot (which they're not going to find often in Santa Monica), hoping to skate by with the totally bogus headfirst pull in. Even worse is watching a driver try to somehow magically subvert the laws of physics through sheer force of faulty repetition. Attempting the same misguided moves over and over again won't get your car any closer to the curb. And no, I'm not making another virgin metaphor here. Feel free to make your own.
I grew up on the East Coast, and at one point drove one of those obnoxious oversized SUVs. While my parking skills were okay before, once you have to handle a beast like that, you quickly become proficient at jockeying any vehicle smaller than a city bus. There's nothing more awkward than sitting in the passenger seat as your date unsuccessfully tries to get his car into a tight spot -- that is, of course, until you have to step in and park it for them.
Note of etiquette: never say "TA-DAAA" after doing this. Just don't do that.
Parallel parking is more simple geometry and patience than rocket science. Where people screw up is when they panic and rush. You can find step by step instructions all over the Internet, but the main things to remember are: 1) pull up parallel to the car in front of your intended space and line up your back bumpers, 2) make sure you're turning the steering wheel sharply enough, and don't unwind it too early, and 3) don't be nervous. Being unable to parallel park if somebody is watching you is like being afraid of having sex with the lights on -- it's something you'll have to get over, or you'll never be considered truly good at it.
#4. Googling Efficiently
Treating Google like the world's most convoluted spell checker doesn't constitute using it efficiently. Learning how to Google correctly will not only save you time and get you better results; it's also good for the environment. No, seriously. The number of searches you conduct each day actually contributes to your carbon footprint. Google estimates that the monthly impact of a typical user is equivalent to driving a car one mile. To calculate this, they consider an average user someone with a Gmail account who conducts 25 searches and watches 60 minutes of YouTube each day.
It's the equivalent of researching a single Cracked article.
One of the most common mistakes people make when Googling is failing to keep it simple. Save your expository musings for that novel you keep saying you're going to write. Avoid cramming a bunch of irrelevant info into the search box. Google doesn't need a backstory. In addition to limiting your search words, order them from most obscure to least. You should also familiarize yourself with the punctuation, symbols, and wording shortcuts that Google Search recognizes to make each search more effective.
If you really want to become a master searcher, Google offers a free self-paced Power Searching course, and for those already pretty confident in their Google Fu, there's Advanced Power Searching. No matter what you are looking for, the quicker you can gather accurate information, the better off you'll be. Just do us a favor and never, ever refer to yourself as a "power searcher."