Despite many differences, the one similarity shared thing you humans all have in common is that terrible things will happen, often through no agency of your own. When tragedy strikes, there isn't much anyone can say to lighten the burden other than, “I’ll give you the rest of this five-day-old Subway sandwich that if that helps.”

But for the tiniest sliver of silver lining, consider how much worse some of these horrible happenings would have been throughout history.

Wait, what? Yes, of course, I meant we humans. Absolutely. We ... 

Your House Catching Fire

In modern times:

Depending on the wicker content of your home, the prosperity of a recent business venture, and your insurance policy, a house fire can be a traumatic misfortune or a suspicious blessing. These conflagrations may threaten our persons and most prized possessions, including our ceramic polar bear jazz ensembles and the shirt that Edgar Allan Poe was buried in. 

Poe Museum/Wiki Commons CC/BY-SA/4.0

“Stop hounding me, Poe Museum. I’ve told you I don’t have your shirt.” — Me, watching TV in a ruffled, furbelowed shirt that’s all tattered and brown.

Fortunately, a simple call will summon The Fighters of Fire, Extinguishers of the Incendiary, and Battlers of Blaze to quench the inferno. As per tradition, it is expected that the homeowner remunerates these braze citizens with a plate of river fish.

Back in the day: 

House fires sucked way more circa the first century BCE. One of the first fire brigades, maybe the first, was owned by Roman general, statesman, and major dickwad Marcus Licinius Crassus. He was the richest man in Rome and among the richest assholes possibly ever. How'd he get so wealthy? War, political profiteering, slavery, and relatedly shady dealings; firefighting may have changed in 2,000 years, but statecraft sure hasn't.

When your house became of the on-fire persuasion, he'd show up with a group of 500 enslaved individuals who are builders and architects. This was when the haggling began. Staring at your sizzling abode and presumably commenting, "whew, looks like a doozy," Crassus would offer to "buy it on the spot, at a one-time-only, fire-sale price that would fall rapidly as the flames climbed." Of course, this price was low, and citizens may have received just a few sesterces for their properties. For comparison, one sesterce may be the modern equivalent of about a pittance

And so Crassus bolstered his real estate empire, as modern businessmen swoop upon the foreclosed Chevy's into which they themselves secretly released swarms of albinistic plague rats.

Given the current money-grubbing trends of shrinkflation and ever-increasing monetization, for-profit firefighting may make a comeback yet. So five years from now, when your Bezos Brand Margherita pizza (purchased at an Amazon Pop-up Plasmabank for two pints of blood) starts a kitchen conflagration, don't be surprised if firefighters with Chipotle badges charge you extra to extricate your hairless cat, as every house cat must be according to The Benadryl Edict of 2024.

Hail Storms

In modern times: 

Rainstorms are relaxing. Thunderstorms are either awe-inspiring displays of nature's might or "oooh, spooooky," depending on proximity to Halloween. But it's fair to say that nobody likes a hailstorm. Hail dents our cars with the “I survived monoxide poisoning” bumper sticker, scrapes our houses, and scares our dear household quadrupeds. 

Hailstones form when thunderstorms punt water droplets into the frigid, higher reaches of the atmosphere. Whatever the opposite of "balls deep" is, this is it. And up here, the frozen drops grow as they accumulate additional vapor or droplets that are "supercooled," or still liquid below the freezing point of 32 F. Think El Salvadoran brick weed—you’ve supposedly packed enough White Owls to feel decent, but all you get is a tingling sensation in your toes and fingers. 

As with other variable or irregular items, hailstone sizes are compared to basic units of American measurements, such as baseballs and softballs. This is how doctors categorize tumors and impacted bowels. 

Michael S. Lewis/NOAA/NWS, Northern Indiana

“It seems your large intestine is obfuscated by a volleyball-sized aggregation of solidified steak-product. I’m sorry, but you’re suffering from Spalding Syndrome.”

Hail speed varies and scales with size. Smaller, ordinary stones fall at around 10-25 mph, only packing the power of a hypoglycemic kitten's hiccup. But larger pieces (about four inches, as wide as a CD) can plummet to earth at over 100 mph, making them literal fastballs from heaven. The largest recorded piece had an 8-inch diameter and weighed nearly two pounds. 

Back in the day: 

With no reliable weather forecasting systems (other than your wife "feeling it in her bones") and less-sturdy shelters, a hail-fall could turn deadly. The worst ever was the historically lethal Moradabad hailstorm, which occurred on April 30, 1888, in Uttar Pradesh, India. 

Hailstones as large as oranges, goose eggs, and cricket balls rained down on the plains, and the hapless individuals caught out were pounded to death. The sky blackened, roofs were blown away, and no home in the vicinity survived without "the most serious injury." Altogether, it's believed that 246 people lost their lives. Among them, multiple wedding parties were killed—hail is apparently not as lucky as rain on your wedding day—and approximately 1,600 livestock perished as well. 

Marital Disquietude/Counseling

In modern times: 

Marital disputes suck and sometimes require counseling when you've finally accepted that you've entered blood-oath with an imperfectly matched entity. During counseling, a jeopardized couple outpours their woes while a disinterested third party charges them $200 per 45 minutes of secretly planning a steak dinner and doodling LotR erotica. It begins with Frodo and Gollum in a swan boat, then quickly escalates. 

Back in the day: 

Sitcom-worthy suckiness: imagine being imprisoned. With your spouse. Until you resolve your differences so you can get back to your cold, hopeless daily toil. Such things occurred 300 years ago in my beloved birth country of Romania, which in public opinion, and a few times my own, constantly teeters between a second-world mudhole and an unspoiled Old World idyll of medieval magic, depending on the pop internet's daily caprices. 

The defunct "marital prison" is located in a 15th-century church in the Transylvanian commune of Biertan, a Unesco-backed village out of time, where horse carts still ply cobbled streets. Generations of bickering couples were sequestered in these hallowed confines for 300 years under the watchful eye of the bishops. 

Vislupus/Wiki Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

Disrobing priest: "Please continue making love. I am observing you solely for religious reasons."

The small enclosure sported sparse furniture and a tiny bed—cue cliché sitcom comedy bit about a couple fighting over the covers. 

If that sounds old-fashioned, consider that NBC's Wednesday Night Wild Out and its all-star rom-com line-up of sludge media was not yet crapped into the world. Neither did people realize they could decide a potential divorce with a game of checkers, Brady Bunch style. Nor was divorce a common or generally accepted thing back when matrimony was an immutable binding of eternal spirits. 

"The prison was an instrument to keep society in the old Christian order," says the current priest, and it technically worked. During its three centuries of operation, Biertan recorded a single divorce. Survival, work, and fear of hell kept couples together. Especially after they'd just wasted six good farming weeks inside a marital prison.  

If that sounds romantic, it probably isn't, and you should apply for counseling. They may even let you keep the LotR erotica. 

Losing Your Dog

In modern times:

Putting down, burying, or spreading the ashes of your dog (or any furry companion) under their favorite piss tree is among the toughest things you'll have to do to a loved one, other than waning your grandpa off old-timey racist terminology.

Back in the day:

If you thought putting your old doggy down was tough, and it is, then be glad you didn't have to cut your bestest fuzziest buddy into fun-sized pieces and eat them during a shamanistic winter feast to graduate high school. 

Because that's what happened about 4,000 years ago in Krasnosamarskoe, a settlement on the Russian steppe. Here, Bronze Age teens entered manhood through a rite that makes the ending of Old Yeller seem like a feel-good family comedy rompathon. One that you watch over a Papa Murphy's Smilin' Cowboy pizza to celebrate Billy's first inside-the-park home run at Little League.

Based on the physical evidence at Krasnosamarskoe, and numerous ancient sources, scientists pieced together that many dogs were pieced apart. Inside a pit within one of the structures, researchers discovered bones from more than 50 dogs, seven wolves, and "six canines that could not be classified as either." History’s earliest werewolves? Perhaps. 

The bones showed marks of roasting and of careful butchering in oddly geometrical, arcane patterns. But the dogs weren't everyday food sources. In fact, they were beloved hunting companions. They were also old, some around 12 years, consolidating the notion that they weren't raised to be killed.

Filip Maljković/Wiki Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0

“Why do you think they call you a wiener dog?” “SHUT UP."

The dog-eating capped a ritual period during which boys symbolically became dogs or wolves by acting as such for a few years. They were permitted to cuss, steal cattle from neighbors, and generally act like criminals and jackasses. The boy-dogs wore animal skins, took canid names (i.e., a fursona without the raccoon-tail plug and nipple clamps), and owned nothing except for their weapons. 

They raided communities, had their way with women, and ate the meat of dogs and wolves. Far from being isolated behaviors, canids were majorly revered, and similar rites are recorded in "texts of Greek, Latin, Germanic, Celtic, Iranian, and Vedic Sanskrit—all Indo-European cultures that descended from the same ancestral group." No wonder so many people today get off to Marmaduke BDSM fan-fiction.

Escaping Your Sorrows At The Pub

In modern times:

Bars are wondrous places where we high-five strangers while consuming liquid, sports, and sounds. Yet there are risks. Standard pub misfortunes include hangovers, brawls, wanton spending, lighting the wrong end of your last cigarette, and waking up next to regrettable individuals. 

Still, as always, pubs and bars are lively places where folks mingle, drink, and laugh to forget about ever-looming death and disease. 

Back in the day: 

Several hundred years ago, your barkeep was not a single parent with an arts degree and insurmountable debt. In Ireland, publicans also served as "undertakers, farmers, grocers, auctioneers, and postmasters.

They were also drapers and bakers, provided hackney services, and purveyed Delph earthenware. In modern terms, imagine your pedicurist selling you SHIB coin and Luigi's Mansion DLCs, while providing cupping therapy and distilling gonadotropin hormone from roadkill. 

The most eye-catching of publican duties, undertaking, began circulating circa "The Coroners Act of 1846." Hereabouts, the Great Hunger (or Famine) ravaged the Emerald Isle, claiming one million lives through starvation and sickness. Morticians were overwhelmed. Corpses were superfluous to corpse storage. But pub cellars provided a cool place where carcasses wouldn't decompose, spread miasma, or be devoured by animals who then develop a taste for mansome flesh.

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Pubs were also a town's most culturally important locale. With no community halls, YMCAs, or other gathering spots, pubs hosted "all social, recreational, political, and economic activities." Your friendly neighborhood publican did more than dispense drink and entertain fringe political theories: "The publican was the man who christened them, married them, and buried them, the local people."

Some pubs handled corpses so well that they retained their Stygian services long after the deadly potato dearth. Some retain these duties today, as about 100 current publicans still undertake undertaking, combining the not-altogether-disparate disciplines of drinking and dying. 

So the next time something bad happens, thank the High and Exalted Holy Plasma Cloud that it occurred during the time of crowdfunding, rather than the eras when the tragedy itself was the easiest part of the whole ordeal.

Thumbnail: maraisea/Pixabay, moshehar/Pixabay

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