5 People Who Survived Harrowing Situations By Giving Up
A wise man once said, “The sin is not in being outmatched, but in failing to recognize it.” We’ve been trained by movies and media to think that, when it seems all is lost, the only true, brave path is to grit your teeth and make an admirable final stand. Nobody likes to think about being the person that would pass away in a blubbering pile of apologies and blood. We all like to think that we’re not going out like that, even though in truth, plenty of people do.
The problem is, just because something’s brave doesn’t mean it’s not tremendously stupid. Is trying to physically fight a steamroller brave, simply because the odds are overwhelming? You could argue that it is, but most observers would just question your mental stability. Sometimes, it’s worth the extra consideration to see if throwing up your hands is a viable path to continued existence.
To that end, here are five people who survived by giving up…
Playing Dead During A Great White Attack
The number one way to survive a shark attack is to stay out of the ocean, where sharks live. Sure, surfing’s pretty sick, but I’m not trying to get into any sport that can only be played in the equivalent of a grizzly bear’s living room. Now, if you choose to flap your little bald monkey bits about in a portion of the sea that houses a shark population, there’s a distinct, if small, possibility that you’ll have to face off against one of nature’s great predators.
Should you be unlucky enough to find yourself in a face-off, what are you to do? There’s the endlessly regurgitated, terrifying recommendation of punching a shark in the nose. Even if it wasn’t probably bullshit, it’s about as appealing as fistfighting a hand grenade. One strategy that a diver named Frank Logan employed to save his own life is one that you probably won’t see illustrated on the cover of any pulp adventure novels: playing dead. It turns out that going limp isn’t just an effective move against schoolyard bullies, but also apex predators like the great white shark.
Cracking Open Cold Ones to Survive
Drinking 12 Coors Lights is not generally considered a path to longevity. In fact, watching someone polish off two six-packs is usually a pretty good sign that they’ve given up on something. Now, the situation in question is over three days, but even if the drinking speed isn’t reaching shattered-marriage proportions, it’s still not something your body prefers.
For Clifton Vial, however, cracking open a dozen successive cold ones and throwing himself into the throes of a long-term reasonable buzz saved his life. The hero here was the calories in the beer. It might not be a complete breakfast, but the calories in beer still count toward the total your body needs in an emergency, and that’s what Vial found himself in when his car was trapped in a snow drift. In rural Alaska, road traffic isn’t a guarantee, and you can’t bet on a prompt rescue, so to keep himself alive for three days, he tore into his supply of frozen silver bullets.
Surviving Being Frozen Solid
Now, I feel bad fully characterizing this as “giving up,” since it’s not like there was a wealth of options here. If you’re stuck in sub-zero temperatures seeking shelter, there’s really only two options: “keep walking” and “stop walking.” After long enough, the first one is going to be denied by your musculature, regardless of your personal willpower.
This was the dire situation that Jean Hilliard faced stranded in Minnesota, and when she (understandably) collapsed to the ground in temperatures reaching 22 degrees below zero, it’s likely she considered it curtains. Shockingly, though, those unimaginable temperatures and their capability to flash-freeze pretty much anyone might have played a part in her survival, and she actually regained consciousness after being frozen solid once thawed at a hospital.
Ukrainian Surrender Hotline
Honestly, I think surrendering gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s not an option known for putting hair on your chest, but is becoming a particularly hirsute corpse that awesome? “Death before dishonor” might be a great phrase to put in an old English typeface to sell ugly MMA merch, but in reality, dishonor is mostly fine. You still get to watch TV.
It might not even be cut-and-dry bravery if the side you’re fighting for isn’t exactly the picture of piety. This is what Ukraine leveraged in their ongoing conflict with Russia. Instead of napalm or chemicals, they scattered a much less war-crime-y cargo on the frontlines: cards bearing the number of a hotline that would allow Russian soldiers to covertly surrender. The hotline launched in September 2022, and by January 2023, over 6,500 Russkis had punched in the relevant numbers and said “peace out” to this particular war.
Not Pulling Stuff Out of Your Body
Here’s one that’s not a particular person or group of people, but a bit of advice that you, if you’re unlucky, might be able to use. In a perfect world, no one would ever have a foreign object stuck through them, but things happen. If you’re the unfortunate soul that suddenly finds yourself speared with any manner of item designed for the outside of people, LEAVE IT THERE. Ignore the years of action movies and fantasy epics where a brave soul rips an arrow or similar from their body in a spurt of blood and badassery. Sure, gauze prevents bleeding better than a railroad spike, but they’re both better than nothing.
Eli Yudin is a stand-up comedian in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @eliyudin and listen to his podcast, What A Time to Be Alive, about the five weirdest news stories of the week, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever else you get your podcasts.