How to Survive 5 Unlikely Scenarios Your Brain Won’t Stop Fixating On
Our brains were, above all else, designed to keep a remarkably fragile species alive and thriving. Turtles get a protective shell to retreat into at the first sign of danger. Meanwhile, we’re walking around with a fat pumpkin filled with our most important pieces teetering between our shoulders. When your consciousness can be ended by a medium-speed rock, you’ve got to be aware of any and all threats.
Of course, nowadays, we’re not traipsing through a thickly forested area with possible predators left, right and above. We’re generally a lot less subject to random catastrophe. Still, our brain is constantly prioritizing our safety, and that impulse that used to enable survival is now just called “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” One outcome of this is a fixation of the brain on an extremely unlikely situation, thanks to a movie, a book,or just an overactive imagination. So, even if they’re far-fetched, let’s look at survival strategies, and maybe feel better prepared.
Here’s how to survive five unlikely situations your brain loves to fixate on…
Elevator Free Fall
You’re aboard the elevator in your office building, heading up to a job you’ve been doing for years, and one you’ll likely be doing some variation of well into old age, thinking to yourself, “God, I want to die.” Suddenly, the cables on the elevator start to fray, and the little vertical human freight hauler you’re stuck in starts to teeter. “Okay, but not like THIS,” you quickly amend. So, now that the threat of gravity has bestowed a moment of clarity upon you, how do you make sure you actually reach the ground floor without turning into ground beef?
You might have heard tales of a precisely timed bunny hop allowing you to float above impact, hovering around debris like a momentary Goku. This is, in fact, not viable, given that at most, it’ll decrease your speed by only a meager few miles per hour. Other people say to bend your knees, which, sure, might help in some ways, but also feels like trying to spit out a forest fire.
The best strategy is to lay down on the floor and cover your head to spread out the impact and guard from deadly falling debris. If there’s not enough space for everyone to lie down, well, time for some high-speed rock-paper-scissors.
Perhaps no threat was more greatly exaggerated to our young brains than quicksand. If you were to base your predicted life trajectory off a diet of Saturday morning cartoons, it seemed like you and everyone you know would eventually find yourself neck-deep in the stuff. Of course, that was also when you thought you were going to be an explorer when you grew up, and not a certified accountant. Maybe they should have taught us less about the threats of sinking into quicksand and more about the threats of sinking into credit card debt.
Regardless, if you do find yourself descending into uncertain earth, here’s a strategy to tuck away in an unused fold of your brain: First of all, the disappointing news (depending on your worldview) is that you can’t drown in quicksand without effort, since your less-dense human body will float. You can indeed get stuck as hell, though, and it turns out having a friend pull you out is nigh-impossible given that yanking someone out is equivalent to lifting a car. You also don’t want to panic, as you’ll just bury yourself further. The key here is small, slow, subtle movements to free up some space in order to get loose enough to pull yourself to the surface, at which point you can roll or drag yourself out.
The unending legacy of Jaws is deep fascination and terror in equal amounts when it comes to sharks. It’s for good reason, given that anything with that many sharp teeth is probably not subsisting on algae and krill, but an overwhelmingly meat-centric diet, something that we are unfortunately made of. Sure, unprovoked shark attacks are rare, but given that we’re discussing unrealistic fears here, I think we’re past the sort of discomfort that statistics can solve. So what happens when a shark sizes you up and decides you’re no more than a collection of delectable human sashimi?
First off, don’t start thrashing around. All you’re going to do is excite the shark, jingling your tasty bits like a soft-tissue set of keys in front of a toddler. You do want to stare down the shark, because it’s less likely to attack if it knows for a fact it doesn’t have the element of surprise. Then, go for old faithful: back away, slowly. If you’ve been marked as dinner and there’s no expunging that label, there is another bit of advice, though, admittedly, it’s barely any kind of advice at all: fight the shark. Don’t play dead, but instead try to inflict at least enough damage to encourage the shark to fuck off to softer prey. The gills and eyes are particular weak points of emphasis, though I don’t love the idea of communicating to a shark that this is now a fight to the death. The old “punch it in the nose” strategy? It might be sound, but as one scientist wisely states, “Remember that just underneath the nose is a mouth.”
If you haven’t been stung by a bee in a while, you might not remember just how bad it hurts. End up on the wrong side of a stinger and you’ll quickly realize that it wasn’t your inherent, child weakness, but that it does in fact hurt like a motherfucker. You do not want to get stung, and the more bees, the very not the merrier. So if you’re hanging around a hive or have been tasked with knocking their home off the bottom of a diving board, which they seem to love for whatever reason, here are some tips to not end up a disgustingly swollen ex-soul.
To start, know the language of bee warnings. If you’re getting headbutted by bees, it’s not that they’re stupid and shitty at flying, it’s them giving you the bee equivalent of a bouncer’s “time to go” shoulder tap. Advice you would be wise to heed. If not, they’re calling in reinforcements and issuing a hive-wide license to kill. You can hold your breath, since bees navigate by smell, and it’ll be harder to do that if they can’t follow the scent of your PB&J.
This is all simply supplemental information, though, to the primary directive: RUN. Don’t flail, don’t attempt to take down their ace pilots, just quickly and swiftly get out of there. Entomologist and stinging insect specialist Justin Schmidt puts it terrifyingly plainly: “Don’t hesitate. Don’t fight them. All you’re going to do is give them time to get hundreds and thousands more. Just get out of there.”
The Sun Exploding
Well, you’re dead. But so is everything else!
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.