5 Videos of Superhuman Reflexes That Saved Lives
Life is a terrifying goddamn ride that, at any second, can come to an abrupt, dramatic and bloody halt. On some level, we all know that, and we try to plan accordingly: We look both ways when crossing the street, we stand in doorways during earthquakes and we shamefully lock the doors when teenagers walk by our cars. But some freak accidents are unavoidable; they come careening out of nowhere to turn all of our hopes and dreams into abstract art on the sidewalk. When that day comes, all you can do is try to die quick, and hope that your last words are something a bit more poetic than "Well, shitballs."
Or you can be like these people, who saw Death charging at them a mile away and merrily cartwheeled out of their own mortality.
Ducking Vehicular Manslaughter
Commuting in China is a perpetual game of chicken, often against literal chickens, as out-of-control poultry trucks are one of the chief causes of road fatalities in Hong Kong [Source: Jackie Chan movies]. To willingly join into that Thunderdome of a road system deserves respect; to do it on a bike should earn your giant, bronzed balls a spot in the Testicular Hall of Fame. Here's why:
That bicyclist is, no doubt, impossibly lucky. The black car missed him by sheer chance. But the white car? That wasn't chance at all; that bicycling son of a bitch dodged an exploding, airborne car in mid-spinout. That's the kind of reflexes you get when you routinely take a rusty bike to a Chinese car fight. If he had slowed down at all while still in the path of the black car, he'd be an advertisement for helmet safety posted up across the side of that bus right now. But when the white car careens into his path, the bicyclist hits the brakes and manages to slow juuust enough to slip between two disintegrating, bouncing, jagged steel wrecking balls without a scratch.
And he does all that without even dumping the bike! As a kid, I once crashed my bicycle in a completely flat, empty parking lot because a girl said hi to me -- and here's this dude, calmly modulating his speed so perfectly that he skips between two clashing metal tornadoes without so much as a handle wobble.
But perhaps a better testimony to the stoic balls and immeasurable skill of this bicyclist is not what's in the video, but what it's missing. Watch past the crash, to the immediate aftermath. See how everybody in the area wanders out into the street? They're totally shell-shocked. Even complete bystanders who just happened to glance up and see this are left standing dumbstruck in the road, marveling at all the pretty disaster around them. Notice anything missing?
He's not even there. He barely ducked out of being the finger cuffs in a car/bike gangbang, and that didn't even warrant a stop on his commute.
The Pure Luck Version:
It's tempting to chalk every close call up to luck: If one thing had gone even slightly differently, somebody would be dead. And there's some truth to that, sure, but let's not sell these people short. Their actions, no matter how small, still had some hand in saving them. And I can prove it, because there are plenty of close calls where that is not at all the case, and the only reason anybody survived is because they once saved a leprechaun's life and now he owes their ass big.
Welcome to Russia, where your average driver's first response to a vehicle slowing -- even a little bit -- is to wrench the wheel violently into oncoming traffic, because even acknowledging the existence of brakes is for little pansy men with hairless faces who wince when they drink vodka. Sometimes there is a downside to driving like an alpha dickhead, and sometimes that downside is a giant friggin' semi truck Tokyo drifting across the entire roadway.
Watch as the driver's instincts and reflexes completely fail him: He can't do anything but stop directly in the path of the giant metal squeegee wiping the road clear in front of him. Then he sits quietly and waits for death, like he finished his assignment early and the teacher just didn't have any more work for him.
Ducking Vehicular Manslaughter ... on Foot
It was a beautiful day in Russia: Everything was track suits and sunglasses as far as the eye could see. And then, disaster struck.
Or rather, it tried to strike, but Trackpants here danced right out of its way like a cologne-smelling, club-hopping matador.
Watch his body language closely: He doesn't just jump out of the way. Trackpants clearly sees Death coming for him, and he knows his time is up. So what does he do when the Reaper rides toward him on his Pale Horse, the sickle of mortality glinting coldly in the waning sun?
He jukes right, fakes out the very concept of death itself, then dodges left and laughs as the Reaper careens harmlessly by him, presumably shouting his name in fury and shaking his bony fist. But much like the bicyclist, Trackpants doesn't have time to stop and acknowledge his near-death experience. He doesn't even chastise the driver for using the sidewalk like a Mario Kart Boost Pad -- he just continues on his merry Russian way, off to sit on a bus stop bench somewhere for a busy day of leering at women while pointing to his prominent Lycra-highlighted package.
The Pure Luck Version:
You think you know what's going to happen here when you see the truck start to pull out at the last possible moment. You think they're going to T-bone, but that is foolish. Because again, this is Russia, and braking is for women and consumptives.
The driver of the oncoming truck sees the accident coming, but he doesn't even try to slow down: He spits in the face of logic and reflex, and just calmly moves the wheel a little to the right to hit the turning truck parallel. The end result? An objectively ridiculous amount of death barreling down on one harmless old Russian dude, just trying to fill up at the gas station. Wait, you're about to be hit by two dump trucks, side by side, as they ram you into an active gas pump? Holy shit, dude: Nobody has ever died that hard. Bruce Willis didn't die that hard. Did you bone Death's wife or something?
This is how he reacts:
Don't laugh. That's exactly what every one of us would do in the same situation. Nobody expects that much Fucked to come flying at their face out of nowhere. It's almost cartoonish how screwed he is. So he closes his eyes, hunches up his shoulders and kind of turns around a little bit, like an uncoordinated kid would do if you unexpectedly tossed a baseball to him. But the two trucks don't hit him: They smash together two feet in front of his face, then bounce away to either side. They hit so hard and so close that you can actually see the little whirlwind of debris from the impact blow over the man, but nothing actually touches him. When it's all over, he opens his eyes and checks around him, then pats himself down, as if to say, "Really? Fucking really, I survived that? Is bullshit! Totally unrealistic!"
Being Crushed by a Train
You see the problem in the first few seconds: A man in black is nonchalantly jumping the train barrier and strolling across the tracks. "Hey, just stepping in front of an oncoming train here; let's not do something as drastic as jogging."
Clearly, that kind of reckless irres- holy shit, somebody else is going after him?!
The man in black's move was risky enough, but he saw the train coming and had enough time to cross safely. The guy in white doesn't even check: He sees a barrier, he fucking vaults it. You don't tell his legs what to do, you goddamn arrogant signal lights. And he's not callously hopping in front of just any train: No, this is the friggin' Flash of passenger trains. It's blasting through that busy pedestrian intersection at full throttle. Watch just after the train passes him -- see that little white thing flipping away?
That's how narrowly he escaped; Death took his shoe as a consolation prize. But the man in white does not care. For there is another barrier at the other side of the tracks, taunting him with its presumptuous authority.
It must be vaulted.
The Pure Luck Version:
Listen, riding the subway drunk is great -- in fact, it's generally not recommended that you ever do it sober. It's like an alcoholic's international waters: You can sleep on the benches, throw up in the drinking fountains and pee literally anywhere. Everywhere. It is a beautiful, blurry, anarchic Eden. There is only one rule: Don't stand anywhere near the tracks when the world starts spinning.
This lady not only strolls right up to the edge of the platform, ignoring the fact that her knees are openly rebelling against the rest of her body, but when she falls onto the tracks, she manages to immediately flail herself into the third rail just as the train arrives.
It looks like she's overachieving at suicide (oh, what, just getting killed by one thing isn't good enough for you, showoff?), but somehow, she survives, and the train coasts to a stop directly over her head.
So what's the first thing she does, now that she's survived, like, eight totally justifiable, simultaneous drunken deaths? She jumps to her feet ... and falls directly backward again to bash her head on the rail. Listen: If that pussy train isn't going to crush her skull, she'll damn well do it herself.
Making That High Pressure Shot
Let's make this clear: If you're a fan of animals or justice, or just not a huge aficionado of douchebags, you might want to skip this video. It's awful, pointless and brutal. But although there's no condoning this sort of thing, you have to admit: There is no higher pressure shot on earth than the one this guy makes ...
It is just plain fucking wrong to hunt a vulnerable (read: almost endangered) species just because you're having a midlife crisis and the dealer was out of motorcycles that day. But when that lion comes charging out of the brush at those hunters, it is plainly evident that silly hats and khaki shorts are not sufficient armor against a few hundred pounds of furry murder.
To the hunter's credit, it wasn't one of the other 12 armed dudes it apparently takes to kill one cat that made the fatal shot: The lion charged the hunter, and that hunter killed the charging lion. He was staring right into the jaws of bounding, slavering, totally justified death, but he made the shot, and the lion skidded to a stop right at his feet. By all means, hate the guy, but you give him his due.
I mean, if it's any consolation, sometimes a guy has balls so big that all they really do is highlight how tiny his penis is by comparison.
The Pure Luck Version:
It's kind of a tragedy that the guy having fun with guns the right way is the one who comes off looking like a lucky idiot, but here you go. This guy is out shooting targets in the desert with a .50 caliber rifle, which, you'll note, is a hell of a lot of calibers, when something goes wrong. And you know what's coming the second you hear that sound:
I've never heard that noise before in my life. But if I ever did, I would know, instinctively, that I just did something dumb and now I'm going to die for it. After the rapidly approaching whine of death, there's a little puff of dirt on the ground, and then a man is dead. Or by all goddamn rights he should be: The bullet came so close to his head that it knocked his ear protection off.
Can you appreciate how astoundingly unlikely that is? He fired a bullet away from him, and it traveled God knows how far out into the desert before hitting its target and inexplicably ricocheting back in the exact direction it was fired, where it bounced off the dirt, redirected again, and then homed right in on the face of the man who shot it. I'm not sure if that means God loves this guy or hates him so much that it's like a knife in the Almighty's gut just to think of the bastard, but if I were the shooter and I survived something like this, I'd join the priesthood and then immediately burn a church to the ground, just to hedge my bets.
Racing an Avalanche
When I first watched this video, I didn't get what I was looking at. I thought I was supposed to be impressed by how big and scary an avalanche really is -- and you know what? I totally was. I had no idea they were that massive and terrifying. That really is an entire goddamn mountain coming down. And then I saw that tiny little black dot in the middle of it all -- is it a boulder or something? Surely that's not -- oh shit.
It's a little hard to see -- the video is shot from so far away, and the scale of the avalanche is so gigantic -- you almost can't make out the trail of steaming fear urine carving into the snow behind that little black dot. Almost.
That dot is Kaj Zackrisson, and he credits pure luck for his survival. But that's not entirely true. Most people can barely manage to stay upright on a pair of skis when a member of the opposite sex might be judging them. Kaj knew a mountain was chasing him, and he not only stayed on those two tiny, bendy slabs of wood; he used them to outrun gravity. He had some close calls: The avalanche even engulfs him a few times, but he keeps skiing right back out of the fluffy white death-cloud behind him.
And then, right at the bottom, just as the avalanche is finally petering out, the little black dot disappears in that sea of white ... and doesn't immediately come back out.
If, at that point, you're not rooting for a dot harder than you've ever rooted for anything in your whole life, then you need to call your doctor right away and schedule one of those Grinchectomy heart-enlargement surgeries.
The Pure Luck Version:
Doesn't snowmobiling look great? You're out there, in the middle of nature, nothing around you but the totally pristine snow, just waiting for you to violate its sanctity with your roaring, tank-treaded snowhog. This guy looks like he's having a great time: He does a few sweet jumps, bobs and weaves between some trees, then books it to the crest of a hill and watches the beautiful landscape ...
... literally crumble right beneath him. Before he can even yell, half the surveyable terrain just up and disappears from directly under his vehicle. All he can do is sit there dumbly and watch land stop being land all of a sudden.
You can tell he's in shock right after it happens, because instead of voiding his bowels so hard it propels him into the air like a shit-rocket, he just calmly shuts his machine down and hangs out on the edge of the abyss for a few seconds, wondering how he's going to get home, now that he can no longer trust the earth.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out The 10 Most Terrifyingly Inspirational '80s Songs and The 8 Most Ridiculously Badass Protesters Ever Photographed.