Tuesday, January 29, 2008

50 Things That Should Have Killed Me Already

It seems like the richer we are and the more leisure time we have, the more precautions we take to avoid danger. I think they help, but probably not as much as we would like to think. Here is my start on a list of things that happened to me or that I chose to do during my life that would be a major concern for a lot of us if we thought it might happen to someone we love in the future (If you think I am saying it is o.k. to do this stuff, you are wrong, it's not o.k., it's stupid):

1. My mom and dad smoked heavily, even including when I was in the womb.
2. There were no baby seats for cars (except little toy jobbers that would tear a kid in half)
3.There were no seat belts in cars until I was a teenager.
4.There was no polio vaccine until my teens.
5.We sat out numerous hurricanes in our suburban house near New Orleans (It was probably underwater after Katrina).
6.I played near a sewage canal during much of my childhood, including boating in it.
7.I played in sewage and snake filled hurricane flood waters after each storm.
8.There were no bicycle helmets.
9.There were no skating helmets.
10. I let a guy on a bike tow me while I rode on skates, got knocked out cold when I fell.
11. We played chicken by seeing who could skid their bike closest to the edge of an unfinished interstate overpass bridge (The middle of the bridge was missing, we would have fallen several stories onto a tangle of re bar).
12. We played acrobat by walking the railing of the overpass.
13. We jumped off of our tree house onto a nearby sapling and let it bend to the ground, until the top broke off in our hands.
14. We would climb trees and let the other guys cut them down. We would have to move quick
to whichever side of the tree was going to land up.
15. We only drank sugar filled pop with caffeine. We drank it with twinkies and other fine fare.
16. We ate bacon, eggs, and buttered toast for breakfast virtually every day.
17. I started drinking coffee at age 9 or 10.
18. We only ate white bread.
19. Our dad punished us if we didn't eat all the fat from our pork chops and pork roasts.
20. My mom kept the bacon grease and used it to cook lots of stuff.
21. We rode our bikes behind the mosquito fogging jeep and pretended we were flying in clouds.
22. There were no pollution controls.
23. We moved next to a river in Ohio that was so polluted it caught fire and burned for days.
24. I swam in Lake Ponchatrain when it was so polluted that people were getting sick.
25. I camped on a flat sand bar island in the Gulf of Mexico while a big storm blew over it.
26. We shot arrows straight up to see how close we could let them land to us while we sat still.
27. The first time I got really drunk, I drank about 10 or 12 drinks worth and then swam in Lake Ponchatrain. The waves made it hard for me to climb back onto the seawall. (I was about 17).
28. I got my mom's Chrysler to go 110 miles per hour, but I was so busy watching the speedometer that I didn't notice til the last minute that I had run out of freeway and had to take an exit at about 90 mph.
29. The back seat of the car caught fire from a cigarette butt and the 110 mph wind (I'm not joking).
30. I started smoking at age 16.
31. I drove drunk (lots) I thank God I never killed anyone else.
32. I drank until I passed out or blacked out, on a number of occasions.
33. I used 10 - 12 different illegal drugs by the time I was 30.
34. I drove while using as many as three or four drugs and alcohol at once.
35. I totalled two cars without air bags. I thank God I never hurt anyone else.
36. I climbed a 70 foot Cypress tree and found a hornets nest at the top (very rapid descent).
37. We played chicken to see who could hang by one hand the longest while several stories up.
38. I had a rattlesnake in a jar for a pet.
39. We played in a drained swamp behind our house that had all four poisonous snakes in North America (and we saw all but the coral snake).
40. I climbed buildings on a dare.
41. We tried to make a rocket by filling a pipe with gasoline and lighting it.
42. We threw aerosol cans into fires (especially into the furnace at the grocery store I worked at)
43. A local troubled teen held a knife to my throat when I was about 12 and threatened to kill me.
44. I got hit by a speeding car when I tried to ride my bike across a highway in the dark (I jumped off the bike just as the car slammed into it and tore it from my hands)
45. We thought food with preservatives was good for you.
46. Sunscreen was unknown to us when I was a boy in Louisiana. I spent most of the summer with no shirt, hat, or shoes. (I was very fair skinned and burned constantly).
47. We tried to swing high enough to wrap the swing around the swing set.
48. We jumped out of the swing when we got as high as we could go.
49. I got more or less drunk and lost in a crowd of one million during Mardi Gras (I was 15).
50. We rode our bikes way out into the country and snuck up on the isolated home of a man reputed to shoot trespassers with his shotgun (probably a myth, but it was scary).

I have lots more, but you get the idea. I don't think I was much more rambunctious than most boys my age. My parents cared about me, but they gave me enough freedom to do lots of exploring. Some things like smoking, pollution, pesticides, skin cancer, and bicycle helmets just weren't well understood 50 years ago. I made a lot of really stupid choices as a young man. It seems very odd now to find myself worrying about relatively little things (like falling and hurting my knee replacement). I never thought I would live to be fifty. It seems a bit of a miracle that I did.
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