You don’t usually think about the fact that death could be just seconds away. That will change when you watch The Biography Channel’s I Survived, where survivors of freak accidents, horrific crimes and other macabre misfortunes tell how they cheated death. The show ostensibly inspires us with the survivors’ courage. More importantly, though, it alerts us to the potential of being assaulted by a mentally unstable chimpanzee or getting stuck in a combine harvester. The fact that I Survived is now in its fifth season should tell you that the potential is alarmingly high.
The message of I Survived is that a fierce determination to live combined with rational thinking can keep you alive through a seemingly hopeless situation. Of course, most people in those situations die and therefore don’t get to appear on TV. So I Survived is really a lesson in what situations should be avoided. As it turns out, it’s pretty much all of them. While it takes a lot of courage to escape death, it takes some real planning to avoid it altogether.
You don’t have to hike through the Amazon during monsoon season to attract death’s attention. Death isn’t so busy with hang gliders, hitchhikers and the guy on his roof trying to dislodge a hornets’ nest that it can’t find time to mess with someone visiting the library. Death doesn’t need you to put yourself in a risky situation because death is resourceful. You can be driving home, swerve to avoid a deer, and end up with a tree branch lodged in your neck.
I Survived teaches us that interacting with people dramatically increases your odds of dying. So ideally you should never speak to anyone that you can’t outrun. On the job, ignore anyone claiming to be a customer and don’t ever fire anyone. Dating is also a bad idea. Ex-boyfriends are dangerous. Current boyfriends aren’t much better. In fact, all men should be regarded with suspicion.
Death’s favorite place to attack, though, is nature. The outdoors is a dangerous place. For example, people fall off mountains. They usually fall a long way and almost always hit something hard. People on mountains who manage not to fall off are usually attacked by a mountain lion or trapped in a blizzard. Nothing good ever happens on a mountain.
I Survived also teaches us to stay away from water. Water is great when it’s in, say, a bottle. Water in its natural habitat, though, is dangerous. A staggering amount of recreation takes place in water despite the fact that water wants nothing to do with us. We know this because if water liked people it wouldn’t be filled with sharks.
The woods are also trying to kill you. Trees, in particular, should be avoided. Apparently they fall a lot. Bears show up in several I Survived episodes, and they are always in the woods. Bears hate people as much as water does.
Implicit in every episode of I Survived is the fact that while dying is always a bummer, it’s even worse if you die in an unusual way. Your death then overshadows everything about your life. Surviving a bizarre accident makes you interesting. Dying in one makes you odd. Future generations will have conversations about you that go something like this:
Kid: Mom, tell me about great-uncle Bob.
Mom: He developed a cure for cancer.
Kid: Wow! What happened to him?
Mom: He died cleaning the gutters. He fell off the ladder and severed an artery on a pair of nail clippers he had in his pocket.
Kid: What a moron.
Mom: Tell me about it.
I Survived gives people hope that they can live through anything if they stay calm and refuse to give up. Yet the fact remains that most people in these situations will cry, pee their pants and then die. The smartest way to live, therefore, is to stay home, alone. And don’t put nail clippers in your pocket.