Monday, June 5

Caution: Spoiler

I've been working like the dog i' the adage the past few days, and I fell asleep around 9 last night, naturally to awaken around 2 AM. I went into the bathroom, sorry, the master bath, and there was a solid, high-pitched, industrial squeal coming in through the window. I am one of those people, assuming there are others, who can't let something like that go. Besides I'd already had my five hours' sleep.

I went outside, expecting the source to be our neighbor to the north (the "Canadas"), the guy who does zero maintenance and whose air conditioner sounds like a MIG take off. Wasn't him, though, and it wasn't the trouble-making family (the "Hatfields") just up the block, though they yet had their front door open, giving a nice view of the string of white Christmas lights which adorn their fireplace. I kept walking, and the sound never got any louder. I was nearly to the church at the end of the block, where I would have gotten a less restricted shot at determining direction--your ears can fool you, class--when it stopped altogether, which convinced me a) it was somebody, probably in some commerical establishment three blocks over, who was running something that shouldn't have been running at that hour; and b) it was too frickin' cold out to have walked a quarter mile in a lousy t-shirt while still bed warm.

Of course my faithful companion was waiting silently at home for my return, so I grabbed the remote and punched up Turner Classics. It was The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), but unfortunately it had already been on for forty minutes and he'd already shrunk, so that was ruined for me. All that was left was watching Grant Williams run around with oversized props while some smoothy makes off with his now unsatisfied wife. Sometimes size does matter.

I decided to critique his survival technique, especially since at this hour every other channel was an informercial. I should also point out that Williams was already in the basement, and I forget how he got there. I'm pretty sure he had an altercation with the cat while upstairs, so taking to the basement solved his immediate predator problem, though, of course, not for good. (Now that I think of it, his wife may have become convinced that he was eaten by Fluffy, making the moves of Mr. Smoove just that much more irresistable. ) But freed of that danger, WIlliams proceeds to go about things all wrong. Now none of us can say for certain that an unexpected weight loss of such proportions wouldn't play on our minds for a time, but...survival means using your head! Setting priorities! And the first of these is hydration, but Williams takes it for granted. Something drips on him and he swallows a couple mouthfuls. We'll allow as how people in the 50s were unaware of the risks of giardia; today we would be sure to treat the water (by boiling 15 minutes if no other purification method was available). Still, assuming there's no pressing medical or safety issue at hand, potable water is your number one concern.

Somewhere along the line Williams fashioned himself a toga. No doubt this was a nod to the social mores of the moviegoer of the day, but it's no excuse for going barefoot. A simple pair of sandals could have been made quite easily. Bear in mind that you'll probably do a lot of walking in any survival situation, and if you're shrinking by the minute you'll have to do even more. And not that clothing was a bad idea; as you shrink the ratio of surface area to volume may increase, so you'll lose body heat more rapidly. A toga is not going to be a great choice under the circumstances. Some puttees or leggings, even wound strips of material running from ankle to thigh, would help. So would stuffing the upper garment with insulating materials. Keep your core warm--top of the head to the navel.

Williams did create a shelter out of an abandoned matchbox. This was a good choice under the circumstances, as his only insect opponent turned out to be the exceedingly rare Midwestern web-spinning tarantula, and she couldn't fit in the box. But most basements will house a variety of arachnids and other undesirables, underscoring the fact that fire should be a major priority in the wilderness. If he'd been astute Williams would have stashed firestarting materials around the house before he shrunk down to insect proportions; even so, a little ingenuity would have had a fire going in no time, since there appeared to be a match left over (even though he was too small to manipulate the match, Williams could have shaved the head for combustible materials and the body for tinder, or he could have fashioned a wick and taken fire from the pilot lights of the water heater or furnace. Taming fire tames the world around you.

Williams wastes a good deal of time in the pursuit of food (cheese from a mousetrap, some sort of breadstuff near the spider's web), nearly getting himself killed a couple of times in the process. This was really all wrong, first because food is not your number one priority, second because if it is you might want to head for the kitchen, cat or no cat (speaking of which, if you do have a cat upstairs and mice in the basement you might want to consider letting Kitty go downstairs once in a while). In fact if you could swing it the refrigerator just might be the idea location under the circumstances, as food would be ample and predators nonexistent. It would be cold and dark much of the time, but people have endured worse.

I have to admit I lost interest around the time the water heater broke (never set up camp in a dry stream bed) and consciousness shortly after. And I dreamed myself a dream, and in it the US President noticed his jacket sleeves were growing longer.


Anonymous said...

But what was the odd noise? And parenthetically, I'm having weird dreams almost daily of late. What gives? I nver adjust size though.

Ray Bridges said...

If I raved with half the enthusiasm I feel, you'd think I was coming on to you. This post was good on about four or five different levels. You're the only blogger I know that makes watching the grass grow in Indianapolis interesting.