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Sunday, May 02, 2004

(My) Safety First

“Women and children first!” I thought that I was fairly clever for coming up with that line, back when I was on that infamous cruise ship, the one that hit the piece of ice. Before that it was “every man for himself.” I was nine years old at the time and weighed-in at about 65 pounds—not much of a match for the swarthy guys coming up on deck after abandoning their posts in the engine room. Before that, no one had thought much about honor when it came to disasters like a ship sinking in freezing water with not nearly enough life boats to go around. I can’t believe that my quick-witted appeal to chivalric orderliness actually worked and I’m still here today to write about it.

What I didn’t think about back then was that every time I looked both ways before crossing a street, with every helping of vegetables I finished, with every disease epidemic I side-stepped, I was aging myself right out of the proverbial lifeboat. A plea for “women and children first” would leave me--at very best--second.

It’s been quite a few birthdays since “women and children first” would have assured me a comfortable seat on a lifeboat. Wearing a diaper and a bonnet are so far beneath my acceptable levels of dignity (and they are low) that even treading water in the freezing ocean rates higher. Perhaps this “women and children” thing partly explains the frighteningly high number of female impersonators on cruise ships plying the North Atlantic these days. I’ve never been able to walk in heels, especially on deck in bad weather, so that option is out.

I’m not quite honorable enough to go down with the ship so it’s time to come up with a new safety plan for when the “going gets tough” because “the tough get going” also leaves me dog-paddling far from shore. I need a new strategy for my personal survival and I think it will take more than a catchy phrase.

I have decided to look towards the animal kingdom for my personal protection. I’m not going to try using something like an attack dog; I have decided to go more state of the art. Borrowing from the natural defense mechanisms of turtles and porcupines, I have designed a pair of protective suits that I can wear that will assure my blood doesn’t get spilled. I have made one suit out of razor blades and another out of barbed wire.

Both suits performed well in tests. They not only fended off muggers and wild animals but they even kept all but the most persistent Amway salesmen at bay. Before you unfold the big banner that says “Mission Accomplished” I have to point out that the barbed wire suit makes me look fat and I can’t find a pair of shoes to go with razor blades. I don’t care how safe something is; I have to look good.

In the end I decided on doing what everyone else I know does. I now have two Hummers with blacked-out windows: One for my driver, two bodyguards, and me and another for an accompanying infantry platoon. This “Latin American Junta Leader” style is a little out of date but it still commands respect when I pull into the video rental place. “Move it or they’ll open fire” isn’t quite as catchy as “women and children first” but it is remarkably effective.