As one occasionally thinks of one’s mortality, the thought “What was I thinking?” will often come to mind.
Like, “what was I thinking when I attempted to jump a 30-foot crater left by the removal of a culvert by township crews on a late night in my mother’s 1967 Country Sedan station wagon with six of my buddies riding passenger.” That was not exactly a General Lee “Dukes of Hazzard” proud moment. It didn’t end well as you might have guessed.
The explanation that followed when my mother asked what happened to her car was another “what was I thinking?” moment. I really was counting on my mother’s belief in extra-terrestrial life. She didn’t. That didn’t end well either. Incidentally, I was maybe 16 at the time. Not a good excuse, but, just sayin’.
Of course, I’m not the only one with deficits in judgement. In 2001, a Missouri man who had spent a day drinking and fishing with friends announced, “Hey watch this! I like my fish fresh!” and tried to swallow a 5-inch live Perch. That didn’t end well either.
We humans are given credit for being the inhabitants of the earth possessing the highest level of intelligence, yet we will give our lives taking selfies high atop skyscrapers, hanging off ledges of mountain cliffs, in zoo cages with wild animals or on beaches with tsunamis at hand.
It’s one thing to be a kid with his sense of “common sense” not fully developed committing mindless acts, but full grown, fully developed (I use the term loosely) doing things that are needlessly a risk to life an limb is something else.
For example, I understand that jumping from an aircraft into enemy territory during previous wars and conflicts gave necessary advantages in military maneuvering. However, bailing out of a perfectly well-flying airplane hoping a parachute initially packed by someone you don’t know will function properly escapes me. I am careful (disregarding the opening story of this column) to not jump from an aircraft parked safely on the ground. I always wait for a good set of steps being in place before making my exit.
Scuba diving is another unnecessary risk, I believe. Oh, for those of you who do it, it’s a wonderful experience. I have an arrangement with the all of the fish on our planet. They don’t sleep in my house, and I don’t scuba dive in theirs.
Final words from the departing is another thing that has intrigued me.
For example, Marie Antoinette reportedly stepped on the foot of her executioner while going to the guillotine and said, (paraphrase alert!) “Excuse me. I didn’t mean to do that.”
Murderer James W. Rogers’ final words when asked if he had any final requests before dying in front of a firing squad said, “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” (It was not granted).
Drummer Buddy Rich, while being prepped for surgery from which he never recovered, was asked by his attending nurse if there was anything he couldn’t take and he replied, “Yes, country music.” Those reportedly were his final words.
Comedy great Groucho Marx reportedly let out a quip just before passing, “This is no way to live!”
We text while driving, we drive under the influence, we resist obeying orders by police officers, we look for new ways to overconsume sugar and fat, we reach for our “plugged-in” cell phones while in the shower, we tread on ice that is too thin, and yet we are offended if our intelligence is brought into question.
I have to scratch my head as I look at the things we do and the things we say as we start to exit this life and wonder, what are we thinking? Or are we?
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at http://www.HerbDayVoices.com and http://www.HerbDayRadio.com.