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I told my sister about an article that made me laugh. The author was giving tips to people about going to Iceland in the winter to see the northern lights. If I remember correctly, he cautioned people not to drive themselves unless they were “really good” at driving in winter weather. Then he described how he rented a minivan, tried to take a shortcut in the darkness during a storm, got stuck, and had to be rescued.

If you're going to pass yourself off as an expert, you probably shouldn't admit to three dumb actions in one paragraph.

I do know a lot about driving in winter conditions.

A lot. More than I even wanted to know.

You'd never catch me driving a minivan down a strange road in a storm in the dark.

When my sister agreed with me, I said, “Yeah, I think I have pretty good survival instincts.”

Her agreement lasted for only a moment. “Oh, I don't know. I think you're pretty good at surviving, but if you had good survival instincts you probably would have fewer scars.”

To-ma-to, to-mah-to.

I'm not saying she's wrong, but I will say there are things she doesn't need to say out loud.

When my wife heard about the conversation, she got a look on her face that some people could describe as, “Finally, someone understands the burden I bear.”

In my defense, I don't think of myself as a risk taker. I don't bungee jump, climb mountains, or talk politics with strangers. It's just that in the course of living my life, I can occasionally find myself in situations some people might consider risky. For instance, if one led a full life and didn't have the time to monitor how much brush was growing around buildings, there’s a chance a reasonable person could find himself straddling two steel roofs holding a chainsaw. Another example, since we're on the topic of roofs, would be if a person happened to own a very old house with complicated roof lines where some portions were always in the sun and other parts were always in the shade, there could be a problem with ice buildup. A reasonable solution would involve a ladder and an ax. And when I drove into and circled a roundabout in the wrong direction in Scotland, it wasn’t because I lack survival instincts, it was because I was distracted and forgot I needed to drive on the wrong side of the road. In all three of those instances, I'd just like to say, “No harm, no foul.”

I believe the problem isn't risky behavior, the problem is witnesses.

I mean, I love that my wife is retired from her career and able to spend more time at home, but if a person lives their life around power tools, large animals, and working alone using a variety of construction equipment, there’s a chance that some perfectly reasonable activity could be perceived as risky. For many years, my wife and I both went out the door in the morning and she had no idea what went on before she got home, particularly if I had enough bandages and towels available. And we were both happy.

No problem. I just find myself looking over my shoulder more than I used to, and apparently I need to edit some of the things I tell my sisters.

Who says I don't have survival instincts?

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson


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