Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Hey, Who’s the Guy in the Life Jacket?

By Cam Mather

Here’s another reason why I don’t go on cruises… because I’d be the guy wearing my lifejacket from the minute I got on the boat. The staff probably wouldn’t like it. I think the other passengers might find it a little disconcerting at the all-you-can-eat buffet when the guy beside them in line looked like he was ready to abandon ship… at any minute.

My family likes to laugh at my philosophy of “always have a Plan B.” It’s so nerdy. It’s so uncool, when everything is just going along normally.

I have a healthy respect for authority but I have to admit that I find myself subscribing more and more to the “Question Authority” mantra. This crystallized on September 11th after the first plane had hit the North Tower. There were announcements made in the South Tower telling everyone that everything was fine, and that they should just go back to their desks. I think if I’d been working in the South Tower that day watching what was going on in the North Tower, I would have taken the rest of the day off regardless of what the voice on the PA told me. It turns out that questioning authority and getting out of there would have been the right thing to do. I think it’s what you would have done instinctively. Always trust your instincts.

If I was on a cruise ship and the lights went out after feeling a big bump, the last thing I’d do was listen to the announcement telling me it was just an electrical problem and to relax and carry on. Forget that baby. I’d find my life jacket. Find a lifeboat. Get my bearings. Trust my instinct. And if it turned out to be just a power failure, well, at least I would know where to find my life jacket.

I have a feeling that the people who work on cruise ships today probably aren’t highly paid. And they probably don’t receive the best training. They just aren’t equipped to help evacuate an entire cruise ship full of passengers in 5 hours, let alone 20 minutes. As for the captain … well it looks like the Captain just didn’t give a sh*t about the passengers. It was every man for himself. It seems like things have changed since the days when Captains went down with their ship. But at least we now know the drill. You’re on your own. It’s like New Orleans. You might be standing on your roof in the flood zone for a long time before the authorities come to the rescue.

I remember seeing a TV interview with a Canadian who was working in one of the Twin Towers, in a floor above the impact zone. The elevators weren’t working. But it turned out that he had actually practiced a fire drill, and knew where the stairs were. And when he got down one staircase and discovered that it was blocked, he knew to go back to another, and try it. And when the power went out and the staircase was dark and disorienting, he pulled out his flashlight. Really? He had a flashlight in his office desk drawer? What a nerd! Bet he took lots of ribbing about that by his co-workers.

If I’m sounding like a crazy “Dwight from The Office” kind of character, well I am. Dwight is my role model, although I’m not a big fan of beets. Michelle and I don’t stay in hotels anymore, but whenever we used to, I always took the stairs. This was a pain, because hotels seem to be more concerned about security and bad people sneaking in than they seem to be about people getting out in a fire. Sometimes I would be able to get into the stairs, but then find doors locked when I tried to get out. But I had decided that if I was ever in a hotel when it caught fire I was going to know where the stairs were and where I would end up when I went down them. Michelle would take the elevator and I would take the stairs and that way if I got locked in to the stairwell Michelle would be able to find someone to let me out.

In my book, “Thriving During Challenging Times” I talk a lot about strategies, some of them big picture, some of them little picture, but always with the theme of having a “Plan B.” I once read a book about the people who survive disasters. There was common theme throughout their stories of escaping burning buildings and surviving plane crashes. They had a plan. They sat down in their seat and found out where the emergency exits were and they figured out how they were going to get to them, when there was panic and smoke and confusion. They made a plan and when the panic and smoke and confusion set in, they executed it. Air travel is safe. Most people will never, ever, need to execute a plan like this. So really, why bother?

I understand, you can’t always avoid risk. Bad things happen. I accept this. But I am not going to be taken out in some hotel fire just because I was too afraid of getting stuck in a staircase where all the doors were locked. Someone would find me before I starved to death. Michelle would wonder where I was… eventually.

I will never take a cruise. I have read way too much about the fuel they burn, and how many of them deal with their garbage and human waste. And in a world where there is still starvation and hunger, I find all-you-can-eat buffets repugnant. But if I did take a cruise, I’d be the one at the railing, on one of the lowest decks, in a life jacket… and wet suit… with a waterproof flashlight… and shark repellant … ready to abandon ship at a moments’ notice. Sounds like a fun week!

Photo by S.J. de Waard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons





1 Comment

  1. Ken and Madeline Snider

    Great blog. I will remember to have a backup plan from now on.

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