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

Reader Contribution 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 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For more information about Cam or his books, please visit www.cammather.com or www.aztext.com