You Might Be a Zombie . . . (6 page)

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
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know what’s fun? Fun. We spend bil ions of dol ars a year on products and activities that serve no purpose other than distracting us from the soul-crushing daily grind for a few precious moments before we have to get back to the miserable office. But many of the things we do to lighten up the misery of our monotonous lives have the potential to end them in startling ways.


There are approximately 7 mil ion private swimming pools in America today, which is proof that sometimes the simplest ideas—digging a hole in your backyard and fil ing it with water—are the best. We’l get the obvious out of the way first: Water can drown you. An estimated 350 kids drown in backyard swimming pools every year.

Drowning in a swimming pool is the second leading cause of death in children under twelve in the United States, and, statistically speaking, having one in your backyard is more dangerous than having a gun in your house. But the danger isn’t even limited to drowning: That’s just the surface of the pool’s lethal potential. (That was a wacky pun! About tragic child death!) We all had that friend in grade school who swears up and down that his friend’s cousin’s babysitter once knew a guy who knew a guy who got stuck on a pool’s intake vent and had his guts sucked out through his anus.

That kid was so ful of shit.

Except he wasn’t. That’s
totally true
. In 2007, CBS reported on a girl who lost her entire small intestine while swimming at her family’s country club. It’s rare, but anything with even one check mark in the “might tear your guts out through your asshole” column deserves to be handled with a little caution.

Studies have also demonstrated a link between chlorinated pools and cases of asthma and lung damage, and people who spend a good deal of time swimming in or working around chlorinated water are over 50 percent more likely to develop lung and kidney cancer. When you add all that together, owning a pool is like having an occupied tiger pit with a diving board attached (if tiger bites gave you cancer).


What do you get when you connect one ordinary garden hose, one long sheet of plastic, and one precocious child? well, either thirty years to life or a slip ’n’ slide (depending on how the parts were assembled). The slip ’n’ slide has sold over 9 mil ion units since its inception, which is fine: slip ’n’ slides are safe—provided that you are three to five feet tal and weigh less than 107 pounds. It’s only when you start moving into the gray areas of “drunken

adulthood” and “childhood obesity” that things start to get paralytic. See, a slip ’n’ slide’s thin sheet of plastic is only capable of redistributing a certain

amount of weight to create that cushioning hydroplane, so heavyset kids and drunk adults trying to use it tend to hit the ground harder than Hans Gruber.

There has been a staggering number of injuries over the last fifty years from slip ’n’ slide abuse, ranging from torn skin to paralysis and even death. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has had an ongoing investigation in place since 1993, and despite all of this, sales of the product are as strong as ever. That just proves that Darwinism is alive and well, and its official motto is, “Woo! Do a backflip!”


According to the CPSC (which should just go ahead and change its name to the Buzz-Kil Institute of Fun Destruction), in 2008 there were about eighteen thousand injuries reported at amusement parks in the United States alone. And that’s not even counting carnivals and state fairs—where you’re required to undergo years of meth addiction and inbreeding before operating a ride. (To any carnies who might have been offended by that sentence: Quit making the crossing guard read to you; she has important work to do.)

Some of the injuries are just idiot comeuppance: Hundreds of people have been kil ed by releasing their harnesses and standing up on roller coasters, those spinning teacup rides, and Splash Mountain—not to mention one teenager who was decapitated by the Batman ride at Six Flags Over Georgia after jumping a fence to look for his hat.

That’s not to say you’ll survive if you follow all the safety protocols: A thirteen-year-old girl was riding on Superman: Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom when a cable snapped and sliced her legs off. A man riding on the
, a full-size replica sailing ship at Disneyland, was struck in the face by a metal cleat when a mooring line pulled it loose from the ship’s hull.

There are too many moving parts to make most attractions 100 percent safe, so there’s always a chance that you’ll be horrifically murdered by some whirling steel monstrosity with cartoon elves painted on the side. And that’s the kicker: having to tell Saint Peter, upon entrance to heaven, that your life was tragically cut short by something called the Screamin’ Reamer.


Trampolines were initial y conceived as a training apparatus for gymnasts. They weren’t sold commercial y until the 1940s, when developers George Nissen and Larry Griswold went completely insane and decided to wipe children off the face of the earth. Today about half a mil ion trampolines are sold every year in the United States. Now consider that there are over two hundred thousand trampoline-related injuries annual y—almost half of which result in serious emergency room visits.

Trampolines harm so many people that some personal-injury law firms have a specific telephone extension just for trampoline accidents. A twenty-year-old woman landed so awkwardly, she severed an artery and broke both bones in her leg and had to have it amputated. She trampolined her goddamn leg off! In Tasmania, a boy was jumping on a trampoline in his backyard when it turned into a remake of
Final Destination
and tossed him into a clothesline, hanging him.

There are countless safety guidelines in place to try to curb the staggering bloodlust of the trampoline. For example, it is recommended that you always jump alone and instal safety nets along the edge. A boy in Colorado followed those pointers and was strangled to death by the safety netting around his trampoline. Apparently, the more you try to temper the insatiable murder frenzy of the trampoline, the more furious it becomes. In retrospect, perhaps sacrificing a few backflip-ping fatties a year is a small price to pay to appease its terrible appetite.


Invented by former NASA employee John Scurlock in 1959, inflatable structures (bouncy castles for readers who clap their hands when they read phrases like
bouncy castles
) are typical y made out of thick vinyl and powered by motorized fans. According to the CPSC (which we’re fairly certain is one lawsuit away from instal ing childproof locks on hugs), there have been about six thousand inflatable structure-related emergency room visits in the United States every year since 2005. You might expect injuries related to fall ing out and landing on the pavement, but the most
form of bouncy-castle mayhem occurs when, due to improper tethering or strong winds, the structures flip and launch people thro ugh the air like baloon-sculpture trebuchets.

An eight-year-old girl was thrown fifty meters through the air when her bouncy castle was caught by a powerful gust. In Hawaii, a girl was trapped inside a castle that got tossed into the air and flew fifty yards offshore
into the ocean!
An inflatable maze in England took flight across a field, with thirty people still stuck inside, sending two women fall ing out to their deaths before final y crashing back into the ground.

Perhaps the most horrible aspect of these accidents isn’t the number of lives lost but the tragically inappropriate mind-set of the victims right before impact. These inflatable structures are often completely enclosed, and the reason people enjoy them is the feeling of weightlessness. The poor victims often have no warning that their play structure has escaped from its tethers and is now hurtling with murderous intent toward the nearest wood chipper—they probably just think they’re bouncing
really well
. Their last words are most likely, “Wheeeeee!”


a movie comes along and takes on special meaning because it’s based on a true story, and so we watch with rapt attention knowing that real people lived through all the awesomeness on screen. But if you’re going to go with the “based on a true story” tag, all we ask is that you make the stories sort of, you know, true. You can do that—right, Hol ywood?

Not if these movies are any indication.


The Hollywood version

John Forbes Nash was really smart. When he wasn’t working on the concept of governing dynamics, he was having hal ucinations of Paul Bettany, seeing hidden messages in newspapers, and getting recruited by Ed Harris to break codes for the government, all while running from Russian spies. Which is even weirder when you find out all that shit happened in his head. Yep, turns out he was also real y, really crazy.

The hallucinations became more frequent and, as hallucinations are prone to do, they drove him batshit insane. Fortunately, his loving wife stood by him, and Nash committed to a medication regimen, and learned to ignore his hal ucinations just in time to win the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics.

In reality . . .

There’s no denying that Nash was both bril iant and afflicted with a bad case of the crazies, but filmmaker Ron Howard was widely criticized for making up the whole “seeing people who weren’t really there” thing. Nash did hear voices, but that’s it—his hallucinations were entirely auditory.

The love story? Nash and his wife divorced in 1963, just six years after being married. They were remarried in 2001, but it’s fair to say that being married to a paranoid schizophrenic isn’t the smooth ride we see in the film.

Neither is being a schizophrenic. At the end of the film, Nash learns to ignore his imaginary friends and deliver a Nobel Prize acceptance speech dedicated to his wife. This suggests that you can reason your way out of schizophrenia, a strategy that’s about as medical y advisable as trying to think your way out of a heart attack. Nash would know. He quit taking his medication in 1970 and consequently has continued to be unstable, prone to shockingly unbril iant fits of anti-Semitism.

The only thing remarkable about Nash’s real Nobel Prize acceptance speech was that he wasn’t all owed to give one. Public speaking opportunities are rare outside of Alabama when you’re known for screaming racial slurs at imaginary Jews.


The Hollywood version

Wil Smith stars as Chris Gardner, who only wants to make enough money to provide for his adorable son. In his travels, he solves a Rubik’s Cube in record time, wowing an employee at Dean Witter, and somehow (magic?) becoming a stock broker. With his son at his side, he toils for months, eventual y claiming the one and only opening at Dean Witter, crying tears of joy and warming our hearts with jigginess.

BOOK: You Might Be a Zombie . . .
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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