Lately I have become a big fan of the TV show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” on Animal Planet HD, a very atypical sort of show for me to watch. (Why a show about people is on Animal Planet is a mystery to me, but I won’t question that today.) The show is about the most frightening thing I can watch and then comfortably go to bed without issue. If I watch a show about hauntings or murders I’ll never get to sleep. But on this show, you know going in that the people live through these events, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the show. Another reason I like it is because I’m a big fan of dramatic reenactments and I would really like to be one of these D-list actors who probably also land roles showing how difficult the “old way” of doing things are on infomercials for ingenious new products.
But the most important aspect is that I feel like I’m really taking something educational and potentially life-saving from each episode. These episodes rarely stray from this designated path:
1. Go somewhere you’re not supposed to go.
2. Don’t tell anyone where you’re going.
3a. Wander aimlessly.
3b. If traveling with another person or group, split up.
4. Run out of water.
5. Have hopes dashed after near rescue.
6. Give up all hope.
7. Get rescued.
In just about every episode I’ve seen, the people are in the same circumstance: they have left home and ventured into a challenging, unfamiliar environment without telling anyone where they’re going, they have no cell phone, no one will even know they’re missing, etc. Oftentimes these people are trying to prove to themselves that they can accomplish a monumental goal alone, and some of them have medical conditions that would be a setback to such a mission. So lesson #1 is simply to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Just about everyone who has appeared on this show neglected to do this.
Also, just about everyone who has gone missing has moved around. If there’s anything I’ve learned about being lost in the desert or wilderness, it is not to wander around. If you don’t know where you’re going, apparently the worst thing you can do is continue to walk because that makes it more difficult for rescuers to find you.
No one on this show ever has a plentiful water supply. They say on each and every episode that the human body can only go 48 hours without water, but these people routinely survive going days without water. Inevitably, they always end up drinking their own urine. I have since learned that urine is only a good thing to drink once or twice; the more times it goes through your body, the more concentrated it becomes and soon it is poisonous, doing more harm than good.
The survivors also seem to ditch their supplies right off the bat. One woman hiking through the desert thought she could make better time if she abandoned her tent, sleeping bag, food, water, and everything else she brought along. I have learned that it’s important to hang on to these things no matter how heavy they become.
I have learned to never get my hopes up when I see the first sign of rescue. Everyone thinks they’re saved when they see a helicopter, rescue boat, or another person. But these fearless rescuers never notice the people on their first rescue attempt, and they’re always so close. “The rescue boat was so close that I had to swim out of the way to avoid being hit, but they just kept on going!”
The last thing I’ve learned is that help always arrives just as the final glimmer of hope has slipped away. People are routinely rescued just as they’ve decided to accept death and give up. “Well, I’m freezing, delusional, dehydrated, and exhausted. I think I’ll lay down here to die. Oh wait, a helicopter finally sees me!”
Unfortunately for me, Lauren really hates this show because of the morbid theme, but I try to remind her that they have happy endings. Sometimes people have amputations or major surgeries, or one or two people in a group die, but 90% of all people featured live to tell about it.
Hopefully I never get put in a position where my wits are put to the test in the harsh wild, but if so, maybe I’ll retain something I’ve learned from “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.”