Survival tricks | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

As a child who had perhaps watched too many movies, I came up with what I thought a particularly clever scheme for survival: In case caught in crossfire, quickly play dead. And when I got older, dad offered yet preemptive advice: “Never volunteer, kiddo.”


Now 73, I have not only survived, but remained complete, not one original body part missing. Dad himself didn’t go until he was 91, pretty much intact himself except for his appendix.


Possibly my survival instincts are nothing but variations of copout. At any rate, they have never been put to any serious tests, and won’t likely be if it’s true that God gives only tests that are equal to us: Why use a cannon when a cockroach on a white wall can do the job?


Lest anyone take me for an absolute coward, it’s really not dying I fear—it’s pain. One of these days, for instance, I’d just have to summon the nerve to ask my dentist for anesthesia—for mere cleaning. And if she thinks I’m not serious, I may just fake fainting—playing momentarily dead—in the middle of the process.


Incredulous remarks


I consider fainting such a potent weapon for attracting sympathy and attention, I may have been using it subconsciously. I did it a long time ago, in the glass-walled, acrophobic elevator of a towering hotel—I think the Fairmont, in San Francisco, California. I was out before I could finish my Act of Contrition. When I came to, I don’t know who was more relieved, me or my hosts. I was lying on a long, soft sofa of the elegant lobby. If it was not rum Coke at dinner or the after-dinner Baileys cream and coffee that had aggravated my condition, if not altogether caused it, then I had lost control of my fainting trick. I never touched the stuff again.


I had all but forgotten the episode when, only a few years ago, at Las Ramblas’ famous market, in Barcelona, I was stricken again. Not completely out, I managed to protest being laid on the market floor. And since none of my companions—my two dear cousins, Ninit and Sylvia, and our dearest pal, Bea—would sacrifice their coats to make a bed for me, I punished them: I required Ninit and Bea to sandwich me between them to keep me from falling while Sylvia called the medics.


I was embarrassed that my blood pressure and sugar counts returned to normal so soon, and even more so when I caught some of the incredulous remarks, amid mocking laughter, of onlookers, who were not for one moment buying Sylvia’s explanation: “solamente una copita de sangria” at lunch—a mere little glass of sangria did it. One little glass? They recognized a boracha when they saw one: I was as red as beet, reeked like an overripe chico, the fruit, and limp as a rag. If this was faking, then I had carried the art beyond perfection. Anyway, I was again out of it as if nothing happened.


Numb and cold


The next instance, following after only two years, was not alcohol-related at all. There were the four of us again, on a tour of Malacañang this time. The tour was preceded by a delicious lunch. I may have binged on dessert.


We entered the hall where memorabilia of past presidents were on display. Stage by stage my fingers and knees began to feel numb and cold. I stopped in front of President Quirino, where I managed to find a bench to sort of melt on. Ninit found me there, and soon enough I was carried in a chair to the presidential clinic. Meanwhile, my husband was called, and an ambulance was prepared to bring me to Medical City. Ninit stayed beside me until Vergel arrived.


In the hospital I underwent tests, which showed things that inspired the doctors to order further tests. But since I was feeling better I decided to go home, decidedly poorer, but feeling lucky enough to have shown nothing to make me even poorer in the more important terms like health and morale.


But good luck has been rather scarce this year, and the year isn’t over yet. Last week I lost a 96 year-old uncle, the courier of dad’s love letters to mom. Only yesterday I learned that another friend and contemporary passed away, in Los Angeles, California. She’s the latest of many for the year and the count is far from final—Supertyphoon “Yolanda’s” destruction alone is adding to it every day.


The year 2013 is proving itself a voracious reaper of souls, indeed, one for which no tricks, no copouts, and little luck, if at all, seem a match. People like me, to whom it’s dangerous enough just getting old every day, need little reminding of their vulnerabilities.


The times certainly call for extra precaution. Unless someone has a better idea, let’s keep our heads down in prayer for one another and, needless to say, for our dead, until a more promising dawn appears—and dying and death can yet again, if it’s any consolation, be cheated.