Worse than wrestling alligators

My daughter recently gave me a book about survival skills that I’ll need if I’m ever lost in the Okefenokee Swamp surrounded by alligators and venomous snakes with nothing more than a can of spray deodorant to protect myself.

I was never an Eagle Scout, so I’m clueless when it comes to survival tactics, whether it’s in the wilderness, midtown Manhattan or the unemployment line. In my younger years, I spent too much time in detention hall to earn Scouting merit badges or help little old ladies cross the street, which is a courtesy that should be revived now that the Baby Boomers are aging.

This book is full of useful information about how to get drinking water in the desert by stretching a piece of plastic over a hole in the sand, and how to survive blizzards, avalanches, flash floods, hurricanes, brush fires, grizzly attacks, mugger attacks and various other attacks, including hostile divorce lawyers.

It also has chapters on homeowner survival and tells how to fix clogged toilets and sinks and leaky faucets. Whenever I try to do those things, I make the problem worse and have to call a plumber or an entire construction company to get the job done right at a very high price — so high I could finance a new bathroom.

One of my wife’s regrets — and there are many — is that I’m not what is commonly referred to as a “handyman,” so when problems arise around the house, I ignore them until they become life-threatening.

As I leafed through the book, I realized I lack many basic skills that I should have acquired during my years as apprentice obedient husband, such as how to put up shelves, how to hang curtains, how to hang wallpaper and how to hang pictures. All that hanging stuff makes me woozy.

(There are also chapters on surviving fatherhood with lessons in diaper changing and baby feeding, which are skills I mastered long ago.)

In my pursuit of self-improvement, I placed the book on the nightstand for easy reference, right beside Dostoevsky and Plato, who were deep thinkers but probably never had to climb onto a second-story roof with a pail of black tar to repair a leak and definitely were never chased by crocodiles.

As I perused the list of essential life skills, I realized there are a few more we’ll need to survive the 21st century — and I’m not talking about how to repair your iPad. Consider these:

• How to survive a foreclosure

• How to survive losing your job

• How to survive the collapse of your 401(k)

• How to find a job with medical benefits when you’re over 50

• How to protect your children from Kim Kardashian

• How to be compassionate in an era of entitlement

• How to be hopeful in an age of despair

• How to tell the truth when many people, from politicians to preachers, lie

• How to give in an age when greed is considered good

They certainly seem more important than knowing how to wrestle alligators.


Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]

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