Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 11

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Chapter 11

The Hazards of Solitude


Some people are inclined to give up and wait for death to take them when they find themselves trapped in disastrous situations on their own. This doesn’t always work. What sometimes happens is that you abandon the struggle to survive, and the next thing you know, some burly do-gooder in a checked shirt has you over his shoulder and your dress is up around your neck, there are branches and leaves in your hair, your makeup is all over your face and half a dozen international television news cameras are zoomed in as far as they can go. Later, watching the slow motion replays on Real TV, you are reminded that you lost your underwear in the river.

For some people, being on their own is about the worst thing that can happen to them. They suffer from autophobia, a persistent and irrational fear that can provoke intense panic attacks. They are not much fun to be around. This is probably why they spend so much time on their own.

I once knew a woman who kept a small purple notebook beside her bed. Whenever she was alone, she would end up calling someone to come over and spend the night with her. Come to think of it, she might have tended more towards nymphomania than autophobia.

The fear of being alone can be avoided by getting a girlfriend or boyfriend, moving back in with your parents or joining a group like Jehovah’s Witnesses who will never leave you alone no matter how much you beg or threaten them.

Getting To Know Yourself

Autophobia can also mean a fear of oneself. If this is what you suffer from, sit in front of the mirror for one hour each day (mornings are best) and tell yourself that you really aren’t as scary as you think you are. Run through your good points. Most people have at least one.

When you have built up a little confidence, take yourself to a restaurant or a movie. Have a bit of fun. Tell yourself a few jokes. At this stage, it is best to stay in crowded areas. Even though you have started to trust yourself, you might still not be comfortable going off with yourself into a remote area where nobody can hear you scream. Go for long walks along the beach (make sure there are people around) and talk to yourself. Get to know yourself a little better. You will know when the time is right to go away with yourself for a weekend.

A cottage in the mountains is a nice romantic choice. If you make it through the first day without doing anything to frighten yourself, prepare a tasty meal and pour yourself some wine. Have a few glasses to loosen up. You may even want to dim the lights and slip into something a little more revealing. When it comes time for bed, let events unfold naturally. Don’t rush things. Tell yourself that you don’t need to do anything that you’re not comfortable with. Then, if you feel like playing with yourself, go right ahead and do it. This is quite normal for people who are in a loving relationship with themselves.

In the morning, get up and make yourself breakfast in bed. After that, go into the bathroom and look into the mirror. Tell yourself that you still respect yourself and, more importantly, that you love yourself. There you go. You’re cured.


Autophobics also frequently suffer from agoraphobia. This is a fear of open or public spaces. If you are planning a trip to Namibia, make sure you do not take an agoraphobic along. Unless, of course, you want to be standing in the middle of Etosha pan or on top of one of the highest dunes in the world and have them suddenly clutch their head, collapse into a quivering heap and start screaming, “No! No! Holy mother of Jesus! Make it stop!” That can be quite a lot of fun, too, though.

Apart from the voices, other symptoms of agoraphobia include dizziness and nausea. As a result, agoraphobia is often confused with hangovers. Fortunately, Bloody Marys are just as effective when it comes to treating agoraphobia.

If an open space suddenly begins terrifying you, go inside. And if you need to be told that, you were probably one of those dog-like children who were too stupid to come in out of the rain.

To be fair, though, you might be standing in a place where inside is a long way off. This is why it is always a good idea to carry a brown paper bag with you. In the event of being unable to go indoors, place the bag over your head and do not move until the panic attack passes. People may laugh at you. Especially if you are at open-air rock concert. They may even try to set you on fire. Others will take you by the hand and offer to lead you somewhere. Nothing they do to you could make you feel more humiliated, so you may as well go with them. If they offer you drugs, take them. Drugs often cure agoraphobia.


Safety & Security

Police are forever warning people not to go into certain areas on their own. But, for security reasons, they will not divulge the whereabouts of those areas. It is safe to assume they mean any area that lies beyond your front door or anywhere outside your office.

Police also advise that, when visiting remote or built-up areas, people travel in groups of ten or more. However, statistics show that among any given ten people, one will be a rapist, two will be HIV positive, one will have spent time in jail and three will have had a homosexual experience. You stand a better chance of surviving on your own.

Gritting Your Teeth

While giving up and accepting the inevitable comes naturally to South Africans, particularly cricketers and rugby players, there is something to be said for looking death sternly in the eye and saying, “Look here, Death. I am not ready to go yet, so you can just fuck off.”

It is at times like these that you gnaw your arm off to escape from beneath the tree that fell on you after it was struck by lightning while you were running naked through a haunted forest in the middle of a raging storm trying to escape from a madman carrying a chainsaw who was watching you having sex with two first-year college students in a creaky old wooden cabin down by the bottomless lake at midnight.

If you are with a friend and it is their arm you have to gnaw off, it is best that you are both very drunk or on extremely powerful drugs that aren’t hallucinogenic. Once your friend’s arm has been severed, do not start on the other limbs, no matter how tempting it may be. You should consider yourself fortunate it is just his arm that you have to get through. Imagine if a branch was pinning him down by his penis. That would be no fun at all. Unless, of course, you are that way inclined. In which case go right ahead and munch away.

Buried Alive

People are often at their loneliest when buried alive. This happens fairly often to the men who work underground in South Africa’s gold mines. If you are a member of mine management, there are certain things that have to be done quickly to prevent the disaster from escalating. First, call a press conference and vehemently deny allegations that inadequate safety measures were in place, even if these allegations have not yet been made. Second, get rescue teams down the shaft as soon as the journalists have filed their stories absolving management of any blame. You want to get those miners out as quickly as possible. The longer they are trapped, the higher their overtime claims will be.

If you are white, it is unlikely that you will be buried alive in a gold mine. It is far more likely that you will be buried alive when your wife spikes your dinner with a fast-acting poison that precipitates unconsciousness and masks your vital signs (similar to the stuff Juliet took), leading the doctor to believe that you are, in fact, dead. The effects will wear off an hour or two after the last mourner has drifted away from your graveside. Should you wake up to find yourself in pitch darkness squeezed into a pine box two metres beneath the ground, do not panic. Next to hate, panic causes more deaths each year than any other emotion.

Do not waste oxygen by working yourself up over what a duplicitous murdering bitch you married. Focus your attention on finding a weak link in your coffin. You are lying in one of the products of the fastest growing industry in the country and your wife may well have picked out a “Friday coffin”. This means the workers did a rush job in their haste to finish up and make an early start to the weekend’s raping and pillaging. As a result, the hinges might not have been screwed in properly.

Using your front teeth, scrape away at the area around the hinge above your head. Gnaw like a beaver. If you are buck-toothed, this will be the first time in your life that you have good reason not to curse your mother for being too preoccupied with her tennis and bridge to notice that your mouth was beginning to resemble that of a Shetland pony.

Once you have chewed your way through the lid, use your fingernails to widen the hole. As the hole gets bigger, soil will begin falling on to your face. Try to avoid swallowing it. Eventually, after two or three days, the hole should be big enough for you to pull more and more soil down. Push the soil to the far end of your coffin and trample it down with your feet. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours, or maybe a day or two, to dig your way out. Pull yourself out of the grave and shake the earth from your clothes. Apologise to anyone you might have scared to death and go home.

Your wife will be in bed with another man. Or maybe another woman. If it is another woman, you may want to pretend to be a ghost. Tell your wife that only by joining in will your soul be able to rest.

Good Things Will Come To You

People find themselves alone for different reasons. Sometimes they outlive their friends and family. Or they are too shy to get to know anyone. Or they might be just plain old ugly. Or fat. Nobody really likes to be around fat, ugly people. I know I don’t. If you are fat and ugly, you might want to consider losing weight and having cosmetic surgery. It is very selfish to inflict yourself on the rest of us. Make an effort, for God’s sake.

People who find themselves alone are often driven to drink or drugs. This is a senseless waste of time and energy. Why drive when there are delivery services available? A lot of liquor stores will bring a case of vodka right to your front door. And the Nigerians are increasingly aware of the good public relations value of providing you with a range of narcotics in the privacy of your own home.

Alcohol and drugs make perfectly good substitutes for human company. You can invite the barbiturate family over for a bit of quiet introspection. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, you might want to let your hair down with a gram or two of amphetamine sulphate. If you’re in the mood for romance, you can’t go wrong with Ecstasy (and if your serotonin levels are already high, you can expect a wild evening of the safest sex there is). If you feel like a few good laughs, marijuana is always hard to beat. And if it’s conversation you are after, a cap or two of lysergic acid diethylamide will have you chatting to your dog or even your furniture in no time at all.


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