Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 15

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Chapter 15

Surviving Acts of The Devil

When Hansie Cronje dropped the bombshell that the Devil was responsible for the cricket match-fixing scandal, we were outraged. We demanded to know how God could have allowed such a thing. Was he sleeping on the job? On strike? We never voiced our demands out loud, of course. Apparently he can hear everything, even if he has taken a few days off. And you really don’t want to risk getting on his bad side.

We always have a fighting chance of surviving an act of God because he thoughtfully created Scandinavian and Dutch aid workers to come along and dig us out of the rubble or pluck us from the eye of the storm. But he has always appeared a bit on the reluctant side to save us from ourselves. And this is, after all, the one area in which we could all do with a little help.

The Devil, that capricious bitch from hell, is never averse to claiming responsibility for self-inflicted disasters. And since all the really good things in life are bad for us, she doesn’t really have to do much but sit back and laugh as we self-destruct.

Airports & Airplanes 

With al-Qaeda constantly introducing ever stricter security measures at airports around the world, it is becoming harder and harder to pluck up the courage to travel. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I would far rather get blown up in mid-air than be subjected to a body cavity search by a right-wing Cuban refugee at Miami airport.

In the days before the skies, trains and roads were full of bearded madmen shouting, “God is great”, and then rudely detonating, people suffered from plain old aviophobia. Now, the fear of flying has been overtaken by a fear of airports. It is so new that it has yet to be officially designated a phobia. In fact, since nobody has done it yet, let me be the first. From this moment on, let the medical records reflect that a fear of airports shall be known as flughäfenphobia. Germans should be known for more than football, beer and that nasty business with the Jews.

Airports have become terrifying places. From the moment you walk through those sliding doors, you never know when a man in a white uniform is going to come up and request that you accompany him to a private zone so that he can look up your bum. And after you do go with him, you find out later that he doesn’t even work for airport security. It turns out that he was just someone who walked in off the street with a pair of rubber gloves and a torch.

Pre-Flight Precautions

If you have an 8pm flight, it is best that you arrive at the airport well in advance. I would suggest the day before, say around 10am. That way, airport security will be able to monitor your movements during the twenty hours leading up to check-in. Make a regular point of sitting in full view of security cameras in bars and restaurants while reading the Upanishads, drinking gallons of hard liquor and eating mountains of deep-fried pork.

If you are travelling from Britain to the United States, you will be required to hand over any toothpaste, sunscreen, lip gloss or clitoral stimulating gel that is in your possession. Baby food is allowed, but you will be asked to taste it. Before you leave home, lace your baby food with vodka. It makes it a lot more palatable. If you don’t actually have a baby and they ask you to produce it, tell them that technically the baby does not yet exist but that your partner is ovulating and you intend joining the Mile High Club shortly after take-off.

If you are a true South African, however, you will be travelling with a one-year-old child, two-month-old twins and a pregnant wife. A foot soldier in George Bush’s war against terror will inform you that you are required by law to taste any baby milk before being allowed to board. Nod your head wisely, then flip your wife’s top up and start suckling on her breast. That should get a big laugh out of everyone and go a long way towards easing the tension. Unless, of course, your wife isn’t in on it.

In-Flight Entertainment

Your fellow passengers will be expecting to die at any moment, so it is up to you to lighten the mood. My research indicates that there is no law against carrying a fake beard and a keffiyeh in your hand luggage. Wait until you are at cruising altitude, then go to the toilet and don your props. Stay in there until people start banging on the door, then fling the door open and run down the aisle towards your seat shouting gibberish and waving your arms about. When you reach your seat, quickly sit down and remove your disguise. Pretend to be as terrified as the other passengers. You may even want to shout, “Where did he go? What does he want?” Once people catch the joke, they will want to come over and thank you for giving them a laugh. Some passengers will be so grateful that you might have to ask the flight attendant to put them in restraints.

Surviving The Bomb

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or the plane loses its tail. If something does detonate in the hold or the passenger three rows back bursts into flames, there is little point in panicking. Try to get people singing. Everyone knows the words to Kumbaya My Lord. But why not break with tradition and adapt the lyrics? Go with, “Someone’s crashing Lord, kumbaya … Someone’s screaming Lord, Kumbaya.” You probably won’t have time for more than two or three verses, but at least people can’t say afterwards that you didn’t try. Bear in mind that nobody will know about your efforts unless you can get to the cockpit and sing into the black box.

Shark Attack

Some people say that shark attacks are acts of God, but I am far from convinced. Sharks are mean-spirited, ill-tempered brutes that don’t want to share the ocean with anyone who doesn’t look like them. What kind of god would be party to such a thing?

More people die every year in shark attacks than they do watching the Saturday matinee. But whenever another innocent person is torn to shreds by a Great White marking its territory along the False Bay coast, the pro-shark fascists routinely ignore this alarming statistic and instead say meaningless things like, “Yes. but more people are killed each year in car accidents … does this mean we should ban cars?” What a stupid thing to say. Of course we should ban cars. Anything that poses a danger to humans should be eradicated.

It is high time that Great White sharks come to terms with the fact that we are more advanced than they are and therefore deserving of considerably more respect than they presently accord us.

It’s Not Evolution, Baby

Research has shown that most of us were already living in the water when Charles Darwin created Man. The bottom feeders heard there might be a free lunch involved so they waded out and went on to become journalists. The pelagics were skeptical at first, but eventually a natural leader emerged among them. Although their silly little fish lips were

unable to speak his name, he became known as Pelagius. Quick to recognise the benefits of leadership, Pelagius started a movement called Pelagianism that rejected the concept of original sin. It was a great idea ahead of its time. Original sin was committed much later when Eve got too big for her fig leaf and went up against Adam in a municipal by-election to gain control of the Garden of Eden. Pelagius ended up being stoned for his trouble and his band of heretics drifted off to become art critics and Aids dissidents.

Most of the sharks heeded Darwin’s call and went on to become auto electricians and divorce lawyers. But not the Great White. Oh, no. They chose to stay put while the rest of us evolved into higher life forms. And all this time, they never lost their terrible rictus grins. That’s because they knew we would be back. With boogie boards. With surfboards. With legs. How dare they? How dare they think they can eat us with impunity? Oh, how they would laugh if they knew there was an entire army of sympathisers wearing woolly jumpers and furrowed brows preventing us from going out there and slaughtering them en masse.

When a bull elephant turns rogue and skewers a tourist on his tusk because he can no longer stand the sound of another camera going off, it is only a matter of minutes before the bush is swarming with rangers armed with crackling radios and heavy caliber weapons.

So how come it’s okay, then, for packs of shortsighted killing machines to patrol up and down Muizenberg beach ripping and tearing at anything that moves? Studies show there are very few tourists who choose to visit a country because its beaches are awash in severed limbs. Not even the Koreans would sign up. Well, maybe the North Koreans, but certainly not the more refined folk from the South.

These berserk animals have been around for millions of years (the sharks, not the Koreans), so how is it that they have still not learned to tell the difference between a fat black seal and a teenage boy lying on a white nine-foot fiberglass surfboard? While I understand that it is not easy to single out any particular shark for punishment, the army taught me that it is quite acceptable to hate things that are different, especially if they all look the same. It seems to work for the sharks.

Blowing Off Steam

I came across a newspaper picture of a teary-eyed shark-hugger kneeling before a baby ragged tooth that had been caught in False Bay and left to die on the beach. My first thought was, “Hmm, she’s cute.” My next thought was that if I were in charge of the beach, which I should have been, I would sell tickets for R5 a shot to anyone who wanted to come up and give a beached shark a damn good biting. Sinking your teeth into its dorsal fin might not be all that sporting since the shark is already dead. But that is not important. The act itself is cathartic. And if there is anything that South Africans need right now apart from cheaper beer and a billion cops on the streets, it is catharsis.

Be Prepared

None of the above will help you in the slightest if you find yourself being dragged down by a prehistoric brute possessed of jaws so powerful that with a single bite they can slice a car in two. The only thing that would stop this beast in its tracks is if you fired a harpoon fitted with a miniature nuclear device deep into the soft part of its belly. But apparently you are not allowed to do that. The shark is a protected species and South Africa is a signatory to the Anti-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. Double whammy.

So you need to come up with something that will deter the son-of-a-fish without hurting its feelings. Fortunately, sharks are sensitive to electrical current. Maybe they’re not so tough, after all.

Before you get in the water, make sure your waterproofed cattle prod is strapped to your leg. You will, incidentally, need to take your prodder to a back street electrician to crank up the voltage. A standard prodder simply makes cows moo louder and walk a bit faster towards the guy waiting to fire a bolt into their heads, so it wouldn’t have much effect on a shark.

What To Do

When you are attacked (by a shark, not a cow), jam the prodder into its gills. Sharks are very precious about their gills. However, he may well be one of those sharks who don’t mind people interfering with his gills. For all you know, he might even enjoy a bit of rough stuff in the gill area.

Should this be the case, the next best thing would be to reach into his mouth and grab his tongue. Sharks hate that. And if that doesn’t work, stab him in the eye with an Okapi knife. If you do not have one on you, swim to the nearest fishing boat and borrow one. If there are no boats around, now would be a good time to have a word with Saint Adjutor, the patron saint of swimming. There is no patron saint of shark attacks.

St. Adjutor wasn’t always a saint. His friends knew him as Lord of Vernon-sur-Seine, a handsome Norman knight who slaughtered unwashed heathens by the dozen during the First Crusade in 1095. So what did a knight on a quest to rescue the Holy Sepulchre know about the breaststroke, you may ask? Be patient and I will tell you.

Things turned pear-shaped during the Crusade and our hero was captured by Muslims who tried to force him to abandon his faith. He was having none of that malarkey so he escaped and swam and swam and swam until he reached freedom, wherever that was. Somewhere Muslim-free, I should imagine. Then he returned to France and ended up as a hermit. Don’t we all, sooner or later.

Those are some interesting facts for you to mull over while fending off the shark and waiting for Saint Adjutor to work his magic. He might be busy, of course. Boats carrying African refugees are forever overturning en route to Europe. Then again, most of them are from predominantly Muslim countries, so you’re in with a fighting chance.

Smoking

If smoking had never been invented, a lot more people would go to the gym or take up jogging. In this respect, smoking is an act of God. It is one of his few blessings that don’t have a dark side when you flip them over.

Clean-living fundamentalists consider smoking to be a practice straight out of the Book of Mephistopheles. And smokers consider salads and Stairmasters to be equally satanic. The fact is that smoking in moderation, like drinking or eating fatty foods, is not going to kill you. A recent study in Bangladesh found that two or three cigarettes a day is in fact healthy for you. It shakes up that bronchial tree and produces mucus that can then be coughed up and spat out into the gutter in a manly fashion. Girls should spit into a handkerchief. Or into their handbags if they don’t have a hanky. Once you have stopped spitting and hawking, here are some hard facts to consider.

Bangladesh

The evidence that smoking is not the big bad serial killer everyone says it is lies in Bangladesh’s rapidly growing population of 130 million people (131 million by the time I finish writing this chapter). The research team in Dhaka found that a lot of people moved to Bangladesh specifically for the cheap cigarettes. Bangladesh is almost completely surrounded by India, a country of 1.1 billion people, four of whom don’t smoke.

Pakistan

Neighbouring Pakistan, with 166 million people, actively encourages smokers to emigrate there. In fact, being a non-smoker counts heavily against you when applying for a visa to even visit Pakistan.

In all three countries people start smoking from an early age, some of them as young as nine months. The first thing most babies born in that region learn to grasp is a crudely rolled cigarette, although smoking before their second birthday is generally frowned upon. Not for health reasons, but because it would be too dangerous for them to crawl to the corner shop for a fresh pack every time they ran out.

Bhutan

Bhutan banned tobacco sales in 1994. Around about the same time, the government banned ethnic Nepalese and chased them back across the border. The Bhutanese are denied the right to change their government. There are restrictions on speech and the media. Workers’ rights are limited. Women are discriminated against. But forget all that. The important thing is that you can’t buy cigarettes in Bhutan.

Kenya

In May 2006, Kenya banned smoking in public places. I have been to Nairobi. The city looks like George W Bush dropped a giant carbon monoxide bomb on it. Toxic clouds of blue smoke billow from every car, bus and taxi. Walking 100m down the road is the same as smoking 40 cigarettes. Banning cars would have been a healthier move.

Norway

The Norwegian government has outlawed smoking at work as well as in bars and restaurants. They are nothing if not progressive, forward thinking people, the Norwegians. Here’s another example of what an enlightened, sophisticated nation they are. In mid-2006, 80 tourists were on a whale-watching excursion in northern Norway. While the group admired the whale basking nearby, a boat came out of nowhere and fired a harpoon fitted with an explosive charge into the animal’s exposed back. The crew then dragged the bleeding corpse out of the water and on to the deck. A tourist from the Netherlands was quoted as saying: “This really wasn’t what we came to see.” Let no one say the Dutch are not a volatile and fiery-tempered people. The captain of the tourist boat said he was “surprised”. Not half as surprised as the whale, I’ll bet. Well, at least Oslo has clamped down on smoking.

South Africa

In South Africa, about 52% of men smoke. The figure for women is around 17%. This goes to show what big fat liars women are.

Smoking costs the South African economy millions each year in lost productivity due to premature death and people standing around outside their buildings when they should be working. However, each year the finance minister compensates by slapping higher and higher taxes on tobacco products. The more coffins, the bigger the coffers.

It is estimated that there are around 10 million passive smokers in South Africa. This is a scathing indictment of our society. It is precisely this apathy and indifference that will spell our downfall. How on earth are we going to build new soccer stadiums if we are so bloody lazy that we have to rely on other people to do our smoking for us? On top of this, more and more people are giving up every year. Nice. Now we look like a nation of lazy surrender monkeys. Come on, people. Let’s get proactive. It’s never too late to start smoking.

Tips For Quitters

You may have your reasons for wanting to give up smoking. Perhaps it has simply become too much effort to get down on your hands and knees late at night and root around under the furniture and beneath the fridge in the hope of finding one that managed to get away. Perhaps you no longer have the time to take a little nap to recover from the exertion of getting out of bed in the morning. Or you have had enough of the neighbours telling you to stop your dog from barking incessantly when you don’t even have a dog.

One of the best ways of quitting smoking is to ask your doctor to give you a tracheotomy. There is something about putting your cigarette to a hole in your throat and making that awful wet suckbubbling sound that even I find off-putting.

Another way to stop smoking is to get your hands on the biggest nicotine patch available. Now stick it over your mouth and leave it there. Unless you plan on smoking through your nose, you should be able to kick the habit in three or four weeks. This is also a great way to lose weight.

If that doesn’t work, get your doctor to give you a prescription for the antidepressant Zyban. The medication increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain leading to an enhanced feeling of pleasure. The experts say this drug helps to diminish the craving for nicotine, but I would have thought that after such a rush the first thing you would want is a cigarette. After all, people don’t smoke straight after sex because they’re feeling unhappy or stressed. Well, I suppose some do. It depends on who you are married to.

Old Age

God intended for all of us to live forever until that business with Adam and the apple. Adam himself was well into his 900s when he lost control. If he had just walked away from that stupid apple, we could all look forward to thousands more birthdays. Do you have any idea how many presents that translates into? The moment God went off in a sulk, the Devil stepped in to claim old age as her own.

Death among the aged is often precipitated by a fall. Everyone who has an elderly parent dreads to get that call: “He had a nasty fall, you know.” Unless, of course, it is a parent who sexually abused you as a child. Then you might say, “Oh, no. How awful. Did he fall out of an aircraft?”

Generally, though, once the old codgers start falling over their feet, slipping in the shower and tripping over non-existent cats, it’s all over bar the last rites. The cracked hip, the broken arm, the concussion – they are all signs that Comrade Grim is waiting in the wings.

The solution is obvious. If you are old, you must rubberise your home as soon as possible. Do not delay. You need to coat everything in five centimetres of Indian rubber. Then you need to replace your clothes with thick latex bodysuits. Industrial strength wetsuits, in other words. Not only will you be able to swim in the middle of winter, something that will add weeks to your life, but you will also bounce every time you fall. No more unsightly bruises, no more speculation that you are on the way out.

If rubber is not your thing, move in with one of your children and tell them it is now their responsibility to look after you. They made your life a misery for the first 18 years of their lives – now the time has come to ruin their lives for the last 18 years of yours.

The choice is easy if you had only one child. But it becomes far more interesting when you have a whole bunch of grown-up ingrates who go to great lengths to stop you from finding out that an internecine war has broken out in the sibling ranks because nobody wants to be the one saddled with a senile old goat, even if she is your mother. Especially if she is your mother.

Select the child who gave you the most amount of grief growing up. The one who started smoking at nine and drinking at twelve. The one who ignored curfews and stayed out all night. The one who had a string of sexual partners by Grade 10. The one who stole money from you and sold your stuff when you were out. The one who stole your car and crashed it after dropping a joint into their lap. The one who got bust for drunk driving. Move in with that child. Insist on having the en suite bedroom. She and her husband can have the study. You need space because claustrophobia is one of the inevitable consequences of aging.

Once you are settled in, start showing signs of Alzheimer’s. When your son-in-law asks why you never mentioned it earlier, insist that you informed everyone the week before you moved in. Tell him that there is something wrong with his memory and that he should go for a brain scan. If he persists, hit him with your stick. You are an old woman and can get away with aggravated assault, perjury, shoplifting, indecent exposure and even manslaughter sometimes. All of this makes surviving old age a lot more fun.

Taxis

If the Middle East were a car, it would be a taxi in South Africa. Both are hot, in a state of disrepair and prone to spontaneous outbreaks of violence.

A lot of white folk in these parts refer to minibus taxis as “black taxis”, and yet almost all of them are white. In London, people talk about “black cabs” and, oddly enough, these taxis are black. Funny, that.

Unless colour blindness is widespread among the Caucasian population, I have to assume that these whiteys are referring to the skin colour of the occupants and not to the colour of the taxi.

This makes no sense because I have seen white people riding in these minibuses along with black people. However, it cannot be discounted that the black passengers are gang members who have hijacked privately owned minibuses and have not yet got around to killing or releasing the white occupants who were on their way to visit grandma in hospital.

A lot of people of the paler disposition are reluctant to take minibus taxis because they think they will be murdered as payback for decades of brutal white oppression. For reasons I have never quite fathomed, this doesn’t happen nearly as often as one might expect.

The only white people who appear comfortable climbing into a van full of potential killers are those who can’t afford to own a car. If you are a white South African and you haven’t the money to buy a car, then your life must be pretty damn worthless and I am not surprised that you don’t particularly care whether you live or die.

But no-hope losers who screwed up every opportunity that came their way are not the only whites that catch minibus taxis. Students also make use of them. Then again, students are generally stoned on primo Transkei weed or wired on complex chemical compounds and feel either totally invincible or completely apathetic. So they don’t really count.

If, however, you are an ordinary white person whose car is in the garage and you need to get somewhere in a hurry and none of your friends can give you a lift because they are either prosecuting a case in the high court or performing open-heart surgery and your parents are not prepared to cut short their holiday in Greece and fly back to pick you up, then you could well find yourself hailing a minibus taxi.

You do this by stepping out into the road. If a hit-and-run driver has not seriously injured you by the time the first taxi comes along, raise your arm and point your index finger skywards. Make sure it is your index finger. You are permitted to show taxi drivers your middle finger only if you are in another vehicle.

An index finger pointed upwards signifies that you wish to go to town. An index finger pointed towards the ground signifies that you wish to be taken to the township, pushed out at an unlit spot and robbed, stripped, beaten and left to die alongside the N2.

Once inside the taxi, pay the driver and sit very still. Try to get a window seat so that you can jump out if things turn ugly. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t talk to anyone. If another passenger says something to you, apologise right away and start crying. If more white people showed a little remorse, there might not be so much crime. On the other hand, in some African cultures a grown man weeping in public is a sign of weakness and, in accordance with tradition, you will be put to death immediately.

Outwitting, Outdriving, Outlasting

Surviving minibus taxis while travelling in the air-bagged safety of your own vehicle entails learning a range of offensive and defensive driving techniques.

When it comes to defensive driving, your most valuable skill will be your ability to predict what is going to happen at least 30 seconds before it actually does. If you hope to survive, you need to anticipate the taxi driver’s every move and then do the opposite. To accomplish this, you will have to get inside his head. This is a dark and terrible place, but you only need to be there for as long as it takes to get in front of him.
Offensive driving is a lot more demanding than defensive driving. You may even find yourself half out of your car at times, so it is important that you are physically fit. Offensive driving is all about pre-emptive strikes. For example, if you come across a taxi sticking to the speed limit in the slow lane on the freeway (unlikely, I know), drive right up behind him until your bumpers are almost touching. Flash your lights and hoot. When he moves over into the breakdown lane, speed past and move in to the breakdown lane. Now brake sharply. He will try to swerve back into the slow lane. Do it before he does. When he tries to switch to the fast lane, you do the same. Keep slowing down until you are travelling at walking pace. Then slam on your brakes and come to a dead stop. Pretend you are waiting for passengers to get into your car. This is not an easy action to convey since it entails little more than sitting in the driver’s seat drumming on the steering wheel and turning the bass on the stereo all the way up. Keep an eye on your rear-view mirror. At some point, the taxi driver is going to get out of his vehicle and move in a menacing fashion towards yours. Wind up your window and lock all your doors. He will try to get your attention by banging on your window. Since your music is so loud, you are unable to hear him. Close your eyes and bob your head in time to the music. He will either go away or pull out a gun. You have made your point. Drive away. Quickly.

Bluebottles

Apart from the Great White shark and the Congolese man selling beaded flowers, the thing next most likely to ruin your day at the beach is the bluebottle. This little scoundrel is also known as the Portuguese Man o’ War, although we are no longer allowed to call them that because the Portuguese say it portrays them as an excitable people who are always up for a fight. I thought that was the whole point of being Portuguese.

The only thing I remember about bluebottles from Mr Phipps’ biology class was that they are hermaphrodites and that reproduction is carried out by the gonozooids, a type of polyp. By the end of the year, I was convinced that Mr Phipps himself was a type of polyp, such was his questionable fascination with anything remotely connected to the process of reproduction.

Stings

The tentacles of the bluebottle trail through the water with the aim of snaring plankton and small crustaceans. Whenever I go into the sea, they trail through my shorts with the aim of snaring my testicles. Growing up in Durban, I was stung so many times that my friends began calling me Welt Boy. Even when the ocean was devoid of bluebottles I would end up running from the surf, one hand scrabbling inside my bathing trunks, the other clawing at my face.

One of the first times I was stung, a friend said the best way to make the pain go away was to wee on the affected area. Since I had been stung on my back, he volunteered to help out. Our friendship was never the same after that. Later, after leaving school, I heard that he had joined the priesthood. As I grew up, I heard more and more about people weeing on each other without even having been stung by bluebottles. As far as I could tell, they hadn’t even been near the beach. I found it all rather disturbing.

Hangovers

Men in white coats tell us that hangovers are caused by the excessive intake of alcohol. Funny, then, how it was men in white coats saying things like, “Can I get you another?” that led to all the trouble in the first place.

They would have us believe that the first step towards avoiding a hangover lies in limiting the amount you drink. This is like saying the cure for stupidity is to read books that aren’t this one. It is all meaningless gibberish and does little to help the person battling to survive the wrath of a hangover that registers 17 on the open-ended Retchter Scale.

Your size, weight, metabolism, liver health and body chemistry all play a minor role in how much you can drink. The main factor that dictates consumption levels is your emotional state. If you are happy and in a good mood, you may find nine beers, three tequila shooters and a double Irish coffee to be an elegant sufficiency. However, if you are feeling downhearted, you could quite easily consume 15 beers, 10 shots, five double vodkas and fuck the Irish.

It is a fact that depressed people drink more than cheerful people. This shows that the so-called experts who tell us alcohol is a depressant are lying through their teeth. Depressed people are not stupid. A pain in the ass, yes. But not stupid. Why would they slump over the bar with fat wet tears welling up in their bloodshot eyes and tell the barman how miserable they are, only for him to say, “Sorry to hear that. Can I get you another depressant?”

Primary Causes

Some doctors try to tell you that hangovers are caused by dehydration. This is like saying that floods cause drought and I, for one, would sign any petition that calls for these charlatans to be struck from the roll.

Dehydration is caused when the bartender ignores you because he is too busy catching bottles behind his back and flirting with all the pretty young things.

In rare cases, dehydration is also caused when a girly little hormone that is meant to tell the body to conserve water can’t hold its liquor and passes out on the job. This results in you having to pee every 10 minutes. With the floodgates open, the body starts borrowing water from less important organs like the brain. This causes the brain to shrink, something it is not altogether happy doing. This goes a long way towards explaining why stupid people with small brains suffer worse hangovers than smart people with big brains.

All alcohol contains methanol. I would have thought this is a good thing since it is also the fuel used in motocross bikes. And, boy, can those babies go! But apparently not. The problem seems to be linked to yet another design flaw in the human body. Instead of using the methanol to accelerate the mind, the body inexplicably breaks it down into formaldehyde and formic acid. Deformed foetuses and pygmy brains are preserved in formaldehyde. Ants and bees secrete formic acid when they attack. What the hell are our bodies thinking?

Health Benefits

Before going on one of her regular benders, my grandmother always used to say “clear alcohol, clear head – cloudy alcohol, cloudy head”. She drank a litre of Clipper cane spirits every day until she died and her faculties remained extraordinarily sharp right up to the end. When we gathered around her to say goodbye, she could still see and hear things that your average red wine drinker would never be able to pick up.

The experts say it is better for your body if you drink on a full stomach. Well, sure, if you don’t mind embarrassing your date by stuffing yourself with dead animals while drinking your own body weight in alcohol. The only advantage I can see in eating before drinking is that you stand a better chance of avoiding the dreaded dry heaves. Besides, projectile vomiting is far more likely to impress your dinner partner.

Awareness

Always remember to drink responsibly. That means every time you drink, remember to put your beer back on the coaster and not on the lounge table or the floor. It also means that you should stop drinking when you run out of money, and not start stealing drinks from other people’s tables. Or cars from their driveways so you can sell them for beer money.

My father once told me to be sensitive to the needs of my liver. When I reminded him of this later in life, he pointed out that what he had really said was I should be sensitive to the needs of my lover. Well, at least today I can drink like a sperm whale and still feel fine the next day, thanks to milk thistle. Unfortunately, women think I am a selfish, sexist pig who cares only about his own needs.

Cures

Some hangover symptoms are in part due to magnesium depletion. As we all know, magnesium constitutes about 2% of the Earth’s crust. So before you go drinking, take the time to step out into the garden and grab a handful of that damn fine crust. You will be glad you did. Just remember to wash the dirt from your face before you walk into the bar. Not many drinkers can handle the sight of a grown man with a soil-encrusted mouth spraying bits of grass and earthworms as he shouts for another round.

The need to find a cure for hangovers is as urgent as the need to find a cure for cancer or Aids. At least with a dread disease, you know you are going to die. With a hangover measuring 20 or more on the Retchter Scale, you think you are going to die, you wish you would die, but you don’t. Instead, you suffer horribly.

A Japanese study showed that taking 4-6 grams of chlorella before drinking can prevent hangovers 96% of the time. When I first heard this, I ran out onto the street looking for a Japanese person to shake by the hand and thank profusely. Then I remembered that the Japanese also say they need to kill hundreds of Minke whales a year for research purposes. And they have been doing it for the last 18 years. What are they hoping to learn that they don’t already know? That whales are actually alien spaceships? Giant flotation chambers full of North Korean spies?

Anyway. From what I can make out, chlorella seems to be some sort of algae capable of multiplying faster than that Russian maths freak who turned down a medal and a million dollar prize after proving the Poincare conjecture which states that in three dimensions you cannot transform a doughnut shape into a sphere without ripping it, although any shape without a hole can be stretched or shrunk into a sphere. How would you like to go up in front of a crowd and explain your thinking on that one? No wonder he still lives with his mother.

So, chlorella. Make sure you get yours from a reputable source. I have heard of some dealers cutting their chlorella with spirulina. And make sure you get your six grams. These people, especially the Yakuza, have no qualms about slipping you an empty wrapper or two.

The world’s largest chlorella culturing pool was constructed in Japan around 50 years ago and they remain heavily involved in chlorella production. So you can be sure that even if the stuff doesn’t cure your hangover, one of the side effects is bound to be a bigger, longer-lasting erection.

If, after all that, your hangover is still making you cry like a baby, you could try an antioxidant called DMAE. And if that doesn’t work, mix a Bloody Mary and wash down a handful of MDMA. That should cheer you up.

Picking Up Hitchhikers

In the old days, it was hitchhikers and not motorists who were the ones most at risk. Standing beside the side of the road trying to get to the beach, I often thought to myself, “What kind of depraved madman would give me a lift?” I got the answer when a middle-aged guy with a Barry Manilow nose and leather pants whipped out his willy while we were driving. He said he preferred to drive that way. I was young, so this kind of thing still seemed abnormal to me. I jumped out at the next traffic lights, kicked in his door and ran away.

Hitchhikers have changed a lot since I was a kid. Back then, the streets at night would be full of teenagers trying to get to clubs, trying to get home from clubs, running away from their parents, running away from the police, buying drugs, selling drugs, eloping and so on. Today’s hitchhikers aren’t really after a lift. What they really want is to slit your throat, drink your blood and steal your car.

What To Do

This doesn’t mean you should never stop for hitchhikers. There are those who genuinely need to get somewhere and who have no interest in cutting out your heart and selling it to a back street sangoma for muti.

However, there is no point in taking unnecessary chances. The moment your hitchhiker is in the car, you need to terrify the wits out of him. It is vital that you come across as highly volatile with an enormous capacity for random acts of violence. Snatch at imaginary fairies and put them in your mouth. Chew loudly and pretend to choke on their bones. Then punch the dashboard repeatedly and say, “The green dog barks at noon so that fucking Descartes can just suck my dictum DON’T ARGUE WITH ME!”

However, there are people out there who will consider this to be perfectly normal behaviour and will still stick a gun into your ribs and tell you to take the first left off the freeway. Stay calm and start looking for opportunities to escape. If you pull in at a service station, try to slip a note to the petrol attendant. However, he is more than likely illiterate so you may as well forget that. When he comes to your window after filling up the car, mouth the words “help me!” and roll your eyes in the direction of the hijacker. If you are lucky, he will assume that you are proposing a multicultural ménage à trois and jump into the back seat. If you are less fortunate, he will think, “Hmm, here’s a whitey in trouble. Let me see now. They tortured my brother, murdered my father, enslaved my mother and denied me an education which is why I am standing here in the middle of the night freezing my arse off.”

So there you are, back on the road with a full tank of petrol and a yellow-eyed varmint for company. In some countries, you would be able to attract the attention of a passing police car by speeding, driving without your lights on, ignoring red robots or crossing the double white line. In South Africa you have more chance of being noticed if you stick to the rules of the road. You may as well pretend to have a heart attack and let go of the wheel. If you roll, at least you stand a fairly good chance of surviving. Which is more than I can say should you choose to keep on taking orders from the varmint.

Road Rage

South Africa’s roads are the only place left in the country where hatred is neither dictated nor exacerbated by skin colour. White drivers hate other white drivers. Black drivers hate black drivers. White, black, coloured and Indian drivers hate one another equally. Everyone hates taxi drivers, even other taxi drivers. Not because they are black, but because they are the apex predators of the transportation world and thus feared and reviled by all.

Road rage is universally popular because it affords everyone, rich and poor alike, the opportunity to slander complete strangers without risk of being sued for defamation or crimen injuria. There is, however, a small attendant risk of ending up in traction with a tube down your throat and a machine helping you to breathe.

How To React

The traffic authorities would like you to believe that the best way to deal with a road rage situation is by refraining from reacting to the rager. This is nonsense. As the ragee, you are beholden to do more than merely respond. This is not about surviving. It is about winning. It is about raising the level of aggression to a point where the road rager realises that he either has to back down or do something that could see him spending the rest of the night kneeling on a horsehair mattress while four men with no front teeth take turns giving him a rectal rebore.

Meeting aggression with aggression is the only way to get road ragers to calm down. You have to out-psycho them. When a vicious dog or an angry silverback gorilla confronts you, the last thing you do is back away slowly. Instead, you run towards it, flailing your arms and leaping about like a Hare Krishna devotee with half a kilogram of amphetamine sulphate up each nostril. The dog or the monkey will back down in the face of your superior aggression. They will slink off with their tails between their legs. And so it is with road ragers.

It is all about asserting yourself as the alpha male. Or female, for that matter. Women are often more effective than men when it comes to frightening off road ragers. For a start, they are able to move their eyebrows independently of one another. They also have bigger teeth and claws than men and, when angry, most of them have a lot of scary looking hair flying around.

If you switch lanes without looking and inadvertently cut someone off, nine times out of ten he will hoot, give you a filthy look and shake his head. Don’t let him get away with this. Wind down your window and give him the finger. Slow right down. Every time he tries to change lanes, do the same. Don’t let him get past you. Eventually he will have to turn off and take another route home.

If you are driving slowly in the fast lane and someone comes up behind you and flashes his lights, pull over and let him pass. Then swing back in behind him and put your foot down. Keep your front bumper five centimetres from his back bumper. Put your lights on bright. If you have spotlights mounted on the roof, switch those on, too. Keep your hand on the hooter. Nudge his bumper now and then to remind him that you are still there. He will be too scared to stop and will go faster and faster in an effort to shake you. Stick with him until he loses control and rolls his car on a bend.

Mental Fitness

A few years ago, therapists in the United States attempted to get road rage certified as an official mental disorder. It has since been found that the behaviour associated with road rage is the result of intermittent explosive disorder. I always thought intermittent explosive disorder was something Islamic suicide bombers suffered from. Apparently not. Apparently it is from the same family as kleptomania and pyromania, and affects up to 16 million Americans. At a guess, I would say it affects up to 40 million South Africans.

People who suffer from road rage can get help through psychotropic drugs like lithium, carbamazepine and venlafaxine, although in the long run it would be more effective to ban the following people from driving: old ladies, bald men, long-haired hippies, redheads, students, men with moustaches, people who wear glasses, blondes and fat people.

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3 thoughts on “Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 15

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