Tag: Art of Survival

Fat is the new thin



My mother always emphasised the importance of developing the mind. “Be careful what you put in it,” she would say. From a young age, it was my second favourite organ – of course I was going to look after it.

Then the internet was invented and, over a relatively short period of time, my fit, healthy mind degenerated into little more than a grey lump of meat fly-blown with feckless trivia and irrelevant inanities. I try to read as much as I can but the rot is irreversible and contamination continues apace.

I am, therefore, giving up on the mind. Hopefully, this will be a temporary state of affairs. Once you leave the mind to its own devices, it can either lose itself or take you to places you do not wish to be. Right now, it’s just not doing enough to earn its keep. Where are the brilliant get-rich-quick ideas? Stupid, lazy mind.

My attention will forthwith be focused on the body.

Wherever I go, people are talking about Tim Noakes and the Banting diet. Noakes is either Caligula’s cousin or the next Jesus. It all depends who you speak to. One thing’s for sure, though. If the sheep and the cows and the pigs ever get together, Noakes had better double lock his doors.

I’m a firm believer in high fat food. I’m also a firm believer in food high in carbohydrates. The trick is to buy plates big enough to accommodate enormous portions of fat as well as carbs. It’s a balancing act. Carbs on one side, protein on the other and a wodge of pudding in the middle. Maybe, on a side plate, a loofah for fibre.

Noakes says it’s fine if you eat an elephant for lunch. The mistake big-boned people like Khulubuse Zuma make is that they have a slice of toast with their elephant.

Acknowledging that it would take more than a high-fat, high-carb diet to get my body back to the chunk of chiseled marble it once was, I went out and bought a copy of Men’s Health magazine. I struggled to get it out of the plastic wrapping but, after a little lie-down, I felt strong enough to start turning the pages.

Cristiano Ronaldo is on the cover. Shirtless, naturally. The photo made me wonder what it would feel like to rub baby oil on his hairless chest. Nice one, mind. I leave you alone for a minute and this is what you come up with?

Ronaldo was surrounded by shouty pledges of bigger muscles, better braais and hotter women. “Are you the next MH cover guy?” Sure. Why the hell not? I’m taller than Ronaldo. And I beat him on the scales, too. By a good 20kgs. Also, I have blue eyes and speak proper English. Squeeze me into a pair of tight denims, varnish my hair and spraypaint my teeth and I reckon I’m in with a fighting chance.

The magazine gets down to it quickly. Right off the bat, there’s a competition. You can win a smartphone, a watch, a fragrance or a black man in a checked shirt and skinny jeans. A fragrance? Don’t men wear deodorant or, at a push, aftershave? Apparently not.

“With notes of lime, green leaves and dark liquorice, this is the perfect fragrance for the guy who feels like making a statement.”

I still remember the days when men who felt like making statement would strap explosives (with notes of nitroglycerine) to their bodies. Quite frankly, I don’t know what’s worse. The day that suicide bombers start wearing a fragrance is the day I check out of here.

The smartphone has “a floating arc design that makes sure it rests comfortably in one hand”. Unlike other phones, which often take two hands and the help of a bystander to hold comfortably. I think the “floating arc” reference might be a subliminal message to the people in Cape Town who are starting to believe that the rain will never stop and someone will build a boat and they will only be able to get on it if they have the right kind of phone.

Over the page, the magazine gives voice to a question that crosses my mind every morning. “How can I give my cereal a nutritional boost?” Noakes might suggest you mix a packet of bacon into it and put it through a sieve. Then give the cereal to the dog, wrap the bacon around a block of cheese and eat it between two slices of steak. Have a sack of offal for dessert. You’ll lose weight in no time at all.

Someone called Jamie Chung says, “There’s nothing worse than a cute guy with really bad breath.” I may be wrong, but I think if you’re a cute guy with really bad breath and you’re about to behead someone because he’s not altogether sold on the Islamic State, then I think it’s probably worse.

A section called “guy food” tells me how I can punch up my brunch. No mention of magic mushrooms or hash browns made from real hashish. To their credit, they do provide instructions on how to make a proper Bloody Mary, which is nothing like the half a glass of tequila topped up with warm tomato juice I’ve been drinking all these years.

There’s a page on gardening. If you have a snail and slug problem, you’re advised to open a few cans of beer and sink them into the garden. Gastropods apparently love beer. “And when they go for a sip, they’ll slip in and drown.” Yeah! We don’t need no beer, let the motherfuckers drown! Drown, motherfuckers, drown! What a waste of beer. Wouldn’t tiny landmines be a better idea?

There’s an advert for a pill that promises to protect my entire gastrointestinal tract. Against what? If it doesn’t protect me against bullets and knives, I’m not interested. Furthermore, I do not wish to be reminded that something as vulgar as a gastrointestinal tract lurks within my temple.

What the hell is this? The Guide to Denim 2014? Hello, denim? 1984 is on the line. It wants you back. Denim jeans are fine. You wear anything else made of denim and you deserve to be hauled before the World Court on crimes against humanity.

Right. I’ve reached page ninety-something and it’s turning serious. “Get shredded! Fast!” Growing up, when me and my buddies decided to get shredded, the day wouldn’t end with us joshing in the gym showers and flicking towels at one another’s bare bottoms. It would end in hospital. Or the police cells. Or face down between a pair of obliging thighs.

Now, if you want to get shredded, you apparently have to do deeply unnatural acts like the barbell squat, the bench press and the box jump. The “instructor” for this section is Leigh Halfpenny. A bit of a girl’s name, if you ask me. He plays rugby for a living. He’s not doing this because he thinks a hot bod will help him pick up chicks. He’s doing it because if he doesn’t have a tackle-smashing torso, he may well end up in a wheelchair because a Maori madman took a chunk out of his fourth vertebra.

Us normal blokes? We just want to be fit enough to have sex without risking cardiac arrest.

Terrible things can happen in gyms. Personal trainer Tara Gadre has her own horror story that she bravely shares.

“I was in my local gym on the weekend and a guy started chatting to me while I was on an incline leg press in the middle of a set!” I only hope security got there quickly and broke his arms before he could break Tara’s concentration.

There’s a whole page devoted to the sit-up. Inexplicably, they make no mention of alcohol. Many men will recognise the words, “Why don’t you sit up?” and “Just try to sit up” and “If you don’t sit up, I’m leaving you here.”

And a picture of a grinning muscle man selling an “efficient amino acid delivery system”. I will probably go to my grave never knowing what an amino acid is or does. Don’t get me wrong. Me and acid, we go back. But I’d rather not end up in a bar next to Rictus Ronnie with him talking amino and me talking lysergic.

As I neared the end of the magazine, a headline barked, “Who’s making you fat?” I didn’t even have to read the article. There are only two possibilities. It’s either the woman who cooks for us every night or it’s the slack-jawed mouth breather at King Pie.

Personally, I think it’s the ANC. The EFF will keep eating carbs until Jacob Zuma pays back the money. The longer he prevaricates, the fatter Julius Malema will become. And one day, when the NPA once again lets our leader off the hook, Juju will walk into parliament, ram a muffin into his mouth, give a muffled cry and explode. Even the backbenchers will be picking bits of red onesie out of their hair for weeks after.






























Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Alien Attack


We all think an alien attack will never happen until it actually does and then no one is prepared for it and suddenly it’s the government’s fault. Well, let me tell you something. Forget the government. The department of home affairs can’t even cope with the invasion of aliens from other parts of Africa, let alone the universe. And the department of foreign affairs seems to have a policy of not getting involved in foreign affairs.

Should it happen that creatures not from Earth begin arriving in South Africa (and it will happen), the most you can expect from the government is a statement saying, “We take cognisance of the fact that non-humanoid beings (NHB) are in South Africa and that certain political parties (the DA) are urging the government to take action against them. The government wishes to point out that these NHBs did not cross any of our borders and have therefore not violated the country’s immigration laws. They will therefore be afforded the same rights as any other legitimate visitors. There is speculation in some quarters (the DA) that they have been sent here by their own government to colonise South Africa and perhaps even Earth itself. While rejecting these scare tactics with the contempt they deserve, the government wishes to place on record that it has no intention of meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state, whether it is Zimbabwe or a planetoid from the Andromeda galaxy.”

In other words, you are responsible for your own safety and security in the event of an alien attack.

Be Prepared

Ensure that your house is well protected. Unless they are able to stand outside on the pavement and incinerate your brain through the walls, or dematerialise themselves and reappear inside your lounge, the aliens will attempt to gain entry in much the same way as your typical housebreaker. The only additional precaution you need to take is to line your roof with aluminium foil. Aliens have hypnotic powers way beyond those of Andre the Hilarious Hypnotist. And let’s face it, he is pretty impressive, so you can only imagine what those little green fuckers are capable of doing. You may also want to wrap tinfoil around your head while you sleep at night.

The Landing

Most people have seen an alien spacecraft landing either in their garden (if it is big enough) or while they are out walking the dogs. However, because of the aliens’ hypnotic superpowers, our memories of the event are wiped clean. This does not work on everyone. There are a few Americans who clearly recall being taken aboard spaceships and given a body cavity search, then having an unborn child removed or an alien foetus implanted before being returned to their homes. Perhaps Americans have different brains to the rest of us. Perhaps their thoughts cannot be controlled because they have become so conditioned to rejecting any attempts by non-Americans at telling them what to do and how to behave.

If you sleep with tinfoil wrapped around your head and the aliens don’t see you looking at them, there is a very good chance that you will remember the landing the next day. In case you confuse it with something else, here are a few tell-tale signs to look for:

  • A very bright light illuminating your garden
  • A low-pitched electronic hum
  • Your dogs, cats, birds and fish are unconscious
  • The clocks have stopped
  • A round metal object resembling a giant silver fried egg is where your swimming pool used to be

Identifying An Alien

Extraterrestrials can take many forms and go by many names. It is important to be able to identify the one emerging from the spaceship in your front garden to enable you to get an idea of their intentions. Here are a few of the better-known aliens:

  • Brood Warriors. Home planet: Broodworld. They have the head of a python, legs like an insect, the tail of a scorpion, fangs like a snake and the wings of a dragonfly. There are no other distinguishing characteristics. They reproduce by laying their eggs inside the bellies of other sentient beings. When their young hatch, the host body is transformed into a new Brood Warrior.
  • Asgardians. Home dimension: Asgard. These are former Norse gods who live forever and are relatively harmless unless provoked. Asgard can only be reached via the Rainbow Bridge, a special interdimensional passageway. Avoid asking people in the street for directions unless you want to end up in a psych ward.
  • Kree. Home planet: Hala. These militaristic aliens desire nothing less than the subjugation of the entire cosmos. If you suspect your aliens could be Kree, go inside at once and draw the curtains.
  • Shi’ar. Home planet: The Aerie. This is a birdlike race that runs an empire in a galaxy named after them. Their interstellar conflicts often spill over into the Earth’s star system. The Shi’ar Imperial Guard is composed of superheroes from over a hundred worlds.
  • Ovoids. Home planet: Birkeel. Consider yourself very lucky if it is the Ovoids who have landed in your garden. They are a highly enlightened and peace-loving race that are able to place their essences in fresh, new bodies when their old ones become too aged or infirm. If immortality is what you are after, go out with a tray of tea and chocolate biscuits. Ovoids love biscuits.

What To Do

If you can’t tell your Ovoids from your Kree, it is best not to make any approaches, no matter how well intentioned your welcome may be. For all you know, this could be a race that uses chocolate biscuits as a declaration of war. Although it is difficult to know how to react until they have made their intentions plain, here are a few pointers on what not to do:

  • Don’t smile (baring your teeth could be seen as threatening)
  • Avoid eye contact (for your sake and theirs)
  • Don’t shout or talk in a high-pitched voice
  • Wear a hat (they will most likely be hairless and you don’t want to risk scaring them with stuff growing out of the top of your head)
  • Avoid smoking (they may think you are on fire and panic)
  • Don’t bend over (that’s just inviting a rectal probe)

Spotting The Difference

Some say there are aliens who walk among us every day. Apparently they look identical to humans, but those who claim to know these things say there is something different about their eyes. If I were in charge of extraterrestrial investigations, I would immediately check out former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the pope. On the other hand, neither of these “people” exactly walks among us. Which I think is a very good thing.

The Attack

Generally, aliens are enquiring by nature and it is likely that all they want to do is check us out, see how we live, have a bit of a laugh and go home.

However, as was witnessed in the award-winning 1996 documentary Mars Attacks!, it is quite possible for visitors from outer space to harbour extremely dangerous intentions. Filmmaker Tim Burton captured rare video footage of the Martians actually landing in Nevada ahead of their attempt to colonise Earth. White House surveillance tapes obtained by Burton also reveal American president Jack Nicholson giving instructions that the aliens were to be welcomed and not harmed. The documentary reveals, in graphic detail, how the president’s good intentions tragically backfire. Amateur footage collected from survivors show the Martians (bulbous-eyed and large-brained with transparent helmets covering their heads) using blue, red and green death-ray guns to deadly effect. In scenes not suitable for children, we see how thousands of people, many of them in the act of welcoming the aliens, are brutally vaporised. As the documentary reveals, the Martians were launching simultaneous attacks in Australia, Britain, India and France. Footage from public broadcasters in those countries shows national monuments being destroyed. In the gruesome final moments of the documentary, internal White House cameras reveal the aliens vaporising both the president and the First Lady. Many innocent lives were lost before it was discovered that Slim Whitman’s music exploded the aliens’ brains. Today, the documentary serves as a stark reminder to all of us that we need to be prepared. Thanks to Slim Whitman there are no more Martians left. But there are billions of planets out there and any one of them could have its sights set on Earth. Be ready.

Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Nuclear Attack


South Africans have grown complacent insofar as the threat of nuclear attack is concerned. We aren’t even particularly concerned when the Koeberg reactor shuts down because some or other Homer Simpson protégé has dropped a bolt into the cooling stack.

Being prepared for a nuclear disaster is as important as being prepared for other life-threatening events, like tsunamis and marriage.

In July 2006, former Namibian president Sam Nujoma said: “We have uranium in Namibia and we train our own scientists and engineers. If they (external forces) create nonsense, we can make our own atomic bombs.” The fact that Nujoma is a delusional recluse with a Standard Two education makes him all the more dangerous.

Preparing For Total Destruction

In the event of an imminent nuclear attack by Namibia, the people of South Africa will have plenty of time to take evasive action as the Cuban-trained pilot stops off in Lusaka and again in Harare to ask for directions to Pretoria. And our early warning system should kick in once intelligence agencies have verified the threat. Powerful air-raid sirens will be sounded in all the major cities. If you do not live in a major city, look for thousands of frogs heading in one direction. If there are no frogs in your area, then it will probably be a mass exodus of scorpions. Or even sheep and goats. Insects and animals are hypersensitive to the threat of attack, whether real or imagined. They are very similar to Americans in that way.

When you hear the sirens or see the frogs, stop what you are doing (unless you are having sex or drinking) and fetch the emergency nuclear attack survival kit that you keep ready at all times. Perhaps you have never got around to packing your emergency nuclear attack survival kit. What is wrong with you? Do you want to die with your flesh melting from your bones and your eyeballs turning to jelly?

Emergency nuclear attack survival kit for voters

  • Vaseline (rub on body to soak up radiation)
  • Earmuffs (to drown out sound of blast and hysterical wife)
  • Baseball cap (to prevent radiation from falling on head)
  • 50 cans bully beef
  • 100 litres water
  • Sandbox (for ablutions)
  • Heat magazine
  • First aid kit with aspirin, Band-Aid, thermometer
  • Portable radio

Emergency nuclear attack survival kit for members of parliament

  • Full-body airtight reflective safety suit
  • MP3 player
  • Titanium helmet with tinted visor and built-in two-way radio
  • Seafood selection (sushi, oysters, crayfish, caviar)
  • 100 litres Kristal champagne
  • Freestanding designer portaloo with heated seat
  • Leadership magazine
  • Personal paramedic with morphine, pethidine, cocaine
  • Plasma screen television

Ten minutes after the sirens have sounded or the frogs, scorpions, sheep and goats have disappeared, your council will begin its emergency evacuation procedures. You are not obliged to listen to them. After all, they never listen to you.

If you plan on staying, fetch your survival kit and your favourite members of the family and find somewhere to hide. Most South Africans have Wendy houses and tool sheds instead of bomb shelters in their back yards. This is an oversight that will ultimately claim millions of lives.

If you don’t have a basement, break into empty houses in your street until you find one. Make yourself comfortable. You could be there for anywhere between three days and 10 years. It all depends on how close you are to what New Yorkers call ground zero. Unless the bomb falls directly on top of the house in which you are sheltering, you stand a very good chance of surviving the blast.

The Attack

You will know when the bomb has dropped. Do not worry that you might mistake it for a car backfiring in the street. It will be considerably louder than that. Once you have heard the blast, resist the temptation to rush outside and see what happened to the nosy neighbours and their bastard dog that never stops barking. You need to wait a while for the radiation to blow away. If you get bored waiting for the wind to pick up, read your copy of Heat. Whatever you do, don’t have unprotected sex. This is not a good time for a woman to conceive. Unless, of course, you can afford to have another three mouths to feed. And you don’t mind if they are all attached to the same baby.

Keep your radio or television set on. News stations will let you know when it is safe to emerge from your basement. Watch or listen to independently owned stations only. Information disseminated by the government is unreliable at the best of times. Don’t leave the safety of your shelter even if you do get the all clear from the health department. The chances are extremely high that two minutes after you stick your head out into an impenetrable radioactive cloud, the ministry’s spokesman will issue a retraction, a denial and a warning that legal action will be taken against anyone who claims to have acted on any advice that the department never provided.

If the bomb drops before you can reach an underground shelter, avert your eyes or quickly put on a pair of good Polaroid sunglasses. The flash is very bright and could easily damage your eyes. The flash is also very hot and can leave you with a nasty burn if you’re not careful. If this does happen, put a little butter on it right away.

The detonation of a 300-kiloton nuclear bomb would release about 300 trillion calories within about a millionth of a second. If you make a habit of watching calories, you should be able to see these babies coming from a mile off. But even so, you are going to have to move quickly. Get behind a wall or down on the floor and make yourself as small as possible. You really can’t afford to pile on more calories.

The energy of the blast will also create a giant fireball. This wouldn’t be so bad if the bomb had to drop on Cape Town in winter, but if you lived in Durban and it was mid-summer, the additional heat would be unbearable. Waves of thermal energy will ignite fires across the city and suburbs. If you have been trying to light a braai in the wind, you will probably welcome the extra help. Very hot high-speed winds will also spring up, so postpone the paragliding or kite surfing if there is any chance of your city coming under nuclear attack that day. If you have any old furniture that you have been meaning to strip down, leave it outside on the veranda or in the garden. The blast wave will remove the paint nicely.

Once the blast wave has passed, have a quick shower to wash off some of the radiation and put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea. But be quick about it because the rising fireball will create a suction effect and a lot of stuff will start heading back towards ground zero. If you see cars, trees, cats and dogs flying past your window, hold on tight to something that is fixed firmly to the floor. Wait until the winds die down before letting go.

There will be a lot of dust and other stuff in the air, so if you suffer from hay fever, now would be a good time to take an antihistamine. The streets will be quite warm from all that hot air passing over them, so put on a sturdy pair of shoes before venturing out. When you see what the neighbourhood looks like, don’t panic. Keep telling yourself that at least the neighbours and their unspeakable dog are gone.

How To Build A Bomb

If you wish to launch a nuclear attack of your own, you will need to build your own bomb. Forget about getting a second-hand one from Iran. People from that region are notorious for their reluctance to share things. And the Namibians are still trying to find somewhere cool enough to store the one they haven’t started building.

If I told you how to build an H-bomb, the authorities would probably want a word in private with me. Since I don’t want any trouble, I am reproducing this recipe lifted from The Journal of Irreproducible Results, Volume 25/Number 4/1979. PO Box 234 Chicago Heights, Illinois 60411. So if anyone has any problems, you have the address.

    1. First, obtain about 110kg of weapons grade Plutonium at your local supplier. A nuclear power plant is not recommended, as large quantities of missing Plutonium tend to make plant engineers unhappy. We suggest that you contact your local terrorist organisation.
    2. Please remember that Plutonium, especially pure, refined Plutonium, is somewhat dangerous. Wash your hands with soap and warm water after handling the material, and don’t allow your children or pets to play in it or eat it. Any left over Plutonium dust is excellent as an insect repellent. You may wish to keep the substance in a lead box if you can find one in your local junkyard, but an old coffee will do nicely.
    3. Fashion together a metal enclosure to house the device. Most common varieties of sheet metal can be bent to disguise this enclosure as, for example, a briefcase, a lunch pail or a Buick. Do not use tin foil.
    4. Arrange the Plutonium into two hemispheric shapes, separated by about 4cm. Use rubber cement to hold the Plutonium dust together.
    5. Now get about 220kg of trinitrotoluene (TNT). Gelignite is much better, but messier to work with. Your helpful hardware man will be happy to provide you with this item.
    6. Pack the TNT around the hemispheric arrangement constructed in step 4. If you cannot find Gelignite, feel free to use TNT packed in with Playdo or any modelling clay. Coloured clay is acceptable, but there is no need to get fancy at this point.
    7. Enclose the structure from step 6 into the enclosure made in step 3. Use a strong glue such as “Crazy Glue” to bind the hemispheric arrangement against the enclosure to prevent accidental detonation that might result from vibration or mishandling.
    8. To detonate the device, obtain a radio controlled (RC) servo mechanism, as found in RC model airplanes and cars. With a modicum of effort, a remote plunger can be made that will strike a detonator cap to effect a small explosion. These detonator caps can be found in the electrical supply section of your local supermarket. We recommend the “Blast-O-Matic” brand because they are no deposit/no return.
    9. Now hide the completed device from the neighbours and children. The garage is not recommended because of high humidity and the extreme range of temperatures experienced there. Nuclear devices have been known to spontaneously detonate in these unstable conditions. The hall closet or under the kitchen sink will be perfectly suitable.
    10. Now you are the proud owner of a working thermonuclear device! It is a great icebreaker at parties, and in a pinch, can be used for national defence.

And that’s it. Easy as pie. Funny, though, how a simple act of plagiarism could quite possibly lead to the destruction of an entire city. If anyone does take the time to build an atomic bomb, could I ask you to please not drop it on Cape Town? Thank you.

Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Surviving When God And The Devil Go On Leave

Often, when things become hopelessly and utterly out of control, it is apparent that nobody is in charge either upstairs or downstairs. When you find yourself in the middle of a nuclear firestorm or under attack by aliens, there is little point in praying for help from God or cursing the Devil. There are things in this world that are beyond even their doing – things so terrible that Beelzebub would blush if you tried to pin the blame on Her – things so appalling that even Big G can’t do damage control.

Biological Attack

Some people will tell you that all you need to survive biological or germ warfare is a copy of the Bible. I believe pretty much anything people tell me these days, especially if they threaten to make sure I burn in the eternal fires of damnation should I dare question their faith.

Being a slow Sunday I thought I would put it to the test. Slipping through the doors of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, I took a seat at the back and picked up a well-thumbed copy of what appeared to be the Old Testament. While the parishioners were distracted by what looked like a riot down by the altar, I attempted to wrap the book around my face tightly enough so that no deadly bacteria or chemicals could find their way into my lungs. I began inhaling and exhaling deeply while pressing the Bible harder and harder into my face. Engrossed in my experiment, I failed to notice that the rioters had gone back to their pews and were now staring at me. A woman with a mouth pinched tight like a Doberman’s bum turned around and hissed something about alcohol in the Lord’s house. That’s rich, I thought, coming from a church that makes its followers drink wine they say represents the blood of Jesus Christ. And I won’t even get into the flesh-eating part of it. What kind of thing is that to teach your children?

Anyway, the upshot of the experiment was that I could still breathe no matter how tightly I wrapped that Bible around my face. So in the event of a biological attack, I would suggest that you provide your family with gas masks and not holy books.

Gas Masks

Gas masks are unsightly accessories with enormous staring eyes and pig-like snouts. They are suited to those with similar features. However, a lot of people might be reluctant to go out in public wearing one. Bear in mind that tearing at your face while your eyeballs bubble and your skin melts is even more unattractive. Wear your mask at all times, even when fulfilling your connubial responsibilities.


In the event of a biological attack, food sources will be contaminated. So you may want to start shrinking your stomach now. You do not want to be out roaming the streets like a homeless person begging strangers for a chicken burger when the air is thick with toxins and the streets piled high with bodies.


There are some biological agents that can turn people into zombies. I recommend that you get your hands on a documentary made in 1968 called Night of the Living Dead so that you may get an idea of how to identify these creatures and, more importantly, how to react should you come across them after a biological attack.

It is important to remember that zombies have very low blood pressure. Any higher and it would come spurting out of their suppurating wounds and decomposing flesh. This means that you need to raise their blood pressure by making them angry or by forcing them to run. Zombies tend to lurch a lot. They are not great runners but if you antagonise them enough, they will come after you at a fairly fast lumber. As they lose blood, they will become weaker. This is your opportunity to take a baseball bat or heavy piece of wood and hit them across the head as hard as you can. Inflicting a severe head injury is the only way to kill a zombie. None of this means much if you forgot to put on your protective suit before going outside, because the weapons-grade botulism, brucellosis and anthrax spores will get you long before the zombies do.

Forewarned Is Four-Armed

You will need a pathogen sensor to tell you when there has been a biological attack. If you have a flatulent dog, get rid of it. The last thing you need in these tense times is your pathogen sensor going off every time the dog does. If you can’t find a pathogen sensor, get a bird. Canaries in particular are highly sensitive to changes in air quality. Lappet-faced vultures aren’t. Just by looking at your canary you will be able to tell if there is something deadly in the wind. Signs to look for are:

  • Your canary lying on its back
  • That’s it.

Grow Your Own

If you have grown bored sitting around waiting for chemical or biological warfare to break out, you may want to consider launching your own attack.

There are more than 1500 biological culture libraries worldwide. Join the one that is nearest to you. A lot of these libraries will let you take out more than one culture at a time. But make sure you get them back by the due date. You don’t want to mess with these librarians.

First up, you will have to decide whether you want to use bacteria or viruses. Both can cause infectious diseases, so you need not be concerned on that score.

Bacteria are one-celled micro-organisms that are capable of multiplying. Viruses are simpler than bacteria. In fact, they don’t have much of a head for figures at all. It is important to remember that not all bacteria are harmful. It would be very embarrassing to open up your flask full of deadly bacteria inside a crowded Cape Town International Airport only to realise that yours is the kind that turns milk into cheese.

Bacteria’s natural enemy is the antibiotic, although some bacteria can build up a resistance if they work out regularly and watch what they eat.

Viruses laugh in the face of antibiotics. But they might not be so quick to laugh once the pharmaceutical companies work out how to make trillions of dollars through the sale of antiviral medication.

When it comes to choosing your poison, it makes sense to go for one of the more popular brands like botulism, anthrax, bubonic plague or smallpox. Make sure the dealer gives it to you in an airtight bag. If he tells you that he is having a special on viruses, tell him that you’ve already got some at home. There is hardly any pure Ebola, Marburg and Lassa on the market these days and you don’t want to take any chances.

When you get home, you will need a saucer, water, cotton wool and a little salt. Follow these simple steps and you will be well on your way to committing a major act of terrorism:

  • Fill the saucer with water
  • Stir in one tablespoon of salt
  • Soak the cotton wool in the water
  • Cut a corner off the bag containing your biological agent and quickly place it beneath the cotton wool
  • Keep the cotton wool moist at all times
  • Within 10 days your culture should have colonised the cotton wool. Remove it and place it in a petri dish.
  • Place the petri dish in a microwave oven and set it for one minute on high. The radioactivity makes the bacteria even more aggressive.
  • Place the petri dish on a windowsill that gets plenty of sun. Put it out of reach of the cat. Leave it there for five days or until it is crispy to the touch.
  • Put the petri dish in your deep freeze for two days. Do not come home drunk and eat it.
  • Remove the frozen cotton wool and grind it into particles of a respirable size.
  • Tip the microbes and spores into a conventional flask.
  • Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a high-grade biological weapon.

Planning The Attack

When you have identified a target, check the weather before going out. Postpone your attack if there is a strong wind. You do not want to waste your spores by having them blow all over the show.

One of the most appealing aspects of biological warfare is that you don’t have to sacrifice your life to achieve your objectives. Suicide bombings are all very well, but in the current tough economic climate, few organisations can afford to have such a high staff turnover.

With biological warfare, all you have to do is sit on a park bench or on a train or in an aircraft, no, maybe not an aircraft, take a sandwich out of your lunchbox, read the paper, casually open your flask, put it down and walk briskly away. The air will remain contaminated for hours, if not days, and the spores will disperse over an area wide enough to kill more people than you could ever dream of killing.

Good luck!

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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 14

Chapter 14



South Africans are among the most accident-prone people in the world. Get into a car with one and you will end up with your face on back to front. Ask them to cut something and they will chop off their head by mistake. Or more likely your head. They drown in the sea and fall off mountains. They burn down their houses and slip in the bath. They fly into hillsides and slam their fingers in doors. Women fall pregnant and men fall down. They drop things, spill things, bump into things and trip over things. This happens all the time. Day and night. Cities and towns around the country reverberate to the sound of sirens rushing the accident-prone to hospitals, clinics and police stations.

It’s an accident when a schoolboy playing rugby breaks his neck in a scuffle and it’s an accident when a cable thief electrocutes himself. A woman is found in flagrante delicto with her husband’s best friend and it turns out to be an accident. A government denies forty million people the vote, then detains and tortures thousands of them. Oops. Sorry. That was most definitely an accident.

Here are some other accidents you are likely to have in your lifetime:

Eating & Swimming

My mother always told me not to go swimming right after a meal. Then, when we went to the beach for a picnic, she would force-feed me giant ham and cheese rolls.

I was the only kid on the beach who had to sit under the umbrella and digest his food while everyone else was having a whale of a time in the water. I had no idea what was going on in my stomach. Nothing, as far as I could tell. But my mother knew. She could hear my salivary enzymes breaking down the roll. She knew when a mouthful would enter my oesophagus and how long it would take for peristalsis to force it down into my stomach. She knew precisely how much gastric acid was needed to convert my roll into chyme and exactly when it would enter my duodenum, jejunum and ileum. She could feel the moment the inner wall of my small intestine began secreting bile and pancreatic enzymes and she knew when my large intestine had begun removing water and electrolytes from the little that remained of my lunch. She also knew the names of the Latin-speaking bacteria that came out to help. “Bacteroides, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella,” she would whisper under her breath, a faraway look in her eyes.

Then up, up into the ascending colon went my roll. There was no stopping it now. It sped across my transverse colon and then, with barely a pause, rocketed down my descending colon and through my sigmoid colon. At this point, my mother’s breath would get heavy and ragged. It was as if it were she and not the roll that was on this exhilarating roller coaster ride through my abdomen. Then, sweating and trembling, she would cry out and fall back on her towel. Squeezed of everything good, my lunch had finally made it to my rectum. This was the moment when my mother would gasp, “You need to go to the toilet. Then you can swim.” My father would say, “Sharks feed at dusk. You can swim another day.”

It is because of my mother that I am alive today. If I had not listened to her, and had instead gone into the sea right after eating my ham and cheese roll, my skinny body would have been wracked with agonising cramps and I would have drowned in the six inches of water I wanted to paddle in. And that is a terrible way for any 16-year-old to die.

Since then, the human body has evolved. When today’s children eat, the food proceeds directly from their mouths to their bums. This means that your kids can eat and swim immediately afterwards. Hell, let them eat in the water if they want to. Pack a floating lunch. They will be fine.


A lot of people drown off South Africa’s beaches each year. Nobody seems to know exactly how many because some of them simply vanish and their bodies are never found. In the case of white people, these are generally recorded as bona fide drownings. But if the person is from one of the war-torn, poverty-stricken, disease-riddled basket cases east, west and north of us, then he probably swam underwater for a bit, came up where nobody could see him and hitchhiked to Johannesburg where he is waiting tables in Rosebank by day and selling crack in Hillbrow by night.

In cases like these, police divers don’t even bother getting out of their cars. In their reports, they use the word “suspect” rather than “victim” and

“disappeared” instead of “drowned”.

If you do find yourself drowning, there are two ways to catch the attention of the lifeguard on the beach. The first is to put on a blonde wig and scream in a high-pitched girly voice. Lifesavers rarely bother to save men unless they themselves are gay.

I can’t speak for you, but I would rather drown than be dragged from the surf by a raving queen in a little red Speedo who gives me mouth-to-mouth in front of a rowdy crowd shouting things like, “Get in there! Slip him some tongue!”

The second is to raise your right arm high enough for him to see the R200 note in your hand. When he swims out to you, he is going to want to slap you around a bit. This is what lifesavers do to punish bathers for distracting them from flirting with underage farm girls. The slapping will make you hysterical. To calm you down, he will then punch or even head butt you. It is important to remember that the Marquis of Queensbury rules do not apply on the high seas. Retaliate by gouging his eyes, pulling his hair and biting his face. Fight like a girl, if you have to. Nobody can see you out there.

Adrenalin will course through your body and you will begin to get the upper hand. Your assailant’s resolve will weaken and he will try to get away from you. Go after him. When you get within striking distance, dive down and swim underwater. He will turn around and think that you have drowned. Then bite him hard in the fleshy part of his leg. He will believe a shark is attacking him and he will pass out with fright. Flip over on to your back and drag his body on top of yours. Use one arm to hold his head above water. Paddle backwards with your free arm. If he regains consciousness, tighten your grip and cut off his oxygen supply. It is not essential, but you may want to remove his Speedo before you get to the beach. By the time you hit the sand, a crowd will have gathered. If there are news cameras on the scene, pretend to give him mouth-to-mouth. Make sure the reporters get your name right and then leave the area the moment his eyes open.

Drinking & Swimming

Lifeguards consistently warn you not to drink and swim. I have never heard such nonsense. What are you going to do? Lose control on the backstroke and sideswipe a buoy? Burst a water-wing and roll? Have a head-on collision with a jellyfish? The ocean is by far the safest place in which to drink. For a start, it is impossible to fall over. That means no more inexplicable cuts and bruises the next day. There are no roadblocks to ruin your life. No chance of irresponsible sex with someone whose name you can’t remember. The only problem I ever encountered while drinking and swimming was having my drink diluted with seawater.

The good news is that I am in the process of developing a watertight three-litre container that can be strapped to your back. A plastic hose runs from the container to your mouth, much like the bottles cyclists use to suck steroids from during long-distance races. I am also working on a 10-litre container for those who would like to swim from Cape Town to Luanda. The beauty of this invention is that the more you drink, the more buoyant the container becomes. Eventually, when the container is empty, all you have to do is lie back and let the Benguela current do all the work.


Only you will know whether your pregnancy is the result of a terrible accident, an act of God or an act of the Devil. If you still aren’t sure by the time you give birth, the answer will become increasingly clear as the little monster grows up.

Some couples struggle for years to conceive. Others just bath together and the next thing you know there are babies everywhere. Some men have sperm like tiger fish, other have tadpoles. Some women make eggs like ostriches, others have the eggs of a hummingbird. Don’t ask me why.

One thing I do know is that women have been “accidentally” falling pregnant ever since God was a little girl. They do this because they either want to be a mom without all the attendant trauma of having a man permanently in the house, or they know the only way they can nail the poor unsuspecting fool is to get him to put a bun in her oven and hope he does the right thing. Then comes the agonising dilemma. She can never tell him that the pregnancy was a deliberate accident and her dirty little secret gnaws at her night and day. She is doomed to spend the rest of her life wondering if he ever would have proposed to her if she hadn’t cut the ends off his condoms.

“How will I ever know if he really, really, really loves me,” she asks herself over and over again. Distraught, she turns to Prozac and loses her sex drive. Confused, her husband turns to Sarah from downstairs. And the accidental baby remains determined to ensure that nobody gets any sleep ever again.

I think it is important to tell a child if he is the result of an accident. That way there is less pressure on him to succeed. If the kid knew that you planned to have him, he would have to go through life feeling obliged to make you proud, or worse, make you rich. He would be suffocated with the fear of failure and would always feel indebted to you for giving him the gift of life, no matter how useless it may turn out to be.

But if he knew that when mom and dad were dating they drank too much one night and got careless, he would be able to live a carefree life and choose to be whatever he wanted to be, secure in the knowledge that since he wasn’t planned, there could be no expectations.

He would also be cursed with the knowledge that ultimately he was a mistake – that his mom and dad never really wanted to have him. To numb the pain he falls in with a bad crowd, turns to drugs, shacks up with a middle-aged crack whore and eventually commits suicide in a rat-infested hovel down by the harbour. Maybe it’s best not to tell him.

Pregnancy seems to be more of a big deal for women than it is for men. I think this is because women are more conscious of their body image. The first thought that crosses a woman’s mind when she discovers she is pregnant is, “Omigod! What am I going to wear?” The first thought that crosses a man’s mind when he discovers he has got someone pregnant is, “Omigod! What am I going to drink?”

For a woman, one of the hardest things about being heavily pregnant is learning to ignore all the “hey, fat chick!” remarks whenever she steps outside. For a man, one of the hardest things about having a heavily pregnant girlfriend or wife is learning to ignore his erection.

Surviving pregnancy in itself is not difficult. What poses more of a challenge is staying alive after having given in to the cravings for raw blowfish served on a bed of Namibian charcoal and drizzled with multigrade engine oil.

Emergency Childbirth

If you are on a bus or train or aeroplane or on the beach or just walking down the street and you see a pregnant woman’s waters break, the first thing you need to do is panic. This is a big moment for her and the last thing she wants is people to act nonchalant. She will probably want you to take a photograph. First make sure she is comfortable (put your jacket or shoes under her head) and then take the photograph. Do it tastefully. You have not been commissioned by Hustler.

Some people say that childbirth is the most natural thing in the world. Of course it is. What could be more natural than a miniature human growing inside your body for months and months and then one day, when it has become really large, have it squeeze through an aperture designed to accommodate nothing bigger than a penis and sundry accoutrements from Adult World?

It is inadvisable to rely too heavily on Nature for a hand with the delivery. If it were such a wonderfully natural thing, the two of you could share a couple of beers and chat about your favourite books while she popped it out right there in the bar.

When confronted with an emergency delivery, you will find yourself in the rare position of having a woman hoik up her skirt and open her legs without you having to beg. Don’t make a big thing of it. However, the entire process is fairly personal so you might want to get her phone number before getting down to business. If it turns out that she doesn’t know who the father is, forget the phone number. You don’t want to end up a surrogate dad for some little bastard born on a pavement.

When it comes to the birth, follow these pointers and everything should be fine:

  • Refrain from commenting on her vagina, no matter how complimentary you mean to be.
  • Tell her to push.
  • Tell her that she has dilated by, say, half a metre. That will encourage her to push even more.
  • Tell her to leave your mother out of this.
  • When you see the baby’s head appear, resist the impulse to shout, “Alien spawn!” and run away.
  • If the baby is taking its time to come out, stick your hand in there and give it a good tug.
  • If you don’t have a knife or pair of scissors, chew through the umbilical cord and tie a knot in it. Close your eyes and pretend you are on Fear Factor.
  • If the baby is not breathing, this means he has already started with his nonsense and should be reprimanded with a gentle smack.
  • He will then start crying. So will his mother. It is best that you cry, too. If a crowd has gathered, ask them to join in.
  • Wait a few minutes for the afterbirth to appear. I don’t know why it doesn’t just come out with the rest of the carnage.
  • Put the afterbirth in some sort of container. A lot of mothers like to take it home and use it as a conversation piece.
  • Give the mother gin, cigarettes, drugs – whatever you have in your pockets. She deserves it.

Plummeting Elevator

When an elevator cable snaps, it could be an act of God or an act of the Devil. It all depends on who is in the elevator with you at the time. If it is Wouter Basson, it is an act of God. If it is Nelson Mandela, it is an act of the Devil. If it is Charlize Theron, it is an act of the Devil because she may be so badly hurt that she can never act again. And yet it is also an act of God because you get to loosen her clothing and give her mouth-to-mouth. That’s assuming you’re okay.

The only thing you can do if the elevator goes into freefall is to climb up the tallest person there. If your feet are not touching the floor at the moment of impact, you stand a very good chance of surviving. If the very tall person tries to get you off, cling to him like a baby monkey. Place your legs around his waist and your arms around his neck. Hold on tight. You may even want to make baby monkey sounds so that he feels sorry for you.

Brake Failure

If you want someone else’s brakes to fail, it is a simple matter of draining the brake fluid from their car or cutting their brake cables. I would tell you how to do this but I have no interest in being charged as an accessory to murder. Not that I have anything against appearing in court. In fact, I relish the opportunity to speak without being interrupted by a woman. It is just that I don’t want to get involved in your sordid attempt to kill your wife, husband, husband’s lover, wife’s lover or boss. Unless, of course, there is something in it for me. I am not talking about anything as crass as money. I want love. True love.

If you are driving down a long, steep road when the brakes fail, there are several things you can to do to minimise the odds of certain death. Once you accept that you have no way of stopping, you can give up stabbing at the brake pedal and start panicking. Remaining calm will do you no good at all. You need your body to pump out as much adrenalin as it can produce. Your fight or flight response must be peaking at maximum power if you hope to have any chance of survival.

If you choose flight, open your door and curl yourself up into a ball as quickly as you can. It is vital that you have no protruding bits. Tuck your head as far down between your legs as it will go. Don’t get distracted. Only double-jointed people and dogs can do that. Then, lift your knees until they are touching your shoulders. Next, fold your legs until they are flush against your chest. Wedge your arms into the space between your thighs and your body. You are now ready to roll. Tip yourself out of the door if there is no oncoming traffic.

When you hit the tar it is essential that you retain your ball shape. If a foot or hand comes loose, it could spin you out of control and send you plunging over the edge. You will roll for as long as you keep your ball shape. Lean into corners and try to stay on your side of the road. It may not seem like it while you are rolling, but the road has to flatten out eventually. Wait until you have come to a complete standstill before unrolling yourself. You will have the odd bruise and scratch and will probably feel a bit stiff the next day, but at least you will be alive.

When you get home, hire the best lawyer in town to defend you on the culpable homicide charges that arose as a result of your car smashing into a van full of disabled orphans on their way to see the ocean for the first time.

If you choose fight over flight, you are going to have to do some fast thinking. Screaming and closing your eyes is not going to help. Your first move is to get your car to slow down. Trying to gear down or use the handbrake will be senseless at that speed, so don’t even try it. Well, try it if you think I am lying, but you are wasting valuable time. With every passing second, your car is getting more out of control. Here are some methods you could use to reduce speed:

  • If you come across a pack of cyclists riding on the shoulder, make sure you hit them squarely in the middle of your bonnet. You want the impact to slow you down, not cause you to veer sharply to the left or right.
  • Pull the catch on your bonnet. The wind should flip it up and create considerable drag. You might have to put your head out of the window to see where you are going.
  • Pick a vehicle that is going slower than you (all of them should be going slower than you). Drive into the back of one of them. Try to lock bumpers. Unless you have snapped the driver’s spine, he will bring his vehicle and yours to a halt. He may not be in the right frame of mind for stories about brakes, so get out and run away the moment you stop.

Runaway Police Horse

It sometimes happens that you are ambling down the street swearing at street kids and fending off drug merchants when you hear the thunder of hooves growing louder and louder. Unless you live in the country, this indicates that a runaway police horse is heading your way. It may or may not have a policeman on its back. It doesn’t really matter. If the officer has not yet fallen off, it will only be a matter of time before he does. The cops who join the cavalry are not trained to ride fast-moving horses. They are trained to stay in the saddle at a slow walk and say things like, “You can’t do that here” and “There are no public toilets in the city”.

The moment you see the runaway horse coming your way, you need to draw yourself up to your full height and shout, “Whoa! Not so fast, Mr Horse!” Do not lie down or curl up into a ball. The horse will think you are a crocodile or an armadillo and he will take fright. It is better to have a spooked horse on an open street than inside a shoe shop.

Start running in the same direction as the horse when it is approximately thirty metres from you. Tourists, especially those from Spain, are likely to think it is some kind of sport and will want to join in. Lash out at them while you are running. Shout things like, “¿parecen los toros, usted los bastardos estúpidos?”

If you see the horse has lost its policeman, wait until it has drawn level with you and then grab the reins. Swing yourself up into the driver’s seat and hold on tightly with your thighs. Lean forward and smack her across the side of the head three or four times. Then whisper into her ear, “You want to know something? You’re pretty damn cute for a horse. I’ve seen you around here before. What do you say we slow things down to a canter and get to know each other a little better?”

She will either take you up on your offer or deliberately speed up to let you know that she is not that kind of horse. In this case, you have to go back to the ear. Instead of whispering sweet nothings, sink your teeth into it. Horses are like dogs, only bigger. They both understand that any animal capable of biting its ear is of superior strength and intellect and they will immediately capitulate.

Terrified pedestrians will see you bring the horse under control after putting your mouth to its ear. The media will call you a hero and dub you the “horse whisperer”. Use the opportunity to write a book about one man’s extraordinary talent to communicate with horses. That man, of course, will be you. But nobody need know that. Fiction sells better than fact. And if you play your cards right there could even be a movie deal in it. I was thinking that you should try to get Robert Redford for the lead, but you might want someone a little less weather-beaten. Try for Brad Pitt. I hear these days he’s looking for any excuse to get a break from the orphans and that mentally disturbed bisexual wife of his.

If you don’t know how to ride a horse, there would be no point in trying to be a hero. You would fall off like Eugene Terreblanche and everyone would laugh at you and you would have to go out and beat up an old black man just to regain your self-esteem.

If you have never learnt to ride, the chances are that you don’t particularly like horses. I don’t understand what makes them tick. They are furtive, devious animals and it is impossible to tell a happy horse from a sad horse. No matter how they feel, they always have a long face. Any animal that hides its emotions to that extent is certain to be hiding other things – dark things that sometimes cause them to snap and turn into killers. People get bitten, trampled and thrown all the time. And yet we still give our daughters ponies without once pausing to consider that these cute, gentle creatures are little more than murderous understudies to their bigger brethren.

If you feel the same as I do about horses, it is likely that you wouldn’t be caught dead on his back. All you can do then is wait until you can see the whites of his eyes, reach down and remove the 9mm pistol strapped to your ankle and fire a single clean shot into his brain.

People who recognise horses for what they really are will still regard you as a hero. But there will be the others, the people who wear scratchy jumpers, stained khaki trousers and sensible shoes, who will bay for your blood and who will not rest until you are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They really do talk like that.

Before you pull the trigger, it is only fair that you consider the very real possibility that the horse is, in fact, running away from the police. Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. Imagine walking around all day long with a policeman sitting on your back. And then imagine having to defecate openly in front of people having their breakfast at pavement cafes. Wouldn’t you also want to throw the cop and bolt? I know I would.

If there is any doubt in your mind, don’t shoot. Let him run. Let him run down the N1, take the slipway at Century City and then left on to the N7. Then it’s straight on for a week or so, an easy swim across the Orange River and left at the Luderitz turnoff. After two hours, a sharp right into the dunes and it won’t be long before the wild horses of the Namib take him in and teach him the ways of the desert.




Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 13

Chapter 13




A recent study released in Stockholm revealed that everybody contemplates suicide at one time or another in their lives. The Swedish researcher ended up killing himself when the institution that commissioned the study refused to pay him on the grounds that his findings were so blindingly obvious that a child raised by a family of meerkats could have come to the same conclusion.

And while all South Africans think about suicide, some more than others, only seven or eight thousand people a year progress from mere contemplation to the act itself. Even more worrying is that twenty people try to kill themselves every hour – and fail. What kind of message does this send to the rest of the world?

There is something seriously wrong with a nation when not even its broken-hearted, manically depressed, chronically ill, substance abusing, debt riddled no-hopers can kill themselves properly.

We must be the laughing stock of the world. Even people in happy countries like Sweden and Norway have a higher success rate than ours. In Scandinavia, ordinary people like you and me think nothing of flinging themselves off buildings or into the path of oncoming trains. Sure, alcohol plays a prominent role, although in their case it seems to be the obscenely high prices that drive them to it.

How Not To Do It

Like brain surgery and programming a VCR, surviving suicide is harder than it sounds. Much of the art lies in preparing the groundwork for your attempt. You do not want it to look like you were indulging in a little late afternoon autoerotic asphyxiation, nor do you want people to think you were cleaning your gun when it accidentally went off. Or that you inadvertently swallowed the wrong stash.


In South Africa, hanging seems to be all the rage, with shooting and poisoning lagging behind in the popularity stakes.

If you have chosen hanging, avoid using the hangman’s knot. You will need a knot that works itself loose less than three minutes after you have strung yourself up. It may seem hard to believe, but there are over a thousand knots to choose from. If you are the obsessive-compulsive type, try to stop yourself from going through all of them. If you are of a nautical bent, you might want to try a gaff-topsail halyard bend or a gripping sailor’s hitch. If you prefer something more exotic, consider the tumbling thief knot or the twined Turk’s head. In the end, though, it is probably safer to stick with the bottom loaded release hitch. The only real problem with hanging is that it comes across as dull and uninspired.


Shooting yourself will certainly attract the attention you so desperately crave. For this, you will need a handgun. Shotguns have their own romantic appeal, but few people survive suicide attempts when they choose a weapon that sprays lead pellets. Try to get your hands on a .22. The bullets are small and the gun itself is easy to handle.

The next thing you have to do is write a suicide note. This will make your attempt seem genuine. Try not to make spelling mistakes. Even close family members will regret that your attempt failed when they find your note saying, “I is going to kil myslef becorz i does knot wont to liff no more becors my gurlfrend left me.”

Now give some thought to where you are going to do it. Estate agents are right when they say location is everything. It’s just a pity that more of them don’t try suicide.

Avoid remote areas. Remember that you want to be found and rushed to hospital. You don’t want to be crawling about a field in the middle of nowhere slowly bleeding to death and weeing in your broeks while a sheep looks at you with dumb, uncomprehending eyes.

Your bedroom is always a good choice. Or even better, your parents’ bedroom. That way they will at least feel guilty every time they go to sleep at night. And isn’t this one of the reasons you are going to so much trouble? Philip Larkin might well have been considering suicide when he wrote:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.”

Now lie down on the bed and shoot yourself. But not in the leg or arm. This will look like an accident and you won’t get nearly as much sympathy. You will need to shoot yourself in the head. Your best bet is to place the barrel of the gun under your chin. Angle it so that the bullet will exit through your nose. Any higher and you risk taking out a chunk of your frontal lobe. On the other hand, a lobotomy may be just what you need.

Even though you will require cosmetic surgery after tearing yourself a third nostril, people will get the impression you were deadly serious about killing yourself, but that you had a miraculous escape. They might even say this was a clear sign that god wanted you to live – that you have an unfulfilled destiny, a higher purpose to serve. It is almost certain that everyone will be a lot nicer to you in future. Well, apart from those who mock you for being such a pathetic loser that you tried to blow your brains out and missed.


This will only work if you are known to have a soft spot for pharmaceuticals. If you are a violent gun freak, nobody is going to believe that you tried to kill yourself with pills. If you have never taken anything stronger than aspirin, you need to start developing a tragic air about yourself at least a month before the event.

Leave scraps of poetry lying on the floor. Try not to plagiarise. You don’t want anyone finding a poem in your handwriting that starts off:

No more of mirth and rural joys,

The gay description quickly cloys,

In melting numbers, sadly slow,

I tune my alter’d strings to woe;

Attend, Melpomene, and with thee bring

Thy tragic lute, Euphranor’s death to sing.

Right off the bat, they will think you are barking mad and have you committed the moment your stomach has been drained. Rather write something simple like this:

I would rather die

Than tell a lie

And this is why

I have to  …

Let your handwriting trail off the page. Smudge it a bit with water so that people will think you were weeping as you wrote.

If you choose pills, make sure that you take enough painkillers, antidepressants or benzodiazepines to warrant a stomach pump. You don’t want your mother slapping you back into consciousness and telling you to stick your fingers down your throat. That is strictly for amateurs.

In all of these cases – hanging, shooting and overdosing – you need to ensure that somebody is aware of your intentions. There is no point in surviving suicide if no one knows you even attempted it. This is a bit like having nobody around to hear the sound of one hand clapping when a tree falls in the forest.

How To Do It

If you live in Durban, the quickest way to shuffle off this mortal coil is to hire a Mercedes SL500 and cruise the back streets of KwaMashu on a Friday night at the end of the month with your windows open and your CD playing Steve Hofmeyr songs at full volume.

If you live in Johannesburg, start hooting at the driver in front of you before the traffic lights turn green.

If you live in Pretoria, cut a broomstick into equal lengths and tie them to your body, wrap a dishcloth around your head and take a long run at the American embassy. Wave your arms about and shout incoherent gibberish.

If that doesn’t work, slip into a pair of leather lederhosen, hang a brace of Canon digital cameras around your neck and take a leisurely stroll downtown. Any town. Any city. You won’t have to go far before a varmint hoves into view. If he grabs your cameras and walks away, call him back. Tell him you have some more stuff that he might want. Then stand on your tiptoes and hold your wallet and phone up where he can’t reach them. If he is taller than you, hide them behind your back and make him guess which hand has the phone and which has the wallet. Tell him he can only have them if he guesses correctly. At this point, he will shoot, stab or bludgeon you to death.

Suicide By Proxy

If you are serious about wanting to end it all but lack the courage to do it yourself, then you should consider getting yourself murdered. This is known as the Kebble Option.

There are many people in South Africa who will quite happily kill you in return for your car, the contents of your wallet, your phone or even that banana you have in your hand.

The benefits of getting murdered are obvious. For a start, most insurance policies refuse to pay out in the event of suicide. Getting someone else to do it for you means that your family will at least benefit from your death. Secondly, a lot of people who commit murders do it only once in their lives. Homicide is a bit like homosexuality in that way. Once they have done it, their curiosity is satisfied and it is out of their system. They might think about it from time to time, but it is unlikely that they will want to do again. In other words, by letting the one-off killer pop his cherry on you, so to speak, you could be saving someone else’s life.

Even though danger lurks everywhere, it is quite possible that weeks could go by without someone making an attempt on your life. Don’t give up. Stay weak. You have already lost the will to survive. Keep it that way. Here are some helpful hints on how to go about getting yourself killed without jeopardising the insurance payout.


Be aware of your surroundings at all times. You do not want to miss an opportunity to be killed, no matter how slight it may seem at the time. Keep your eyes peeled for cash-in-transit vans. They are not unmarked, as you might expect them to be. Instead, they resemble urban armoured personnel carriers. They have names like Coin Security Group, Fidelity Services Group and SBV Security emblazoned across their doors. Their reinforced smoked glass windows clear up any misconceptions that they might be transporting chickens instead of great steaming piles of money.

Once you spot one of these vans, follow it. Don’t let it out of your sight. If it is going in the opposite direction, make a U-turn and stick right on its tail. Sooner or later, a BMW with no licence plates is going to come out of nowhere and slam into the side of it. Stop your car and get out. This is exactly where you want to be. There will probably be a shoot-out between the robbers and the guards. However, crossfire can be notoriously unreliable and you may find that the bullets keep missing you. Your best bet is to run up to one of the robbers and try to grab the money away from him. At the top of your voice, shout: “This is my money, motherfucker!” Now you have the attention of both the robbers and the guards. Unless everyone is blind drunk, it will be almost impossible to survive the ensuing firestorm.

If you are looking for something a little less dramatic, you might want to try staging a high-speed car smash. You don’t need a particularly fast car. In fact, the older and more run-down it is the better. The last thing you want is an airbag going off or any kind of German engineering that ensures the car retains its shape after rolling seventeen times.

Forget about driving into walls, lampposts or over the edge of cliffs. That kind of thing makes insurance investigators jumpy. What you want to do is find a two-way road that is used by heavy vehicles. The N7 between Cape Town and Namibia is perfect. Head out of town as if you were planning to see the Namaqualand daisies instead of planning to cause a terrible head-on collision. Thinking of flowers will help take your mind off things. Sooner or later, you will see a cattle truck coming towards you. Make sure there are no other vehicles in the immediate vicinity. There is no point in taking other people with you, even though there is a very good chance that they are also driving along thinking up new and innovative ways to kill themselves.

When the cattle truck is roughly twenty metres from you, swerve into its path. Aim directly for the steel reinforced bull bar. Cattle trucks are built to withstand collisions, so don’t fret about the driver’s safety. He will barely feel the impact and care even less. The worst thing that can happen, apart from you surviving the smash and having to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair, is that the driver will swerve and the truck will overturn.

In a way, this is also the best thing that can happen. Those sheep or cows he is transporting are on their way to be turned into mutton chops and hamburgers. And even though there may be a certain amount of collateral damage in the form of dismembered livestock, a substantial number will escape into the veld where they will be able to live out the rest of their lives as free animals. You will have saved innocent lives by sacrificing your own. God loves this kind of thing and I imagine he would have some kind of special surprise waiting for you in heaven.


Another way to kill yourself is by walking and walking and walking until you collapse from hunger, thirst or cardiac arrest.

Before you set off, remember to take your passport. If you are relatively fit, you could easily reach the Zimbabwean border and still be going strong. Cross the border and keep walking. If you have remembered to bring it along, put on your Democracy Now! T-shirt. It won’t be long before a member of Mad Bob’s Central Intelligence Organisation picks you up and takes you to CIO headquarters where you will be tortured to death. Okay, so it’s not quite the same as dying from walking, but it’s good enough.


People who run have a death wish, whether they know it or not. More people die jogging than they do sitting in front of the television drinking beer and eating pizza. You may, however, be one of those with the heart of an ox, in which case no amount of running is going to make it explode. Instead, you are going to have to run into heavy traffic or into the path of an oncoming train. Make it look like murder by throwing your arms up and pretending that someone has pushed you to your death just as you run past them.


The sea is full of animals that can cause you grievous bodily harm. But don’t for one moment think you can simply pitch up at the beach, wade in to the water and hope that something will jump up and bite your head off.

What you need to do is call the Natal Sharks Board and get an idea of where the shark-infested beaches are located. There are an average of six shark attacks a year in South African waters. In the past sixteen years, only 12% of attacks have been fatal. With such a pathetic strike rate, you would be forgiven for thinking that sharks are pretty hopeless when it comes to dishing out a decent savaging.

You don’t want to waste your time with second-rate sharks like Zambezis, Makos and Hammerheads, let alone that big aquatic pussycat, the Ragged Tooth. For a start, you would have to slap them around a good deal to get them angry enough to take even a foot or an arm, which isn’t at all what you want.

You need to find Carcharodon carcharias – the Great White – the most feared animal in the sea unless you happen to be swimming at Umhlanga in December. You can make it easier for the shark to find you by following these simple instructions:

  • Do not swim at netted beaches.
  • Use a razor blade to lacerate your legs and arms before entering the water.
  • Swim only at river mouths at dawn and dusk.
  •  Make sure you are the only person in the water.
  •  Swim out into deep water and splash vigorously.

Water In The Lungs

If death by shark is not an option (you may want to have an open coffin), the next best alternative is to drown. Again, this has to be staged carefully to avoid attracting unwelcome attention from your insurance assessor. Take a packed lunch to the beach. Spread out a blanket and remove some of the goodies from your picnic hamper. Leave a book lying open and have a bottle of Dom Pérignon in the cooler box. Nobody in their right mind would kill themselves while there was a bottle of Dom to be had.

Before going into the water, check to see where the dangerous rips and currents are located. A good place to swim is alongside rocky outcrops where, if the tide is right, you will find a dangerous undertow that will suck you out to sea. Your first instinct will be to struggle. Don’t. Give in. Let the current take you right out into the shipping channel. It will only be a matter of time before you die of hypothermia. You should be warned, though, that the moments preceding drowning are generally filled with a fair amount of unseemly thrashing about. You need to override the survival instinct. Done properly, drowning can be one of the most graceful acts imaginable. I would go so far as to say that it compares to a prima ballerina performing a perfect pirouette, only wetter.


Phlebitis may sound like nothing more serious than an infestation of blood-sucking parasites, but you will be pleased to know that it can be a life-threatening occurrence. All you need to do is book a round trip economy class ticket to Sydney, Hong Kong, Bermuda and New Delhi. Make sure you sit as still as possible on every flight. This will increase the chances of the blood in your legs turning to sludge. With a bit of kneading, you should be able to pry loose a clot that will lodge in your heart, lungs or brain once you are at cruising altitude and far away from the nearest airport.

If the plane happens to crash in the middle of the ocean and you have not managed to induce phlebitis, you could well find yourself adrift in an open boat for weeks on end. You will develop painful blisters across most of your body. The only way to turn them into weeping sores is to squeeze them. After that, infection is not far off. At the same time, drink lots of seawater to ensure that your lingering death is made more pleasant through a series of colourful hallucinations. If you are dying and some do-gooder on the lifeboat tries to give you the kiss of life, quickly stick your tongue into their mouth and make moaning noises. That should deter them.


This is one of the easiest ways to kill yourself without it seeming deliberate. Book yourself a cabin on a cruise ship. The travel supplement in your local newspaper will have a listing of various cruises available. My favourite is from Cape Town to Nowhere. You spend two nights drifting aimlessly around the Atlantic and then you come back. Or, in your case, you don’t.

On your second night, go for a walk around the deck. Do I really have to continue? Head for the stern. It is always quieter at the stern. You may come across a couple of crewmen shagging passengers from Bellville. Wait for them to finish. Then, when the coast is clear, climb over the railing and let yourself go. The captain won’t know you are missing until the next day. And it’s not as if he would give a damn, anyway.

If you can’t afford R4 500 for a cruise (no wonder you want to die), then get yourself a berth on a yacht. Skippers are always looking for crew. Tell them you can cook and they will take you on immediately. There will probably be seven or eight of you on board. This presents a minor complication as you don’t want to get caught jumping over the side.

What you need to do is start getting rid of the others. Every time you are alone on deck with someone, sneak up and give him or her a powerful shove into the water. Pretend to have a coughing fit to drown out their cries for help. When you can no longer see the person, raise the alarm. Tell the others that there was a terrible accident. Repeat until the boat is deserted. Now it is safe for you to jump.

The plan sounds a little loose on paper, but if it could work on the Marie Celeste, it could work on any boat.


Although they are not always aware of it, most South African men regularly bring themselves to the point of death by drinking so much alcohol that it would induce organ failure in smaller men with more delicate constitutions. Swiss men, for instance.

However, the most serious thing that happens is that they are late for work on Monday. Over time, these men sustain varying degrees of brain damage, but since ours is a society highly tolerant of aberrant behaviour, nobody really notices.

If you have decided to drink yourself to death, first go to the video shop and take out Leaving Las Vegas. Nicholas Cage does it with style and panache. He also does it with a hooker, which is a lot more fun than doing it with a wife who keeps nagging you to stop drinking so much.

Next, go to the bottle store. You will already have seen how Cage does it. Fill your trolley with bottles of every shape, size and colour. Leave the beer. Nobody can drink themselves to death on beer. I’ve tried it. All that will happen is that you get more and more bloated and possibly suffocate on your own gaseous emissions, which is a horrible way for anyone to die.

Go home, lock all the doors and draw the curtains. Set up the bottles so that they are within easy reach. Start with the vodka. By the fifth double, you will feel a lot less depressed. You will start thinking that maybe life really is worth living. This is just the booze talking. Ignore it and switch to brandy. After the first bottle, you may find it difficult to pour a drink without it sloshing all over the carpet. The main thing is to remain calm. Panic will cause your throat to close up. This will interfere with your ability to continue drinking and you will need a friend to come around and hook you up to a drip to enable you to finish the rest of the alcohol intravenously. Drink as rapidly as you can. Don’t worry if you vomit. You won’t be around to clean it up. Depending on your size, you should be able to induce a coma after three litres of spirits. By the time anyone finds you, your brain should be in a vegetative state. Don’t be afraid that nobody will be able to tell.

You will be rushed to the nearest hospital (if you are not on medical aid, you will be driven slowly to a rat-infested clinic in the next province). After a couple of weeks on life-support, a member of your family will be called on to decide on pulling the plug. If you are lucky it will be your wife. She will ask for a few minutes alone with you. Then, when everyone has left the room, she will bend down, take you by the throat and whisper, “You low-down good-for- nothing drunken son of a bitch how can you leave me with unpaid bills you sorry-arsed selfish pig of a boozehound!”

By the time everyone returns, her tears will be genuine. Less honest will be her reason for taking you off life-support.


Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Chapter 12


Chapter 12




South Africa’s most powerful earthquake hit the small Boland town of Tulbagh on 29th September 1969. It measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and killed nine people. Tulbagh is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. It is also home to some of the oldest people in South Africa.

As the 37th anniversary of the earthquake approached in 2008, members of the Dutch Reformed Church ganged up on an art dealer who was planning an exhibition of nude works. He began getting anonymous death threats at 2am every morning. The local minister told his flock that some parishioners had experienced visions of the town being swallowed up by another earthquake, and he warned them that “the back of the dragon will open up” if the town turned its back on God. Taking no chances, the art dealer cancelled the exhibition and moved his collection to Cape Town.

Cause & Effect

Over a million earthquakes are recorded around the world each year. That’s one every thirty seconds. This makes them more common than gum-chewing girls in white plastic pants. The difference is that while you might not always be able to feel the earthquake, you will always want to feel the girl. I’m sorry. That was sexist and uncalled for. It won’t happen again. Not in the earthquake section, anyway.

Californians like to brag about the San Andreas Fault. Every day, unemployed drag queens get together in the bars of Berkeley and Santa Rosa to talk in hushed tones about The Big One. They might not be talking about earthquakes at all.

Typical Americans. Always over-dramatising. There has barely been a tremor in San Francisco since 1906. We also have spastic crustal plates. We just don’t talk about them all the time.

One of the effects of an earthquake is to make some people very rich. In Alaska, 54 companies offered earthquake insurance in 2004. They took in premiums totalling $12.3-million and paid out $36,000 in damage related to earthquakes. As far as profit margins go, I can’t see much difference between the Alaskan insurance industry and the Colombian cocaine trade.

Religious fundamentalists consider earthquakes to be God’s way of punishing us for our sins. This makes sense when you consider what goes on in San Francisco. God doesn’t like homos. Apparently it says so in the Bible. I looked for the relevant passage but got side-tracked by this incredible story about a drunken whore from Babylon who would visit clients on the back of a seven-headed beast. That’s my kind of hooker. I bet she charged a fortune, too.

But not everyone believes that earthquakes are caused by a prudish, holier-than-thou god. New age hippies, for example, believe that giant trolls hold up the earth from the inside and that an earthquake is caused when one of them loses his grip.

The Hindus believe earthquakes happen when one of the eight mighty elephants holding up the earth gets tired and lowers its head.

For the Chinese, it is the twitching of a giant frog.

And the Japanese say earthquakes are the result of an enormous catfish thrashing about.

Personally, I think earthquakes are caused when the frog jumps onto a troll who is concentrating on trying to hook the catfish, startling him and stampeding the elephants.

Quake Alert

Animals provide a reliable early warning system for earthquakes. If your dog, cat, fish or geese start behaving strangely, you need to get out of your house as quickly as possible. If you are keeping anything in cages, release them so they have a fighting chance of survival. I run out into the street four, maybe five, times a day. This is the price you pay for keeping animals that exhibit consistently strange behaviour.

 What To Do

If you are not drunk or having sex (you’re not from South Africa, are you?), there are certain steps you need to take to ensure that not only do you survive the earthquake, but you come out of it a whole lot better off than when you started.

When the tremors begin, move quickly to get under a solid object such as the kitchen table, or even your wife if she is of the larger variety. If the vibrations continue for long enough, she may begin deriving a certain amount of enjoyment from the experience. Do not encourage her. This will set a dangerous precedent whereby she expects the earth to move every time she lies on top of you. Nobody needs that kind of pressure.

Once the shaking has stopped, do not hang around waiting for the aftershocks. Go outside immediately. If you live in the suburbs, use your car to get to the nearest commercial district as quickly as possible. Do not try to get there by foot. Speed is of the essence. There is no point in getting to the shops only to find that all the best stuff has already been taken. Besides, you will need the car to transport your loot back home.

If it has been a particularly good earthquake, most of the shop windows will already be broken. This saves time and effort. Step right in and help yourself. A lot of people instinctively make for the larger items like television sets, plasma screens and computers. Don’t follow the herd. It is not worth putting your back out. The whole point is to minimise the chance of injuring yourself in a disaster. I recommend that you stick to the smaller items like cellphones, jewellery and handguns. That way you will be able to fit more in your car.

If you have finished shopping and feel a little guilty, a good way to assauge your conscience is to assist others who may have fainted or been knocked unconscious by falling debris. The first thing you have to do is remove necklaces, watches, belts and even underwear if the victim is a beautiful woman. This will help them breathe more easily. Place the items in a bag, then place the bag in your car.You have done all you can. Now go home and rest.


Poverty is an act of God because I say so. But if you insist on hard evidence, just go into any poor person’s house and look around their lounge. On the wall will be at least one crucifix and a full colour poster of Rafael’s Jesus holding a lamb and looking depressed. The poorer the people, the more cheap and nasty Christian gimcracks will adorn the walls and tables. The poor love God. Quite why this is, I cannot say. And I have no doubt that God loves the poor, too. Just not enough to make them wealthy.

Poverty & Crime

One of the enduring myths of the 21st century is that poverty causes crime. This is a lie put out by foreign aid workers whose thinking is as woolly as their jumpers. They use it to increase their budgets so they can buy more dope and sell more children into slavery.

Poverty does not cause crime. It causes malnutrition, alcoholic dementia and CNN specials on Africa. Poverty, however, is a crime. Every time a poor person bangs on my door or my car window, I tell them to fuck off. Then I feel guilty. People who care about the poor tell us not to give them money. They say that by doing so we are encouraging them to continue with their despicable begging ways. But since this makes me feel guilty, it ruins my day. Well, maybe not the whole day.

The point is that it should be illegal for the poor to make people like me feel guilty. People who have done something wrong should feel guilty. I have done nothing wrong. And this is why I resent the poor. Surviving poverty certainly can be an emotionally draining experience.

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.

Ben Trovato’s Art of Survival – Part 2

Chapter 10

Surviving Acts of God

(and some things for which he is not prepared to take the rap)

God is blamed for a lot of bad stuff that occurs in the world. But he is a Teflon God and nothing sticks to him for very long. In fact, people often end up thanking him after something terrible has happened. I have never understood why. They just do.

South Africa is not a country that is blessed with natural disasters. Natural resources, yes. Too many, if you ask me. But disasters are thin on the ground. This doesn’t mean that God is happy with us. Far from it. You would be mistaken in taking this as a sign that you can be complacent. Complacency can be lethal, especially if you combine it with alcohol and then try to operate heavy machinery.

When it comes to survival, the words of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, spring to mind. “Be prepared,” he said.

Then again, he also said: “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend.” Lest we forget, Robert was the one who insisted on the boys wearing tight-fitting khaki shorts, gaily-coloured scarves and leather woggles.

The world is a dangerous place and it is getting more so by the minute. But instead of honing your survival skills, you are eating more red meat than ever before. You smoke anything you can get your hands on and you drink half a dozen double gins during your lunch break. And, unless you are reading this in hospital, you probably believe that nothing really bad will ever happen to you. What makes you think you are so special? I am sickened by your arrogance and can only hope that you find yourself embroiled in a series of unfortunate incidents in the near future. If crime doesn’t get you, God will. Luckily for you, this book can save your life. On the other hand, you may not want to live but are one of those wishy-washy types who lack the courage to commit suicide. Again, luckily for you, this book is just what you need to help ensure that death comes as swiftly and painlessly as possible.

Surrendering To Fate’s Fickle Finger

The survival instinct is a peculiar thing. Even when a person has lost everything he holds dear, like his car keys or even his wife, he will refuse to give up and will instead fight on in the face of insurmountable odds. Of course, not everybody is that stubborn. Perhaps you are like me and would prefer to die flamboyantly rather than be caught on amateur video weeping, screaming and begging for help. Resistance to the inevitable is unseemly and common.

If you have no intention of putting up a struggle in the face of disaster, then now is a good time to begin preparing. Draw up a daily schedule of drinking heavily, eating plenty of carbohydrates and watching a lot of television, preferably from a reclining position. This will slow your reflexes right down.

If you have successfully lost the will to live, you may find yourself sitting around the house waiting impatiently for God to come along with one of his show-stopping acts. You may even be tempted to help things along a bit by blindfolding yourself and running around your apartment with a pair of scissors in your hand. Unfortunately, this only works for children.

The important thing is not to regain hope. Put your trust in God. Sooner or later, he will answer your prayers and deliver unto you something forged in the burning pits of hell so that you may enter the valley of the shadow of death and be done with this business once and for all.

I have a nasty feeling, though, that God’s interest in us might have waned a little over the centuries. I suspect that a new project has come up. Things were never quite the same after Adam and Eve blew it for all of us by eating that goddamn apple. What was Adam thinking? There he was, well on his way to celebrating his 931st birthday, and he has to go and screw it up. Silly bugger.

Anyway, don’t stop despairing. Half the fun of losing the will to live is in coming up with your own creative ways of avoiding a lifetime of pointless struggle and heartache. However, if somebody owes you money or a round of drinks, you may want to survive long enough to be able to collect. This is why you need to pay attention. As I have said before, this book will save your life. Or not. It depends on you, really.