Survival Tool… A Towel?

In The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, the most valuable piece of survival gear is a towel. The novel’s entry for towels can be found in the footnotes of this article[1]. In summary, the guide states that a towel can be used for: warmth, shade, defense, cushioning, as a sail, chemical warfare filter, or defense against the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.

But seriously, how useful is a towel during a survival situation?

Obviously, a towel can be used for warmth and make-shift shade, but I’m dubious of the other uses listed in the Guide. Here on Earth, a towel won’t be much use as a sail or defense against a large monster. Nor does it provide much comfort as a mattress, but it makes a decent extra-firm pillow[2].

Here are some ways towels can be used during a survival situation by us Earthlings.

Wave to Signal

The easiest way to survive a disastrous situation is to get rescued. If you’re stranded and see a plane or helicopter flying nearby, grab a towel and wave it around to get the pilot’s attention. Even if the aircraft flies away, the pilot probably saw you and reported your location to other rescue teams. Keep waving the towel at passing aircraft until you are rescued. If one pilot doesn’t see you, maybe the next one will.

For Warmth and Cooling

There are a few ways a towel can be used to stay warm or to cool off.

Shade

Tie the corners of a towel onto a low tree branch and sit under it to shelter from the sun. Just don’t expect it to cover your entire body if you want to lay down for a nap. If someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, in addition to applying cool water or ice to the skin, providing shade to the upper half of the body can help cool the victim while waiting for medical assistance.

Insulation

If your home has a drafty door, tuck a towel into the cracks at the bottom to keep the hot/cold air out. Similarly, if there’s a small hole in a wall, stuff a towel in the opening to temporarily seal it.

During Hurricane Harvey (2017), the storm pushed rain through the masonry of my building. I was faced with having to pat-dry that wall nonstop for multiple days, with less than a dozen towels, and no way to dry them. It was an impossible task and I had to be creative with the materials at my disposal. I managed to rig up and adhere a few towels to the wall so they soaked up the water, and guided it into a bucket (so I could sleep).

Warmth

A towel makes a decent blanket for the upper body, but won’t cover much more than that.

I once had to use a towel as a blanket while attending school in North Texas. I was returning from Spring Break when a late Greyhound stranded me overnight at the station near my campus. The weather can be bipolar in that part of Texas, so the warm day quickly became a frigid night. I found a towel in my luggage and used it to stay warm enough to get a few naps in before the school shuttle picked me up the next morning.

To clarify, the “station” was little more than an office with 2 public restrooms, all of which were locked. Also, this was about 10 years before Uber became popular and taxis didn’t serve the area.

Head Covering or Scarf

The derogatory term, “Towelhead” gained usage after 9/11 as a slur against Arabs, Muslims, and desert nomads. During a survival situation, it’s wise to adopt the traditional garb of those desert cultures to shield your skin from the sun. Here are a few examples of how you can use a towel in this situation.

Turban

Wrap a towel around your head into a turban to serve as a makeshift hat. Wetting the towel helps keep your head cool as the water evaporates. If you have a really large towel, alternate forms of a turban can be fashioned to cover your neck as well.

Scarf

Similarly, using a damp towel as a scarf can provide additional cooling if you already have a hat. Even a dry scarf helps to absorb sweat and cool your skin through evaporation.

Alternately, a towel used as a scarf can help cover or insulate your neck when exposed to the cold.

Lawrence of Arabia Turban

This is a simple head covering and may be easier to wear than a turban, but you need a rubber band or rope. This two-piece “turban” is worn to shield the wearer from the sun and provides additional cooling by directing breezes toward the head and neck.

  1. Center the towel and cover your head as far forward as the mid-forehead. Don’t cover beyond your eyebrows, because that will ultimately cause distractions and limit visibility.
  2. Use a large rubber band (or a string/rope) to fasten the towel, so it stays in place. Fasten it midway up your forehead and around the back of your head.
  3. Experiment with how you wear the turban. If you wear the “turban” lopsided, or longer on one side, you’ll have enough towel to use as a scarf or face mask.

Makeshift Clothing

What if you suddenly find yourself naked and afraid, with nothing but a towel?

Don’t panic!

Use that towel to cover your very public, pubic areas. If you’re female, wrap it over your chest. Most towels are wide enough to cover the breast and pubic areas of the body. It’s a little easier for men because we can simply wrap it around the waist.

However, the width may be too long and may hinder a man’s ability to run quickly. I find it useful to fold the towel in half to reduce the width. It still covers what you need covered, while providing unrestricted movement.

Plus, it’s sexier… if you’re young or muscular, or generally attractive looking. Humans tend to be more willing to help those we find sexually attractive and wearing that towel in a sexy way could help with finding a survival companion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find love in a hopeless place (or time).

A Diaper

Finding fresh diapers will be impossible during a survival situation, so you’ll need to use towels as a substitute. It’s best to have multiple towels when using them as diapers. I think 5 towels are a good amount to have per infant, but more are always better. It’s a good idea to use the following rotation plan.

  1. One towel is worn by the baby.
  2. Wash each towel immediately after soiling.
  3. Dry soiled towels (could take hours if air-drying).
  4. One towel should be ready for the next diaper change.
  5. One towel should be ready as backup.

You’ll have 2 towels washed and drying at the same time, while still having 2 available when the diaper needs to be changed… in theory.

Absorb Water

Imagine finding an open well with water, but no bucket in sight. This is the only water you’ve seen all day, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find more tomorrow.

How can you get that water?

The basic function of a towel is to soak in liquids, so use it to soak up and collect that water.

  1. Tie a rope to the towel and drop it in the well.
  2. Make sure the towel is soaked before pulling it back to the surface.
  3. Wring the water out of the towel into a cooking pot, or some other container.
  4. Repeat the process until your container(s) are full.
  5. Make the water potable before consuming (filter, boil, germicidal tablets, etc.).

Makeshift Water Filter

It won’t remove microbes, but you can pour water through a towel to filter out debris before making it potable.

Air Filter or Mask

A towel can be used as a mask to keep sand and dust out of your airways. Used as a mask, it can muffle the germs of an infectious person and reduce the distance germs travel away from the wearer. As the Covid pandemic has shown us, masks don’t provide much protection from germs that are already in the air, so this is more of a preventative measure to help keep infectious people from spreading diseases.

A dry towel can even be used as a make-shift respirator to reduce the amount of smoke inhaled during a fire. According to most sources, wetting the towel doesn’t provide much additional benefit, and can make it harder to breathe through the towel.

What about Chemical warfare?!

Well, a towel can help… and it can’t.

According to FEMA[3], you should cover your mouth and nose while seeking shelter, but it should not be relied on as a safety measure in place of getting to shelter immediately. Covering your mouth does not prevent exposure to chemical vapors, but is effective against smoke and aerosols. Such byproducts would be released to the immediate area of a biological or chemical attack. Although, you’re most likely to encounter smoke during a house fire or wildfire.

In studies, using a dry folded handkerchief (or towel) was the most effective filter for particulates or aerosols[4]. As previously mentioned, wetting a towel doesn’t provide any benefit, and can make it harder to breathe. Placing a wet towel at the bottom of a door or window does not prevent vapors from entering a room, nor does it reduce the amount of chemicals entering[5].

As Defense

There are several articles about using a towel or other piece of clothing to defend against an assailant armed with a bladed weapon. Watch any “kung fu” movie to see how the unarmed protagonist fends off attackers with clothing, and even disarms them with it. In real life, the goal is to constrict the weapon or arm to disable or disarm the assailant, and then escape the situation.

It’s possible to use a towel to defend yourself from an attacker armed with a dagger, but it may be harder if faced with a larger blade like a sword. The best way a towel can be used to defend against a bladed weapon is to redirect the force away from your body. However, you shouldn’t go into a fight expecting to use a towel as a medieval shield, because a sharp sword (or katana) can easily slice through it.

If a stabbing attack is unavoidable, try using the towel to reduce how far the blade penetrates the skin. 

A Torture/Interrogation Device[6] 

Do you recall how painful it was getting whipped by a towel in the high school locker-room? The same principle applies when using a towel to interrogate a prisoner. Hold the towel at opposing ends and roll it into a long, towel-like rope. Then crack that whip at random parts of the body until the prisoner talks.

If used with enough force, a towel-whip can even leave bruises.

Wetting the towel can cause additional pain, but don’t get the towel soaking wet. If the towel is too wet it’ll only create a sloppy mess and won’t cause the prisoner much pain. You need enough water to moisten it. The perfect amount seems to match up with the dampness a towel gets after drying an average-sized adult as he walks out of a shower.

To Dry Things… A Towel’s Basic Function

Don’t forget the basic function of a towel is to dry stuff. Knowing how to use it for other things is great during a survival situation, but towels are best at doing the following.

  • Dry yourself, objects, and surfaces (of course).
  • Absorb liquid.
  • Wash yourself (most towel sets come with rags, which are made of the same exact material).

Last Resort Uses

Useful things can be made out of a towel, but doing so will destroy it. If you have no other option, a towel can be scrapped to make bandages, cut for cordage, or used as kindling for a fire.

***

When I read The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, I knew the claim that a towel is the most valuable piece of survival gear was meant to be a joke. However, a towel can be very useful during a survival situation.

Use this article as inspiration to see how ordinary household items can be used differently to improve your chances of survival. I’ve already found a few things we tend to throw away and will share their potential uses in future articles.


[1] Towel – The Guide’s Description:

A towel is just about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can carry. Partly because it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it around your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course you can dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase which has passed into hitch hiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki. (n.d.). Towel. Retrieved from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Wiki: https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Towel

[2] Towel Pillow: A towel makes a good extra-firm pillow if folded. Its flexibility means it can be formed into any shape you need without flattening out, which is great for ergonomics… or so my doctor says.

[3] FEMA Guidelines: I know that many of my readers don’t exactly trust FEMA. Some of you don’t trust the government at all. Hell, I don’t have confidence in it either because it’s repeatedly ruined simple common-sense laws and messed up so many straight-forward public works projects. HOWEVER, the scientific data it acquires is originally designed to help our soldiers and we shouldn’t disregard its value to us as survivalists.

[4] FEMA. (2020, February 5). Using wet towels in chemical attack? Retrieved from Federal Emergency Management Agency: https://www.fema.gov/faq/using-wet-towels-chemical-attack

[5] Door/Window Covering: Placing a towel at the bottom of a door or window will not prevent vapors from entering. All points of entry (door, window, AC vent, dryer vent, plugs, etc.) need to be sealed with plastic and duct tape. Unfortunately, even that may not be good enough considering that some plastics are semipermeable, and there are likely deformities in the room or house which could allow vapors to enter, such as: cracks in the wall, floor, and internal ceilings (and/or standard features in a home, like attic vents).

[6] Crime/Violence Disclaimer: The author does not condone violence or breaking any laws, nor does the author support vigilante justice. The intention of this article is to educate readers on how to improve personal survivability during a theoretical disaster, and does not promote or entice anyone to steal, loot, or commit any other crime in any ordinary circumstance.

Songs with Misheard Lyrics 🎵

We often mishear the lyrics to music. We’ll sing and hum along to the songs we like, and would be embarrassed to learn we’ve been singing the song wrong. There are several ways the musical experience can be diminished and cause us to mishear lyrics.

  • Transmission degradation could happen, diminishing sound quality and causing slight static to occur at certain parts of the song.
  • The speakers in a car (or radio) could be damaged and sound scratchy.
  • The acoustics in the car could make the music sound hollow depending on which seat you’re in.
  • And, of course, there’s the ever-present background noise of the road and/or passengers when driving.

I grew up before music was available instantly on a phone/computer, and the only way to listen to music was over the radio or via cassette/CD. For me, mistaken lyrics occurs most often when the song was heard over the radio or in the background of a large gathering.

Nowadays, it’s easier to understand the music we hear. Most music apps download songs via a data packet to protect the music quality, and won’t play the song until all or a portion of the data (song) is downloaded. Some of those apps allow us to see the lyrics and sing along too. And most of us listen with headphones, which lets us hear the songs without background noise.

The following is a list of songs compiled from my experience to explain this phenomenon. See what I heard vs. the actual lyrics, and think of how you may not know the true words to your favorite songs.

Chains – By Patty Loveless

What I heard: “James, James, jackal, and flames” 

Actual lyrics: “Chains, chains, shackles, and chains

I heard this on the radio when I was about 5 years old and thought she was singing about a “love taking, heartbreaking” man named, James. I saw The Omen (1976 version) at an early age, so I think I heard “flames” because jackals are associated with Satan and the flames in Hell.

Blinded by the Light –By Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

What I heard 1: “Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a douche in the roller of the night”

Actual lyrics 1: “Blinded by the light, Revved up like a deuce, Another runner in the night”

What I heard 2: “… And little early birdie gave my anus-curl a whirley…”

Actual lyrics 2: “… And little Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly…”

Turn the beat around – By Vicki Sue Robinson

What I heard: “Turn the beat around, got ta hear obsession

Actual lyrics: “Turn the beat around, love to hear the percussion

No Scrubs – By TLC

What I heard: “Boy, I don’t want no shrub

Actual lyrics: “Boy, I don’t want no scrub

I had a hard time with this one in my teens. I had no idea what a scrub was and the radio made it sound like she was singing about a shrub.

Thank U, Next – By Ariana Grande

What I heard: “Bacon and eggs, Bacon and eggs

Actual lyrics: “Thank you, next. Thank you, next

I first heard this song while driving to work one morning and it honestly sounded like she was singing, “Bacon and eggs”. The morning radio DJ/Hosts regularly air parodies of songs, so I thought it was a joke because people were commuting to work (with empty stomachs). That is until I heard it again, at a different part of the day.

Levitating – By Dua Lipa

What I heard: “You want me, I want you, baby. My sugarboo, I’m irritated.”

Actual lyrics: “You want me, I want you, baby. My sugarboo, I’m levitating.”

What Other People Heard

I knew the lyrics to the following songs, but others didn’t. When these songs play over the radio, I think of those people… and their version of the song.

Who Are You – By The Who

What was heard: “Who are you? Hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot

Actual lyrics: “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”

I could understand the lyrics, but my 2-year-old sister thought they were making owl hoots. I think it’s a hoot now that I look back at the memory.

Losing My Religion – By R.E.M.

What was heard: “That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spot-light, Losing my virginity

Actual lyrics: “That’s me in the corner, That’s me in the spot-light, Losing my religion

While on a road trip, I heard my boyfriend sing along to this song. The radio was pretty clear, but he sang, “Losing my virginity”. I looked at him and asked if he just said virginity?

I laughed when he said yes.

I told him it was “religion” and called him a doofus.

He was skeptical at first, but heard it for himself when the phrase repeated later in the song. He grew up thinking the lyrics were “losing my virginity” his whole life, and laughed at the revelation.

Because It’s Christmas Time

It’s the holiday season and stores, restaurants, and some radio stations are blasting Christmas music… nonstop. I grew up hearing these songs, but a couple of them stumped me.

Hark the Herald Angel Sing – By Charles Wesley

What I heard: “Peace on Earth and nursery rhymes

Actual lyrics: “Peace on earth and mercy mild

We Wish You a Merry Christmas – By Unknown

What I heard (v1): “Oh, bring us some frigging pudding”

What I heard (v2): “Oh, bring us some fluffy pudding”

Actual lyrics: “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding”.

I’m happy to finally learn the actual lyrics because I love figs and now feel compelled to Google the recipe for “figgy pudding”! (It’s more of a cake than pudding.)

I’d also like to point out the song makes the carolers sound very demanding. If listened from an alternate perspective, it sounds like a bunch of people (in a chorus) are wishing you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

That’s nice and all, but then these bums start demanding some “frigging/figgy” pudding, and threaten to not leave until they get some. And that’s not all… they want you to “bring it right here”. 

The poor homeowner must provide the carolers with pudding or they won’t leave. How will he/she get any sleep?

Bird Flew

We’ve been hearing about how all these chickens are testing positive for bird flew. Chickens don’t typically fly, but they’re fully capable of flying for short distances to find food or reach a perch. 

We don’t normally see these flights because it rarely happens. When such a flight is witnessed, it scares the fuck out of humans! Early intervention is important because if one chicken can learn to fly, even for a short distance, it means others can too.

That knowledge can spread like a virus.

The standing policy for farmers or bird-factories is to report the possibility a chicken may have “flew”. Once the government receives the alert, it triggers a rapid response:

  1. The entire facility is locked down by special forces and the employees are sworn to secrecy.
  2. A team of inspectors is dispatched to do a psychological interview of the witness.
  3. Once it’s verified the worker didn’t hallucinate the incident, all camera footage is examined to verify if the bird or birds did indeed fly.
  4. The birds test positive if flight is verified and the entire stock must be exterminated.
  5. The special forces team is reassigned from containment to extermination and uses flamethrowers to sterilize the facility.
  6. The smell of cooked chicken always draws a crowd, so it’s important to have a cover story. To hide the fact a bird flew, the media is told of a bird flu infection.

Our entire food supply could fly the coop if rapid intervention isn’t taken to eliminate the infection and ensure information of the incident doesn’t make it to the media. If animal rights activists were to learn a bird flew, those hippies will demand better conditions for the chickens.

It won’t stop there. 

If chickens can learn to fly, maybe they can read and write too. Activists will demand the chickens be tested to prove if they are intelligent. As with most controversial studies, there will be mixed results and people may demand a moratorium on chicken consumption. Those social agitators will go even further and push for chickens to have rights and legal representation. Before you know it, Chicken-Scratch will become a grade-school subject!

Chicken-Scratch!

Food prices will spiral out of control while these social reforms are debated. Our civilization will be further polarized between two radical factions. Those who believe chickens are sentient, and those who can’t believe dinner can talk.

We’d end up fighting a neo-civil war on CHICKENS!

If the Independents aren’t forced to pick a side, they’ll watch the war play out in sports bars over a plate of wings. People who probably haven’t touched a gun their entire lives will try to defeat those who own 2 or more. Regardless of who wins the war, the battlefields will be stained a shade of red similar to buffalo sauce.

All because a damn bird flew.

***

Author’s Note: I intentionally inflated the government and social responses to emphasize the fictitious nature of the story. However, bird flu (avian influenza) is a serious disease our nation should take seriously. Humans don’t have much of a natural defense against this zoological version of Influenza, and the majority of human cases are terminal.

Bird flu is usually spread by migrating birds and if it’s here in the United States, it’s probably here to stay. We couldn’t even stop a bunch of rich old birds from carrying Covid-19 from their cruises and vacations from China and East Asia. So, what makes you think we can stop ACTUAL birds from flying into the country. 

Don’t shun food made with chicken just yet, because according to studies, an infected chicken is still safe to eat if cooked thoroughly[1],[2].

Which shouldn’t be a problem because I don’t know anyone who likes a rare chicken.


[1] Eileen Haraminac, W. S. (2022, March 11). Humans cannot get avian influenza from properly cooked poultry and eggs. Retrieved from Michigan State University Extension: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/avian_influenza_poultry_eggs_safe_food

[2] United States Department of Agriculture. (2015). USDA Questions and Answers: Food Safety and Avian Influenza. USDA.

Fun with Names

I see words and names differently than most people and this article is an example of how my mind sometimes makes connections associated with words and names. These are things I’ve thought of when encountering the names of cities, countries, and organizations over the years. Some of these thoughts are from as far back as elementary school.

Also, the play on words expressed here does not represent any inherent judgement or bias to the culture or history of any named location.

Geographical Names

Islamabad – Is Islam so bad they named a city Islamabad?

No, it isn’t.

Russia – Do they rush through life in Russia?

Israel – Is Israel really real? … It Israel!

Iran – ‘And Iran, Iran so far away, I just ran, Iran all night and day, I couldn’t get away.’

New Guinea – Since there’s a New Guinea is there an Old or Original Guinea?

Yes. It’s located in Africa.

Do guinea pigs come from Guinea or New Guinea?

Nope. They’re from South America[1].

Brussels – Do brussels sprouts come from Brussels?

Yes, they do… sort of[2].

Canada – Can you get a can of pecan pie filling in Canada?

Idaho – I wanna go to Idaho, cuz I-da-ho!

Budapest – Buddha is such a pest in Budapest.

Turkey – Do they eat turkey in Turkey?

Not often because turkey has to be imported, and meat is already expensive in that country.

Tropic of Cancer – Does living in the Tropic of Cancer make you more likely to get cancer[3]?

Caribbean – I would like to thank the producers of the Carib bean. It’s the only way I learned how to spell “Caribbean”.

Sargent, Texas – PRIVATE! You sorry excuse for a human being! DROP AND GIVE ME 40!!!

Security, Texas – Is this where all security guards live or go to retire?

Is it truly secure in Security, Texas?

Not necessarily. According to Crimegrade.com, half the town has a B-rating and the other half scored C[4].

Dickinson – I know we’re into accepting all types of people nowadays, but you don’t have to name a city to advertise your son’s sexuality. I’m sure everyone knows.

Coincidentally, Dickinson, Texas tried to get a city flag approved this week. Option “C” sort of pairs nicely with my Dick-in-son story[5]

Organization Names

Texas A&M – Why do so many cars have bumper stickers advertising the use of an ATM 🏧 in Texas[6]

Met Life – Get Met, it pays… to introduce yourself and advance your career.

Mars – Has the candy company, Mars, ever donated money to fund a mission to the planet Mars?

I asked in July of 2021 and followed up this year, but the company never responded[7].

IBM – IBM, U BM, everyone BMs at some point.

***

As evidence shows, I tend to see words and names differently than most people. This article isn’t the sum of such thoughts I have when encountering names and words. Local events (in Dickinson) made it important to post “Fun with Names”, so that part will be relevant.

Expect to find similar articles in the future.

I’d like to announce that I’m continuing my “Practical Survivalist” series and hope you’ll enjoy the new additions.


[1] Wikipedia. (n.d.). Guinea pig. Retrieved from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_pig

[2] Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. (n.d.). Brussels Sprout. Wisconsin, United States of America. Retrieved from https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/school-nutrition/pdf/fact-sheet-brussels-sprout.pdf

[3] Tropic of Cancer: I specifically remember asking my 2nd or 3rd grade teacher this.

[4] Crimegrade. (n.d). The Safest and Most Dangerous Places in 77328, TX: Crime Maps and Statistics. Retrieved from Crimegrade: https://crimegrade.org/safest-places-in-77328/

[5] Dickinson, Texas: In respect to Dickinson, Texas, according to the local evening news station, ABC 13, the city has a strong Italian heritage. This is why all proposed flag options look similar to the Flag of Italy.

[6] A&M: I just learned the “A&M” meant Agricultural and Mechanical back in the 1800s, but now the abbreviation doesn’t carry any inherent meaning except to pay respect to the institution’s history.

Texas A&M University (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from Texas A&M University: https://www.tamu.edu/about/faq.html#:~:text=Corps%20of%20Cadets%3F-,What%20does%20%22A%26M%22%20stand%20for%3F,or%20%22A%26M%22%20for%20short.

[7] Mars 4 Mars: Their website indicates they make contributions to nonprofits in areas the company operates. The most prominent donation is when it committed 26 million to Covid-19 Response.

Mars, Incorporated. (2020, April 3). Mars Commits $26M to Communities in COVID-19 Response. Retrieved from Mars: https://www.mars.com/news-and-stories/press-releases/Mars-commits-donation-to-communities-in-covid19-response

Red/Blue Pill 💊

If you have an account with any of the major social media platforms, you’ve likely seen one of the many different versions of this Matrix-style red/blue pill question[1]. Most people who comment or respond to these types of posts answer with their choice and provide a brief reason to support that decision. But when I recently encountered this post, I found myself thinking about the inherent question and what consequences each decision may hold.

A quick note from the author: The points made in this story are best suited to someone who was a child during the 1990s, or earlier.

Red Pill

I noticed that most of the commentators who chose the red pill said they’d go back and use their knowledge to play the market or win the lottery to get rich and have the best of both worlds. The thing most of these commenters are missing is the red pill says: “restart your life at age 6 with all the knowledge you have now”. That doesn’t necessarily mean restart AND GO BACK IN TIME, with all the knowledge you have now.

Now think about it, would you seriously want to retain your knowledge and restart at age 6?

  1. You can’t drive 🚗
  2. You can’t work, so how are you going to support yourself? Do you honestly think your parents want to re-raise you? Are they even alive? If not, you’re going to be a ward of the state. 
  3. All your current credentials are useless and need to be re-earned because nobody will believe a 6-year-old graduated with a bachelor’s/master’s degree 🎓 That means…
  4. You have to suffer through school all over again. You’ll have to endure over 12 years of droning teachers who teach nothing to prepare you for life as an adult (things like laws, crime & punishment, how to do taxes, etc.). 
  5. You can’t vote 🗳
  6. Health-wise, reverting back to the body of a child with all the knowledge you’ve amassed may cause problems. Consider that your body is still growing and developing at age 6. All your current knowledge may force your brain to rapidly establish neural connections and grow new wrinkles. If left unchecked, all that quick growth could cause a tumor[2]
  7. You can’t drink 🍷 🍸 🍹 🍺 🥃
  8. You need to consider sexual relationships too. Since you have the knowledge of a full adult, are you technically a “Pedi” if you have sex with another person your physical age? On the same subject, do you really want to “date” adults who’re attracted to kids your age (think really hard about what normally happens to their victims).

Let’s play devil’s advocate and consider what could happen if you took the red pill and did travel back in time to your 6th birthday, with all the knowledge you now possess.

If you’re a millennial, there’s no escaping school because “No Child Left Behind” ended in 2015. That means you’ve got to slog through all those classes… all over again. However, you may perform a lot better because you learned everything already. You may even qualify for advanced placement classes, and maybe an academic scholarship later in life.

The technology we have today doesn’t exist. Do you think you can live without being able to post an update every day? Be honest. When I was a teen, LiveJournal and Blogging were THE only social media methods. LiveJournal and Blogging!!!

Also consider that access to immediate information may not exist, so you’ve got to keep any petty snowflake ideals you may harbor to yourself. People were no-nonsense back then and that kind of behavior would have earned you a black eye. 

Another thing to remember is that childhood punishments were much harsher during and before the 1990s. Nowadays, children are getting PTSD from “time out”. So don’t be shocked when you have to physically re-live an actual spanking.

Many commentators said they’d play the market or win the lottery to get rich. If you want to try winning the lottery, you’d need to remember the exact numbers and when to play them. You’re just a punk kid and can’t buy the ticket, so you need to convince someone to buy a ticket with those numbers. And then, you’d need to ensure you can benefit from those winnings. It’ll be easy for an adult to walk away with your lottery money, or if family, to squander your winnings.

It’s too risky to use the winning numbers too many times, because sooner or later, someone is going to find out you have advanced knowledge of the winning numbers and either ruin the scheme or kidnap you for the information. So, just to be sure you win the lottery, you’d have to remember or save the winning numbers until your 18th birthday. That’s 12 years…

But what about playing the market? Again, YOU ARE A CHILD. You can’t buy stocks. If you walk into a Charles Schwab, the employees are going to call the police to report a missing child. If you have nice parents, you may be able to convince them to buy stocks using your allowance money. Don’t hold your breath though.

Most Americans didn’t know how to buy stock way back when. Heck, people still thought Charles Schwab branches were banks in the early 2000s. Plus, the cost to buy anything in the market was so prohibitively expensive it detracted most potential investors.

Yes… good luck getting your parents to go through all that trouble.

Blue Pill

I’d personally choose the blue pill, because it seems simple enough. It’s just $10 million in cash, but even that isn’t without risk. For starters, how are you getting this $10 million in cash? Does it come with a receipt from a non-illegal entity? Or, is this money going to magically materialize out of thin air? 

If you can’t legally point out where the money came from, you’ll need to keep your new-found wealth a deep, dark secret. You’ll need to find a way to discretely spend it or “launder” it into the economy[3]. That means you’ll need to pay for everyday things using cash. If done wisely, you may be able to build an entire house with cash. But you’ll need to trust the workers not to take your money and run.

You’ll need to store all this cash for a really long time. Which increases your chances of getting robbed, and maybe even murdered for your money. Which also means you must hide it all away at various locations and remember where everything is stashed. 

If you receive the $10 million via direct deposit or wire transfer, then the source had better be legitimate. If not, a couple things that may happen. If the transfer came from an unknown or unconfirmed source, the bank will probably think it was an error in the system and void the transaction. Meaning, you instantly lose the money. 

Although, if the money is transferred from a known source, regardless of where the money came from, the government will be alerted and it will investigate the transaction[4]. If the government finds anything it doesn’t like, not only can it freeze your assets, but you may face time in prison. 

 ***

Overall, I think the blue pill is a safer option. Sure, there are risks with getting $10 million in cash, but the red pill has way more long-term annoyances and risks associated with it to be worthwhile. Not to mention that you’d have to grow up and endure hormonal changes and acne all over again.


[1] Wachowskis, T. (Director). (1999). The Matrix [Motion Picture].

[2] Tumor: Note that I’m NOT a medical professional. This is a hypothetical possibility and is not based on any science. If anything, consider it a nonsensical musing along the lines of: “everything may cause cancer”.

[3] Laundering: I’d like to remind everyone that I do not condone any illegal activity and any perceived instructions regarding how to commit a crime are hypothetical, and should be considered partly as a work of fiction.

[4] Investigation: I had a college professor who gave all her children $10,000 as a gift because she has more money than she can spend. She came home one night to find that our government ransacked her home as part of an FBI investigation related to funding terrorism.

The annual gift tax exclusion was $10,000 back then. Now, it about $16,000.

Pesky Pescatarian

I was supposed to be a Pescatarian last year, but that didn’t work out so well. I actually enjoy fish more than other meats such as beef, pork, or lamb. So, you’d think being a Pescatarian would be easy for me, but it wasn’t.

I’m a pretty healthy eater, so it’s not like I eat junk food every day[1]. I’m fortunate my tastes in food aren’t like most other people: 

  • I love salads and enjoy eating green leafy salads without dressing. 
  • I don’t like sweets, but will indulge if I feel like treating myself. 
  • I have mixed tastes when it comes to bacon. Sometimes it tastes good, but most of the time it’s… meh.
  • I will never turn my nose up to a good soup, stew, or gumbo.
  • I love pasta and bread. This is bad if you’re on a no/low-carb diet, and I try not to eat either very often. I love pasta so much, I became a Pastafarian.[2] 

So why didn’t the Pescatarian diet work out?

I simply don’t like the inconvenience of having to worry about what fits in a selective diet. I eat out a lot, and every time I went to a restaurant, disappointment would set in when I realized I couldn’t eat things the business was known for. I quickly began “forgetting” I’m a pesky Pescatarian and ate whatever I found appetizing on the menu.

Early in the diet, I had forgotten about the diet and had lamb for lunch. I was really excited about eating my lamb shank, but was reminded that we’re supposed to be Pescatarians. I quickly countered that I’m sure the sheep I’m about to consume was born a Pisces.

As I feasted on the flesh of the land-animal, I thought to myself:

Those pesky Pescatarians, always are discriminating against the other creatures of this earth. Just because my sweet little lamb might have had to swim once in his or her life, by accident, doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a protein than that snooty salmon he’s eating.

Just because that salmon can breathe underwater, doesn’t make it any better than my luscious little lamb. My lamb can breathe underwater too, but only for a few minutes before transcending to a higher plane of existence and becoming my lunch.

I bet if my little lamb and his salmon were in a prison together, my lamb would shank[3] his salmon in the cafeteria.

I’m jerked back from my daydream when I hear someone ask, “What are you thinking about, sweety?”

I can’t tell him what I’m really thinking and quickly reply, “How much I love you.”

“Aww! That’s sweet. I love you too.”


[1] Healthy Eater: I’m naturally a healthy eater, aside from my favorable taste in beer and wine… and the empty calories found in those alcoholic beverages.

[2] Pastafarian: Pastafarianism or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, worships the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). It makes light of some of the established religions and was born in opposition to teaching intelligent design in public schools.

When Pastafarians die they live on an island and can go sailing on their own pirate ship. The island has a “Beer Volcano”, which provides other beverages based on individual tastes. And there’s a stripper factory, which also builds strippers based on your tastes. The religion is inclusive and worshiping the Flying Spaghetti Monster is just a suggestion. You simply have to have the spirit of a pirate, and try not to be an asshole.

[3] Lamb shank: Get it? You do, right? (Yay to awkward middle-aged man humor…)

Also, I do not condone or promote violence of any sort.

Ideas Manifest at the Strangest Times

The ideas or writing topics I conjure up tend to manifest themselves at the strangest of times. Most of these ideas hit me when I’m least prepared, and when I can’t quickly make a note to help me remember later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a brilliant idea to write about, only to forget the idea when I tried to jot it down as a memo or writing prompt.

Sometimes ideas come to me while driving, sometimes inspiration comes when showering, and sometimes a dinner conversation will spark inspiration for a short story. If I don’t make a note of the idea, it’ll be lost forever. just like the great idea I just thought of today while I was holding my “Johnson” at the urinal, while hoping I won’t forget by the time I get back to my computer.

Just before Sleep

I really should keep a notepad next to my bed. I can’t tell you how many times I think of a great story in bed, just before falling to sleep. I lay out the entire story in my head and think of how I can expand it into a whole article, just before falling asleep and… forgetting it.

This happened recently. I though of a great idea to write about and knew I should jot a note down, but knew my sleep would suffer if I turned on my phone to capture the idea, so I didn’t. As my body went into sleep-mode, I tried to repeat the main points of the subject over and over in my head, hoping that tonight will be different and I’ll remember this idea…

Nope!

The supposedly best idea I ever had was forgotten by morning.

In the Restroom

I’ve had several ideas that popped into my head while urinating. Here I am minding my own business, holding my “business”, when… Poof! Idea, plot, and conclusion all play out in my head while I’m mid-stream.

This happens most often in a public restroom, where it would look odd if I whipped out my phone to take a note. I’ve got to try to hold the thought as I finish at the urinal and wash my hands. By the time I’m ready to take a note or writing prompt, the idea disappears into the ether.

Why can’t I get an idea when I’m sitting on the pot or something?!

Also, don’t act like you don’t browse your phone or scroll through your news feeds while sitting in the restroom!

While Socializing

Oftentimes, I’ll find myself in a conversation, and something will cause a spark of inspiration on a related subject I should write about. If such inspiration hits me while socializing, that means I have to find a way to discretely capture the idea before I forget it.

This is easy if I’m with a group of people, because the attention isn’t focused on me. But if it’s just me and another person, I had better be comfortable enough with them to be able to take out my phone to jot down a note.

When Driving

I’ve been on several road trips when a writing topic presented itself while I’m driving. I try to be a safe driver at all times, and don’t want to take a note while I’m at the wheel, so I’ve tried several methods to take notes when inspiration happens.

I dislike using automated assistants because it requires some attention to get the “assistant” to activate on my phone, and then it may not capture my writing prompt well enough for me to pick up at a later time.

When I have a friend with me, I’ll ask for them to text me a simple message of a few key words to help me remember. Unfortunately, I’ve got a friend who intentionally sabotages these memo texts by writing nonsense.

I’ll make my request to take a note and notice the message arrives and thank them, only to find out later that I have nonsense that I can’t use. I have to re-remember what it was that I wanted to write about.

How do you justify changing a simple note like: “Dogs in Shepherd[, Texas]” to: “Dogs shopping”.

Why are you sabotaging me?! I’m doing you a favor and prolonging your life by not texting and driving!

How do I record these ideas?

Any way I can. I use a backlit Bluetooth keyboard on my phone and regularly use it to text and email. The easiest method of note taking is by sending myself a text. It’s perfect if there’s an idea that can be saved with a few sentences and I don’t have to worry about an app failing, which causes me to lose all that raw data. And it’s as quick and simple as texting a friend, even without the keyboard. Having the backlit Bluetooth keyboard allows me to type anywhere, at any time of day or night.

Unfortunately, text messages have a couple drawbacks. They can’t contain special formatting to provide emphasis, and they are limited to a certain number of rows in the message.

A better method is to email myself notes on a topic or idea. Emailing allows for a lot of information to be recorded, especially if I suddenly feel inspired and want to continue writing on individual or multiple subjects. I can format my text to provide emphasis to words, and highlight to flag sentences or paragraphs that need to be reworked later. Emailing can be done anywhere, and when I’m done or get interrupted, I can simply send it to myself and the work is saved in the email server.

Just like texting my ideas, there’s a few drawbacks with emailing ideas from my phone. Some email apps are incredibly unreliable. Google’s Gmail app only refreshes when it wants to[1]. As a writer, the greatest fear I have is that I’ll lose an idea or an app will fail and I lose all that time and effort writing something great.

It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

Another complication with typing using my Bluetooth keyboard is the autocorrect function doesn’t work, nor does the spellchecker in the email apps. I don’t mind this because it gives me an extra opportunity to rework the story while spellchecking in a Word document.

Actually, I copy all my notes into a Word document. You can’t beat the functionality of a PC with Microsoft Word. I copy my texted notes to an email, send them to myself, and all those emails get transferred and saved in a Word document.

Why don’t I use the Word app?

The functionality of the mobile version is too limited, the size of the document on the screen of a mobile phone is too small, and I don’t like the thought of repurchasing something I already own (especially if it’s of poorer quality).

Ideas and writing topics can manifest themselves at any time… usually when it’s most inconvenient. It can seem like a tantalizing curse to have a muse who only hits you up while you’re driving, peeing, at the verge of passing the sleep-barrier, or gets jealous that you’re talking to someone else. The goal is to find ways to cope with this pesky muse-turn-gremlin, and record those great thoughts as soon as possible.

If you can manage that, you’re on the right path to become a great writer.

Thank you to my stalker-muse:

That pervert who butts his head into my urinal.

That creep who whispers to me in bed and watches while I sleep.

That jealous mistress who can’t stand that I try to have a social life.

That gremlin who may or may not want to kill me while driving.

-Me

[1] Gmail Refreshing – I can have full signal strength and make several attempts to refresh my emails for 5 days straight, and it will still show old emails I already reviewed/deleted on my PC days ago. It doesn’t inspire much confidence and causes anxiety when I see the same email I drafted in the app’s outbox.

Using a Public Toilet 🚻 A Ritual 

You walk into the restroom and smell that first waft of stale piss, but that doesn’t stop you. No. You are on a mission to sit and expel solid waste. You rush to the toilet not knowing who or what has sat on it before you. You don’t even know if the toilet has been cleaned recently.

It doesn’t matter. There’s a golfer trying to bore its way out and you absolutely must use this toilet.

OR…

You enter the restroom to the pleasant scent of Pine Sol and walk to the nearest stall. A heavenly sight awaits you as you open the stall. The water is still dyed a deep blue from the cleaning detergent used by the janitorial staff. You’re the first person to use this toilet today, and it’s as clean as it’s ever going to be.

This is a virgin toilet! 

Regardless of how clean the toilet may be, you still have a cleansing ritual to perform before your cheeks will touch that seat. The ritual is:

  1. Grab some toilet paper and wipe the seat. Some people use sanitizer to clean the seat.  
  2. Use even more toilet paper to cover the seat.  
  3. Only when the seat is covered to the point it looks like a flat bird’s nest, do you sit to lay your rotten “eggs”.

Don’t lie, you’ve done this ritual.

We all have our reasons for doing it. It may have been a learned habit from walking into public restrooms and having to clean the seat so many times. Maybe you remember missing the bowl yourself and are pretty sure everyone else pees on the seat too. Or maybe you’re a germaphobe and feel an extra compulsion to clean the seat. My father drilled it into my head that public toilets were disgusting sources of disease. 

Some restrooms have those thinner than paper seat covers mounted on the wall. Those seat covers are psychological constructs designed to keep people from wasting valuable toilet paper. They’re so flimsy you run the risk of destroying the cover while trying to get it out of the holder. You end up wasting not just the liner, but the precious few seconds remaining before that gofer runs out of your hole.

Lifting the Seat

If there’s no urinal and you only need to pee (and if you’re male), it’s polite to lift the seat so you don’t dirty it when the next person uses it. This type of situation is becoming more common now that unisex public toilets are appearing in restaurants and coffee shops.

But I don’t want to touch that thing, and then touch my junk!

If we bother to lift the seat, we use our feet which are protected by “germ-proof” shoes. We balance on one foot and use the other to lift the seat. It sort of looks like a martial art’s fighting stance.

***

We all share the same cleansing ritual to help put our minds at ease about using a public toilet of dubious cleanliness. We clean the seat, cover it, and sit on it. And once we’re comfortable, or are sitting and there’s no turning back, most of us will whip out our phones to brows our news feeds.

Who knows, you may be reading this story while on the pot!

Tow Truck Cross ✝️

We’ve all seen them as they drive around the city. They’re the vultures of the road who prey on traffic accidents. They roam the streets looking for targets of opportunity and victimize unsuspecting drivers who may have parked in a parking spot after hours or too close to a no parking zone, and for fraudulent reasons.

We’ve all heard of a friend victimized by one of these things, or have had personal experience. After having a great time out with friends, the unsuspecting victim returns to the location where they parked their car… only to have that joyous evening ruined because their car was stolen by a tow truck driver.

It’s a common situation.

But, have you actually looked at the trucks themselves? Have you looked beyond their utilitarian use, and any preconceived biases you may have against the operators? 

The next time you see a tow truck driving down a road, look at the back. You’ll notice the bed of the truck has a device that looks just like a Christian cross (✝️). The operator must bear the cross as a symbol of the bourdon of working as one of the most despised professions in the civilized world… the street’s carrion-eaters.

The cross a tow truck carries on its back serves to remind other cars of their own mortality. That they will end up being hauled away by the vehicular version of the “Grim Reaper”.

Similar to how a superstitious person knocks on wood to keep their good fortune, surely all cars must whisper a silent prayer to stave off their own demise. And when their time comes, dying cars may appear to bow and pray before the cross one last time before it conveys them to the afterlife, in a junkyard.

Not only do cars fear the tow truck, but so should humans. For both can become victims at the operator’s sadistic whim. Nowadays, the operator can steal the car for dubious legal reasons, but what will happen in the future?

If the worst-case scenario happens to our civilization, we won’t have much use for tow trucks. There’s no profit in cleaning the streets when nobody can drive any more. No. If they’re used at all, tow trucks won’t be used that way.

People can be creative with their cruelty, and the future may see victims strapped onto the backs of these trucks. If there’s a steady supply of gas, a highway warlord may mount a live (or dead) victim on the “cross” to serve as an example to others. The terrorized victim will scream as the driver speeds through the world.

Perhaps the director of a future “Mad Max” movie can use this idea.

The next time you see a tow truck driving around, take a moment to look at it. You’ll notice that it doesn’t have the “hook” you may have seen in cartoons or videogames like Grand Theft Auto V.

It has a cross.

Given that tow trucks often serve as the Grim Reaper to cars, the cross is a suitable symbol for it.