Saturday, August 16, 2014
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel (nonfiction book) by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, illustrations by Brenda Brown
It's highly unlikely that I will ever need to know how to control a runaway camel, stop a runaway passenger train, foil a UFO abduction, or cross a piranha-infested river. However, some chapters could potentially be useful (I really, really hope not, but you never know). For example, this book gives you tips on what to do if you're being followed, or if your car's brakes go out. There are also chapters on how to survive a mugging, treat a scorpion sting or severed limb, or remove a leech, and there are some useful sounding travel and packing strategies. Since this book was published back in 2001, some of the advice may not be 100% accurate anymore. For example, I'm pretty sure that most cars now have easier-to-find trunk release catches, making a lot of the stuff in the chapter on escaping the trunk of a car unnecessary.
For the most part, the advice feels solid and serious. The sections on foreign emergency phrases and gestures to avoid are a bit sillier, however. I doubt I would ever have the presence of mind to politely say “Hello—I have been seriously wounded” in Spanish, French, German, or Japanese. And I suspect that “You will never make me talk” would be a bad thing to say in any situation where it might apply.
Unsurprisingly, the book begins with a disclaimer: “To deal with the worst-case scenarios presented in this book, we highly recommend—insist, actually—that the best course of action is to consult a professionally trained expert. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO UNDERTAKE ANY OF THE ACTIVITIES DESCRIBED IN THIS BOOK YOURSELF” (5). Aside from the legal issues, this disclaimer makes sense because many of the situations covered in this book are very high stress, with instructions and tips that are sometimes complicated.
Let's say I was suddenly in need of the advice contained in this book. Would I remember any of it? Probably not. If I, by some miracle, had the book on hand, would I have time to read and follow the necessary instructions? Who knows. If I really did need to use this book, I have a feeling that one of my criticisms would be that it needs more and better illustrations. Take the chapter on crash-landing a small passenger propeller plane on water, for instance. There were pictures of the controls and instruments, but they were on a separate page from most of the details about what everything did. Would I have time to page back and forth, matching instruments up to descriptions? Of course, I'm so afraid of heights that I probably wouldn't be in the plane in the first place.
All in all, this was a quick read that simultaneously amused me and made me feel slightly anxious.