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CLASS OF ’90 & ’93

High-Adrenaline Reading

 

Think of every nightmare or adventure fantasy you’ve had: You’re attacked by a bear. The pilot of your plane passes out and you’re forced to land it. Or, for some reason, you have to leap from a motorcycle into a moving car just like MacGyver did.
Illustration by Josef Gast    Chances are, you won’t encounter these problems, but just in case, Josh Piven C’93 and David Borgenicht C’90 offer some helpful hints for handling them in The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook (Chronicle Books, 1999).
    Though the book begins with a hefty legal disclaimer, it backs up such heart-racing section headings as “how to wrestle free from an alligator,” “how to survive adrift at sea” and “how to escape from quicksand” with serious advice from experts. (An alligator trainer, for instance, recommends covering the offending reptile’s eyes to subdue it and tapping on its snout to make it let go of your limb. Punch it in the eyes or nose if you have to. Should you manage to avoid being shaken to death, it’s important to seek treatment for infection because of all the germs carried in alligators’ mouths.)
    “We’ve sort of tapped a whole vein of armchair adventurism —along with people’s paranoia and neuroses,” says Piven, who occupies the relatively safe world of a Philadelphia-based computer journalist and Web site designer. “Basically what most people do is sit in the office all day or sit in front of their computer.”
    But since you never know when you may need to jump from your office window into the dumpster below, flee from killer bees swarming through the coffee lounge, or challenge your office nemesis to a sword fight, the survival guide has been a popular seller—with a sequel on the way. As of March, Worst-Case was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list and was the number-four book on college campuses,
according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Readers have filled up the comment section of the book’s Web site (worstcasescenarios.com) with suggestions and questions. One worried mother wondered whether she should keep inflated plastic storage bags in her car so her children could float to the surface should their car ever sink.

    Borgenicht, a book producer and writer who also lives in Philadelphia, got the idea one night while reading an article in Esquire about landing a plane. “It made me start thinking about all the absurd action movie and TV scenarios we’ve watched over the years and how much we love to see Arnold Schwarzenneger or Harrison Ford dangling from a cord on the back of a 747, or falling into a pit of quicksand, or jumping into a moving car. The stars have trick photography and stunt people to help them, but if we were in a similar situation, we wouldn’t be as lucky.”
    Borgenicht says he has never found himself in most of the scenarios depicted in their book. “I have had to break down a door before, but it wasn’t for any life-threatening reason.” He also encountered a mountain lion once while hiking out West as a child, “but luckily he left me alone” and Borgenicht wasn’t forced to take steps like spreading open his coat, as his book advises, to appear bigger to the animal.
    For those who like to catastrophize, Piven and Borgenicht are coming out with a desk calendar for 2001, as well as a survival handbook for travelers. It will cover such topics as how to stop a runaway train, how to deal with a hostage crisis and what to do if you’ve offended the ruler of a country. And you thought lost luggage was harrowing enough.


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