my snake surprise

Yesterday after a reasonably productive morning, I jauntily packed my gym bag, went downstairs to the garage and reached in to hit the garage door opener, started walking to my car and nearly stepped on a three foot long coiled snake.

I do not like snakes.

Cats are better than people, dogs are great, fish are fine. Snakes? Not fine. Definitely not fine in my garage. Definitely, positively, utterly not fine when I practically step on one wearing sandals and shorts. I didn’t know it was possible to jump backward three feet, open a door in mid air slam it and scream bloody murder all at the same time. Now I do.

Now this is not a post about snakes. I’ve seen all I want of snakes to last me a very long time. It’s about surprise. And how well – or not well – you’re prepared to handle surprise because surprises are things that you don’t get to organize, process, plan, review, add to your master task list and prioritize. They just jump out (or in this case, to be fair, you walk into) at you.

How prepared are you for both predictable and unpredictable bad surprises? Predictable surprises like earthquakes in California and hurricanes in Florida. Unpredictable bad things like getting mugged on your way to your car, or tripping and breaking your wrist.

There’s a long list of web sites for the former (starting with this one), and having a backup paper copy of your identity and at least a passing familiarity with voice recognition (Vista comes with it, and it works) will help you deal with the latter, but above all else dealing with potentially nasty surprises is a mindset, an emergency mode you get into when that first burst of adrenaline hits your nervous system.

After my close encounter of a reptile kind, I came up with this acronym to remind myself of what to do next time I find myself in a one of life’s little unplanned dramas. JUMP.

  • Jettison your plans and your need to protect possessions. I had my whole rest of the day planned out – a plan that went straight out the garage window when Mr. Snake decided he liked it just fine between me and my car. People sometimes would rather lose their lives than lose their plans – witness the depressingly regular news stories of the person drowned because they just had to drive across that flooded intersection and the water couldn’t possibly be too deep – until it was.

    As for possessions, 99.9999 percent of the time, it’s perfectly right to want to keep what you have – but that .0001 percent of the time like when there’s some punk with a knife in your face is a different story.

  • Are YOU or your loved ones in danger- real, actual danger this exact minute? We live in a world where everything is a priority, a crisis, a danger – from screaming bosses to screaming headlines to no disaster however remote being as close as your TV or PC screen. We are adrenaline junkies looking for our next computer game, sports or political fix. But these are not in the same league as being in a major earthquake or finding yourself face to fang with a possibly venomous reptile in your own home. There is a difference.
  • Move out of danger. It’s just that simple and just that hard. Simple, because while you pondering for a whole second or two the above point, your body went from 0 to 100 in about 3 milliseconds – it’s knows what real danger is and has a billion year old solution that works: fight if you must, run if you can. Hard, because fear can paralyze you if you let it.
  • Plan of Action Now. After you are out of immediate danger, then make a plan. A simple plan. Sometimes, the difference between living and dying is whether you can get your brain back online and come up with a simple plan (Be respectful calming. Drop wallet and run.) or not.

There are a hundred factors that can influence whether you can JUMP or not when and if the time comes. This is where spending a few dollars and a few hours on training available to anyone and everyone can make the difference. Basic disaster, first aid and self defense training can make a huge difference. Relying on the kindness of the universe is not a good survival plan.

As for the snake, it turned out to be neither the deadly cobra of my imagination or a venomous rattlesnake quite common this time of year in Sonoma County, California. It was a King snake that eats rats and rattlers, a good snake to have around I was told by my local animal control hotline, a snake some people have as pets that they walk in the public with wrapped around their shoulders and necks (shudder).

After some protracted territorial negotiation carried out with a walking stick and a mop, Mr. Good Snake went back to eating bad snakes outside my garage and I went on with the rest of my afternoon. I think we both got a reminder we both needed. :)

Bob Walsh sells MasterList Professional, a Windows task management application and writes, codes,
podcasts and blogs about different aspects of the digital lifestyle at ToDoOrElse, MyMicroISV and Clear Blogging. His second book, Clear Blogging, is now available at Amazon and elsewhere.

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