I Don’t Die This Way.
My job used to take me out of the country a lot. I never got to go to the yuppie latitudes… you know, safe places. For some reason, they always sent me to places where there was a lot of unrest. I mean, ever since I sent that “my job sucks” email by accident to my boss, it was always, “hey, we need to send someone to Beirut…” and I’d get there and think, “wow, does everyplace in the world decorate with bullet holes?”
I was sent there to do documentary style videos for Christian organizations. That really means flying all night and eating airline food, then landing in a place that smells like smoke and burnt bacon, the famous “third-world smell” and settling into a two hour drive over potholes and zig-zagging through domestic animals being herded by an 8 year old kid with a stick just to find out that the guy you were going to interview didn't show up. But hey, I’m not complaining, sleeping on a missionary’s tile floor can be good for your back.
Once when we were flying out of Mongolia, we got on this Russian prop plane that was used for supply drops to soviet troops in the 60’s. The emergency instructions were really helpful, “Blatunda freepnotch specibont Seeech Belp. Crando chontoski bellaruse BOOM candrand bango. OXYGEN fellinto crapnski pooldo.” You ever notice how some words are the same no matter where you are? Like Spanish radio, “Hasta grande cabesa COLGATE!!!”
So I looked out the window, and there’s this black liquid coming out of the CRACK in the side of the engine. I nudged Todd, my co-producer, and gestured out the window. We couldn’t talk because it was so loud in there, our earplugs kept us from hearing anything. He looked out the window, closed his eyes and laid his head back as if to say, “I don’t want to know…” I nudged him again and yelled to him… “IT’S OK, YOU’RE SAFE…I DON’T DIE THIS WAY”
I say this every time I travel. Later, as we got on the United Airlines 747, safe and sound, Todd asked me, “so how do you die?” I said, “I don’t know, I just know it wasn’t like that…”
Once in Africa we stood by the fence along the airstrip with two bush pilots we had video taped all week. They were laughing at the 727 that took off and called it the vomit comet. Then they looked at me and said, that’s the plane you’re flying on tomorrow.
I turned to Ron, the co-producer and said “don’t worry, I don’t die that way…”
Then came January 22, 2006. The peaceful walk through the woods with two kids and my wife. Traveling thoussands of miles to war torn countries is nothing to a little walk across a 12' long log weighing about a half ton. That's another story that nearly ended with, "oh, so this is how I die."