Late the other night, my husband, Arthur, and I were watching one of those true life disaster programs on a high-numbered cable channel. There's not much else to watch at 3 a.m. except for infomercials on real estate investing and making a fortune on eBay.
This particular episode of "I Shouldn't Be Alive" featured a small group of tourists who had crash landed in the Costa Rican rain forest. Several passengers had life-threatening injuries, the pilot was dead and the radio had been destroyed.
They shivered through a harrowing night in the jungle and the next day three of the hardiest survivors struck out to look for help. Soon afterward, the fuselage and the injured passengers were found by Red Cross searchers. Eventually, everyone was rescued.
Coincidentally, earlier in the day, my daughter and I had been discussing Costa Rica. She was telling me about some research she was doing for a scholarship competition. She had learned about the Database of Happiness, a scale developed by a Dutch sociologist to rank the self-reported degrees of happiness among residents of about 150 countries. On a 10-point scale, Costa Ricans scored first with 8.5. The U.S. was 20th with 7.4.
Another index, the Happy Planet Index was developed by the New Economics Foundation, a liberal think tank, to correlate happiness and longevity with the score adjusted for environmental impact. Again, Costa Rica is No. 1 for achieving happiness and longevity in an environmentally sustainable way. The United States ranks 114th, mostly because of its huge carbon footprint.
That led to a discussion of the gorgeous beaches and national parks and preserves that make up a quarter of the country's land mass. Yes, Costa Rica is on my bucket list.
Rachel and I both agreed that Costa Rica should be the next family vacation destination.
Now, a few hours later I watched re-enactments of people struggling to survive in the depths of one of those same jungles that had seemed so glamorous and appealing when Rachel and I had discussed them on the drive to school.
While I was mulling all this over, my husband had other concerns. He kept muttering things like, "Why aren't they scavenging for supplies in the fuselage?" and "Why aren't they trying to build a signal fire?" He also felt the tourists had dropped the ball when they failed to use glass or mirrors from the plane to signal rescue helicopters as they passed overhead.
It occurred to me that my Red Cross volunteer husband was giving serious thought to what he would do if we were ever in such a predicament. Considering his backwoods hiking experience and the fact that he's seen every episode of "MacGyver" multiple times, I have no doubt he could cobble together a signal beacon from bits and pieces of the wreckage, power it with the battery from his laptop and then whip up a fairly tasty dinner of mango and lizard stew.
Conversely, I suspect I might not do so well in such a predicament. I'd like to think I'd rise to the occasion but in reality, I'd probably be more like the survivor who spent most of the episode either huddled in a quivering ball or screaming at the top of her lungs. And I, too, would decline to be interviewed for the TV re-enactment.
The first book Rachel ever purchased at a book fair was a volume titled "The Kid's Survival Guide." It's a handy little manual with details on how to manage just about anything life can throw your way. Did you know that if you're trapped in an avalanche, you should spit on your hand? Feel which way the liquid flows and then dig in the opposite direction.
There is a section on surviving animal encounters, everything from sharks and crocodiles to ants and bees. The human hazards chapter outlines how to escape from a submerged car or avoid being crushed in a crowd. Natural dangers such as tornadoes, hurricanes and quicksand are covered as well.
Rachel says she reviews the book from time to time and runs through scenarios in her mind to decide in advance how she would handle an emergency. I guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree. In this case, I'm certainly glad the tree is on Arthur's side of the family fence.
I think I'll thumb through that book. It doesn't hurt to be prepared for any bump in the road whether it's a bee sting or a sinking ship. And it also doesn't hurt to have Arthur and Rachel as traveling companions. Costa Rica, here we come.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.