Sometimes when I watch movies, particularly war or action movies, and particularly scenes where people have to do incredibly brave or dangerous things I wonder how I’d react in those situations. In Saving Private Ryan, I think about that guy that just froze up during that final firefight and I wonder if I’d freeze or if I’d fight and I wonder if, when the chips are down, I’m a coward or not. Would I be able to stand there with a sword while all those drooling, maniacal orcs beat down the door to Helms Deep? Would I cry and panic? Would I try to hide or would I stand there and fight? It’s really impossible to say. I think everyone has these thoughts, right? But I also think men think about it more critically, just because the stigma of being a cowardly man is so terrible. But you never know. You could think that you’re brave and then get paralyzed in a situation, OR you could be positive that you’re a coward and then just suddenly surprise yourself with some serious ass kickery. Hard to say, man. There’s no test, only gut reaction. Deep.
One time I was in Sydney, specifically this beach area called Manly. The best part about Manly is that it has a ferry that can take you back and forth and it’s called the Manly Ferry. Hey, I found it funny. Whatever. Not the point. The point is, we went out to the beach, Chris, Neil and I and I just went in right away while they took off on a little stroll. There were big rolling waves and it was a beautiful day and I was just kind of floating there enjoying being in the best country in the world (at least that I’ve been to. Yes it is. Hands down), when the girl not far from me looked over and pointed out to a guy who was floating kind of far out there and said “I think that guy’s in trouble.” As I reached the top of the wave, I could see him, and I called to him “Hey, are you okay?” and he waved back and said what sounded like “yeah!” then another wave rolled between us and he went out of sight. I stopped paying attention. About twenty seconds later, he rolled up on top of another wave and when he saw me he screamed “HELP!”
Way before I even knew what was going on I was swimming out towards this dude. I got there and he was fully hyperventilating and panicking. I grabbed him under the armpit and he threw his arms around my chest and squeezed all the air out of me, kicking and flailing. He was caught in the undertow. He was exhausted, and he was suddenly exhausting me really quickly. I’m a pretty good swimmer, but this guy was about my size and he was flailing like an electrocuted chimp AND there was the undertow to contend with. At this moment I had my first conscious thought since he shouted ‘help’ and that thought was something to the effect of “ah shit, this was a bad idea.” They say that someone who’s drowning will stand on you and drown you in order to save themselves just due to panic and instinct and that seemed kind of likely to happen.
So I punched him. Not terribly hard, but hard enough to recalibrate his freak out a little. I said, “hey, you have to relax or we’re both gonna die” and he said “okay” and, thankfully he calmed down a little. I started swimming back with this guy under my arm and it was slow going. I started to feel pretty exhausted. I started to feel like I was not gonna make it. I could hear voices shouting but I couldn’t concentrate on anything but swimming until this huge guy shouted right in my ear “you can stand here!” and put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me down. My feet hit the bottom and he was right. We’d made it back to a point of shallowness where we could stand. I waded out of the water and fell on the sand right next to Chris and Neil, who were just coming back from their walk. Neil said “hey, beex, wanna go back in the water?” and I said “not for the rest of my life, man,” and just laid there, catching my breath. I was pretty fucking shaken.
About five minutes later, the dude came over to me. He was from Singapore and his name was Bread. No shit. His name, as I understood it, was Bread. He was vacationing in Sydney and he said “thank you. You saved my life. If it wasn’t for you and for Jesus, I’d be dead right now.” And I said, “yeah, no worries,” but what I was thinking was “Jesus? JESUS? What the fuck did Jesus do? Stuff your jesus up your ass, Bread.” We shook hands and he walked away.
Pretty strange though. If you look at a globe and make a line from Chicago to the beach at Manly and another line from Singapore to the same point , that’s a crazy sort of coming together right there. I went halfway around the world to pull some dude who was on vacation from Singapore out of the Ocean. What the fuck? One of the first things I remember thinking once I calmed down was “hey, I guess I’m not a total coward. That’s nice.”
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that I’m some sort of nerves of steel badass. I think that’s pretty clearly not the case. I just know that I’m at least not a COMPLETE coward. That’s a decent feeling, right? Yeah. Sure it is.
Anyway, I told this story to my friend Dan and he’s got an almost identical story about pulling an Asian tourist out of the ocean in Australia. How fucking bizarre is that? Illinois Punk Rock Musicians: Saving Asian Tourists in Australia From Drowning since 2000! Put that on a fucking tshirt, eh? Eh? I dunno. This world’s a crazy place, man. And I for one have to go to work and serve beers to people. So ta! See yall tomorrow.