Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It's interesting how priorities change according to circumstances. Putting a banana peel on the compost pile seemed like a good idea to the neighbour girl the other day, until she found that a bear had already staked claim to the territory. Erinn values her pots and pans, and keeping them nice is a priority. But care for the roasting pan went out the window when she turned it into a crashing cymbal to scare the living daylights out of the bear. (If I had chipped that nice enamel . . . well, never mind.) The bear's first priority was filling his bottomless stomach . . . until a crazy lady and her daughter came crashing across the lawn. He hasn't been back, by the way, and is probably pursuing a safer career wrestling with timber wolves. Or bunjee jumping.

Emergency response is kind of like that. We like to prioritize things into neat categories. At a scene, life is most important, then the fire, and finally property. You'd feel kind of dumb saving a $1000 antique chair, only to find that grandma was dying from smoke inhalation upstairs. In first aid, we do the ABC's, which means airway, breathing, and circulation, in that order of priority. A nasty cut on the guy's hand looks like it needs immediate attention, until you realize that he's choking on a previously harmless chunk of roast beef he was chopping for dinner.

Everyday life gets prioritized as well. A few years ago I was doing something important (I can't remember what) when I should have been going to the dump. By the time I realized my priorities were catawampus, the dump was closed. Not a problem, said I to my better half. It's only one bag. I'll carry it the 200 yards from the gate to the pit. It seemed like a good idea until I got to the pit and saw the five black bears having dinner. Still not a problem . . . I see these guys every week . . . except that my car is usually two steps away. I chucked the bag in the pit, hoping yesterday's leftovers looked more appetizing than I did, and walked calmly away. I wasn't going to lose my nerve just because of a few bears. Dignity is definitely a priority, especially when your spouse asks how the dump run went. Bears rarely harm people, you know. Besides, being the educated person I am, I knew that running was the worst thing to do.

But you do occasionally hear about bears having humans for lunch . . . what was that noise in the bush? I quickened my pace a little. Still not gonna run . . . no need to panic, there's lots to eat back there. Is that black shadow in the bush moving? My pace quickened again. The sun was going down and the shadows were getting longer. Was that a footfall in the gravel behind me? I'm not a chicken and I can't out-run a bear anyway . . . just gonna calmly walk this last hundred-fifty yards . . . is it my imagination or am I being watched? I broke into a jog, then a flat-out, run-for-your-life sprint. Never mind the hero show. Don't bother looking back, it only slows you down.

As you can see, the bears didn't catch me (who says you can't out-run them?) and I lived to tell the story. Click here to see how a much braver guy handled his bear scenario.

Priorities. Self-preservation definitely trumped dignity, at least that time. Next time I'm late for the dump I'll be sure to take a couple pots - and Erinn - along. Then we'll see who's running.

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