About a month ago I had a conversation with a friend about our desire to be safe while participating in our favourite outdoor activities. He’s a surfer, biker and kayaker so is no stranger to putting himself in positions of calculated risk. He was shocked to learn, however, that he’s the only one whose primary driver for safe behaviour is so that he’s not ‘that guy.’
We all know ‘that guy.’ The guy who doesn’t knot the ends of their rappel rope and then falls off the end and dies is ‘that guy.’ The person who doesn’t wear a helmet on their motorcycle, crashes at 10km/hr and dies is ‘that guy.’ The girl who doesn’t wear their life jacket and drowns after falling out of a boat is ‘that guy’ (this is a universal pronoun).
So you can see that the criteria for being ‘that guy’ is: do something potentially dangerous, choose to not perform some very obvious, well known and easy-to-manage safety activity, have an easy-to-avoid accident and then die or get seriously injured.
I’ve always thought I’ve done by best at avoiding being ‘that guy.’ I always wore the right clothing on my sport bikes while I rode them, always knotted my rappels and usually tried to push within my boundaries so that I’d never make the local news with a headline like ‘experienced rock climber dies at climbing gym because he forgot to tie his rope.‘ But, today was different. Today I was definitely ‘that guy.’
I’ve always tried to make my family feel better about the potential danger in climbing by saying things like ‘don’t worry, the most dangerous part is the drive there!’ I may be onto something with that. For as long as I’ve been driving I’ve been smug about thinking I’m a good driver and that others aren’t so good, especially in winter. I’ve definitely, on more than several occasions, remarked that ‘you see more SUVs in snowbanks in the winter because people think they can drive like it’s summer! What a bunch of idiots!.’
So this morning, driving to what should have been a beautiful day of ice climbing with four friends in my Nissan X-terra, aka the ‘fake outdoors-enthusiast-mobile,’ I pulled out to pass a line of cars that I thought was driving way too slowly for how ‘safe’ the roads were (bonus points if you can guess where this story is going). Forty seconds later the back end of the truck whipped out and we started sliding. I’d been doing what I thought was a safe and slow 70 or 80 km/hr that now felt more like warp speed as we Tokyo-drifted sideways into the oncoming ditch and snowbank. Once I decided that there wasn’t anything I could do to correct the slide (black ice is really good at it’s job of being slippery as fuck) I sat there and resigned myself to flipping over and over as we spun through the first 45 degrees of the eventual 360+ degree spin. We impacted the snowbank, sent snow flying, spun around and came to a stop without a single vertical flip. I was happy to find all of my companions alive and my coffee relatively unspilled. The truck was almost unscathed and we were able to 4wd it back out of the snowbank while watching other cars slip and slide in the same spot. We decided to call it a day at that point and go back to the city and get drunk and go to the climbing gym instead.
Overall we were very lucky to get away without being hurt or hurting anyone else. I’m sure all of the cars that drove past me in the snowbank were busy calling their friends to say something along the lines of ‘…and then the idiot that passed me spun out and smashed into a snowbank! What a dumbass! Stupid SUV drivers‘ And they’d be right. I was ‘that guy’ through and through, driving too fast in winter because I had a nice big truck that feels invincible in 4wd at 30km/hr but is no better than anything else when the driving is slippery and fast.
I’m going to take my lesson of being ‘that guy’ for a few random highway drivers this morning to heart and slow down, truck or no. I’ll think of it as a gift that I got to look like an anonymous fool in front of half a dozen people on the highway this morning and not a ‘that guy’ tragedy on the 6 o’clock news tonight. I’m probably also going to step back a bit and re-evaluate where else I may be acting with unnecessary risk.
So don’t be ‘that guy.’ Knot your rope, wear your helmet, and don’t drive like an asshole (like me).