I don’t usually write stories about myself but when the topic ‘priorities’ was one of the ones chosen for this week’s class this story came rushing up from the depths of my memory.
Names have not been used to protect the innocent. I’ve let you you know, dear reader, that it’s about me because as you will see I am in no way innocent of anything in this story.
Let me tell you the story about the time I killed a woman, in cold blood, in front of 18 witnesses.
I was taking a Life Skills course back in the late 90’s and the Instructors had us sit in a circle one morning and handed out sheets of paper. On the sheet was the following scenario –
SURVIVAL – A Simulation Game
You and your companions have just survived the crash of a small plane. Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed in the crash. It is mid-January, and you are in Northern Canada. There is snow on the ground, and there is a stream nearby. The nearest town is 20 miles away. Your group of survivors managed to salvage the following items:
- A ball of steel wool
- A small ax
- A loaded .45-caliber pistol
- Can of Crisco shortening
- Newspapers (one per person)
- Cigarette lighter (without fluid)
- Extra shirt and pants for each survivor
- 20 x 20 ft. piece of heavy-duty canvas
- A sectional air map made of plastic
- One quart of 100-proof whiskey
- A compass
- Family-size chocolate bars (one per person)
You know there is no rescue coming as the pilot didn’t have time to radio for help. It has been decided that you will follow the river and make your way to the nearest town. You will be taking all the items with you, however your task as a group is to list the above 12 items in order of importance for your survival before you leave. You MUST come to agreement as a group. You have 20 minutes. If you cannot come to an agreement in the time allotted you leave the crash site too late, get lost in the dark and die.
Usually this is just a group exercise to see how well you’d survive a plane crash. I knew this as I had done it before. But the Instructors had tweaked the scenario a bit from the original. First off, in the original there is no mention of leaving the crash site and secondly there is no time limit. They were obviously putting us under pressure to see what would happen once certain personality traits came to the fore.
Everyone was given 5 minutes to read the scenario and familiarize themselves with the list. The Instructors sat just outside of our circle and would keep the time, announcing its passage every five minutes.
Our group was made up of a diverse lot of folks and I’m not going to pretend I remember them all. I do remember we had the quiet one as you always do in a group, the joker, the devil’s advocate, and of course the alpha. In our group our alpha was a female and right off the bat she had to be in charge. Every tiny thing had to be in her control. She even made some people switch seats! If you suggested an item was more important on the list than she thought it should be she would tear a strip off you demanding to know why and asking who the hell you thought you were, Bear Grylls? She had even brought one lady close to tears.
She didn’t automatically get her way mind you. A lot of the people in the course were folks who were done with people telling them what to do and when to do it so she was receiving a lot of resistance. I couldn’t believe I was watching people having a screaming match over an imaginary chocolate bars importance.
Of course that’s not what the exercise was about after all, the items. It was about the human interactions and how to deal with them. In this regard I decided we were failing, and badly.
Through it all I sat quietly watching the group and listening to the time counting down. I reread the instructions a few times and realized something no one else had but kept it to myself. When it was announced there were only two minutes left and we had only decided on the top four items, something had to be done. I knew that if I didn’t do something drastic and fast everyone was going to ‘die’.
“Excuse me,” I said loudly enough to be heard over the arguing. “This is pointless. It says we can take all the items with us so just number them 1 to 12 and let’s go before we all die.”
“Who made YOU the boss?” sneered our alpha.
I held my hand in the classic gun shape.
“I’ve got the loaded .45 and I’m not dying because you people can’t read. Let’s go.”
“Well I’m – “
“BANG!” I shouted as loud as I could and pointed my ‘gun’ at her. She screamed in surprise and fell off her chair.
“Anyone else have a problem with staying alive?” I asked.
No one did.
We made it out alive and I got a talking to during the break by the Instructors.