Food Feature: Just in case

How to cross a piranha-infested river, use fishing line on severed limbs and stop an out-of-control drag queen

Most of us have fears, worries and concerns. Few of us can make a living off those fears. But David Borgenicht and Joshua Piven, authors of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, continue to do just that with their new book, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel.

True, you may never actually have to use their advice on how to control a runaway camel or escape from the trunk of a car, but then again, you just might. They also give helpful tips on how to survive a riot, how to bribe customs officials and how to trap small animals, if it should come to that. They even suggest taking dryer lint with you on vacation.

CL caught up with Borgenicht and Piven, appropriately enough, as they were traveling through Hartsfield International Airport. Piven and Borgenicht were in Atlanta recently promoting both their book and their new reality-based television show, "Worst-Case Scenario," premiering January 2002 on TBS Superstation.

Creative Loafing: How many of these methods have you actually tried?

Joshua Piven: Thankfully, not too many of them. We've tried some of the safer ones like I've been locked in the car trunk, I've had leeches crawling all over me, but you know the really extreme things we have not tried out. We left that to the experts.

I couldn't help but notice that your piranha method ("How to Cross a Piranha-Infested River") differs from that of the U.S. Army Survival Manual method (which involves throwing a bloody animal carcass into the river to draw the piranhas toward it, then crossing upstream).

JP: Yeah, I have the U.S. Army Survival Manual and that's actually really old and some of the advice is outdated. I talked to a bunch of piranha experts, all of whom are cited on that scenario. The chances of being attacked by piranhas is really low and they're greatest in the dry season when their food supply is not abundant. Generally, avoid the water if you have open wounds and cross at night if you can because that's when they sleep. If you wake them while they're sleeping generally they'll move away rather than snap at you. ...

Right now, we're promoting the Adventure Travel Pack, everyday items that people might take with them anyway while they're traveling and some survival uses for them. For instance, we tell people to travel with Vaseline not only for chapped lips but if you're in a sandstorm and you put it around your nostrils or your eyes, it keeps sand from going in them. And we've found a lot of travelers get diarrhea, so they travel with Imodium and we found a use for that — you can actually write with it. You can write on concrete — basically it's like chalk. You can write a message if you're trying to meet somebody or if you need to leave an emergency message. Dryer lint, which you can take with you, is really good for starting fires and it's really lightweight. And fishing line, which you can use to tie off wounds. If you have a severed limb you can tie off pulsing arteries.

Do you have any advice specific to Atlanta, such as what if you're trapped in a trendy bistro or tapas bar in Midtown?

JP: Is that a worst-case Atlanta scenario? Try to look cool, would be my advice; wear sunglasses inside. You know, wear linen. Keep a cell phone to your ear at all times. Or, better yet, use an earpiece, even more trendy, so you don't actually have to hold your phone.

Road rage is a big problem here. What if someone approaches your car with a gun and you're at a full stop?

JP: Give 'em the car. Your valuables are not worth your life. The advice that we give is that unless you're in mortal danger you never want to fight somebody with a gun. Give up your car and collect the insurance and go buy a better one.

The quickest way to stop an out-of-control drag queen?

JP: Oh my god, what do you guys do down here? An out-of-control drag queen ... Go for the eyes or the gills. Oh no, that's a shark. Tear her wig off and expose her, or him. Maybe try to distract him with a copy of Vogue.

Borgenicht, in addition to planning for the worst, has written a veritable minefield of ... children's books?

CL: I was looking at some of your other books, the Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Brer Rabbit, Sesame Street Unpaved.

David Borgenicht: [Laughs] Yeah, very closely related subjects.

Well, Hansel and Gretel — they solved their situation, they got out.

DB: It was a worst-case scenario.

How do you think Hansel and Gretel would fare in some of these situations? Would they figure out how to cross the piranha-infested river?

DB: I think Gretel would be fine. Basically, Gretel saved the day, let's be honest. I mean Hansel was just in the [cage] getting fattened up.

How would you stop a runaway Snuffleupagus?

DB: In the old days, I think you could just close your eyes and he'd disappear, right? But these days, I think maybe if he's charging, just before the moment of impact say, "Hey, look — Big Bird!" and point in the other direction. And then get out of Sesame Street.

What would you say is the most dangerous place to go?

DB: The most dangerous places to travel are places where you feel completely safe so your guard is down. If you're traveling in a Third World country that's got a lot of civil unrest, you're going to know that before you go there and you're going to prepare yourself mentally and physically and emotionally and equip yourself and let everyone know where you're going. It's those day hikes that you take just off the road that usually turn into some horrible situation.

More Worst-Case Scenarios online at www.worstcasescenarios.com. For information on how to be a participant on their new TV show, go to www.worstcasescenariotv.com.


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