Rules for Intrepid Living

Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #46.

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Rule #46. Safety gear is cool.

Several years ago I needed to tear down an old steel shed in my family’s backyard. The screws, nuts, and bolts holding the monstrosity together had long since rusted into one large chunk of metal, so taking it down in an orderly fashion was out of the question. Instead, I found myself wielding a heavy duty reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade, separating panels from the shed.

At one point, a gust of wind caught a loose panel and sent the cut edge directly into my face. I still have the scar above my eyebrow where the gnarly piece of steel sliced me. Had I not been wearing safety glasses, I would have lost my left eye.

As much as I might sound like an after school special or PSA, that day affirmed a principle that I continue to value; safety gear is cool.

I know that a lot of people don’t think so, and I understand some of that attitude; they survived thus far without taking precautions, so it can’t be that big of a deal. I know what they’re getting at… I grew up not wearing a helmet on my bike. As a kid, I didn’t always wear a seatbelt in the back seat. I didn’t think about wearing safety goggles to use power tools. You know what? Trying to make the argument that I don’t need to use safety gear now because I previously didn’t is a bit silly though. There have been plenty of people who did get injured or die because they didn’t take safety precautions. I’m willing to take a calculated risk in order to reap the benefits, but some safety measures are so easy to take that it is foolish not to do so.

Here are some of the worst reasons not to take safety precautions seriously;

  1. It’s not manly.
  2. It doesn’t look cool.
  3. It’s uncomfortable.
  4. It won’t happen to me.

And here are my responses to those excuses;

  1. Stop worrying about what is and isn’t manly.
  2. It will if you’re cool while wearing it, and you will be!
  3. Get properly fitting gear and it will be plenty comfy. It takes a little time to get used to it, but it doesn’t take that long.
  4. Most people who find themselves injured in accidents think it would never happen to them. None of us are immune to the dangers around us.

We’re all adults, and you’re capable of making your own decisions. I don’t shame cyclists or motorcyclists without helmets on. I don’t mock people for not wearing sunscreen. I don’t chastise workers who don’t wear safety goggles while using a power saw. Everyone has to make the decision for themselves. I will, however, encourage you to really consider the pros and cons, and I hope you’ll end up taking some precautions of your own. I want you to be having adventures for years to come.

I practice what I preach. Every time I ride my bicycle, I’m wearing a helmet. When I use power tools, I have safety glasses on. I carry a small first aid kit on every hike, and I keep a larger first aid kit in my car. Every time I’ve ridden a motorcycle I’ve worn a full helmet and other safety gear. I fasten my seatbelt before I even start my car. I always file a flight plan and consider my bail out plan (yes, I consider these safety gear). I’m pretty bad about remembering to apply and reapply sunscreen, but I’m getting better. Such things are inexpensive, easy to do, and hardly an inconvenience. It would be silly of me to decide to ignore them.

Risk isn’t bad. In fact, we need to take risks in our lives. Professional climber, skier, mountaineer, and outdoor photographer Jimmy Chin put it best; “Without taking risks, you don’t move anywhere.” This is true, but even an elite professional like Chin files a flight plan, carries a first aid kit, and packs emergency gear. Risk can be good, and we shouldn’t always run from danger, but nor should we be in a hurry to suffer from easily preventable injuries.

Instead, take on risks that matter. Push yourself out of your comfort zone doing new things, not by accepting easily negated dangers. Adventure on, and live to adventure another day. Remember to take care of yourself, and embrace this rule; safety gear is cool.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!

“Rules for Intrepid Living” is a weekly post giving guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an adventurous life. 

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