You know what really impresses me? The guys in Japan who continue to work on stabilizing the nuclear reactors. They’re being labeled as “national heroes,” and rightly so.
Think about it. These guys are knowingly exposing themselves to dangerous levels of radiation in order to make the repairs necessary to protect their nation’s citizens from catastrophe. Sure, they’re dressed in hazmat suits, but you know those don’t offer complete protection. Yesterday three men were working near the number three reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and stepped into a puddle of water containing 10,000 times the amount of radiation normally found outside a nuclear plant. They were then hospitalized with “beta burns” that authorities claim are no worse than a bad sunburn.
First off, I question that assessment. Wading around in highly contaminated water for 40 or 50 minutes, some of it sloshing around inside your boots, is not akin to a day at the beach. The spin doctors are out in full force trying to downplay that little incident.
Secondly, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not the heroic type at all. If I were a nuclear worker and the reactors went into partial meltdown, spewing tons of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and contaminating the local food and water supplies, and my boss said, “Hey, Mark – we’re going to need you to help us out here,” and I replied “How so, boss?” and he answered, “Knowingly expose yourself to harmful doses of radiation for the next few weeks and pray you don’t develop cancer or your wife doesn’t give birth to a three-headed baby,” my response would be pretty direct: “I quit.”
I’m sorry I’m not more rah-rah let me help out my fellow countrymen by putting my own life at risk, but I gotta draw the line somewhere, and for me, “beta burns” and exposure to potentially lethal radiation is where I draw a line in the sand. But that’s just me.
It’s a good thing I’m not Bruce Wayne. I can just see the conversation now.
Alfred The Butler: “Sir, The Joker is up to his old antics again. He appears to be terrorizing Gotham City.”
Me: “Fetch me my Bat Suit, Alfred! Err…hang on a sec. Does he have any weapons?”
Alfred The Butler: “The usual arsenal, Master Wayne. Razor-sharp playing cards that can slice through your jugular. Electric joy buzzers. Acid flowers. Shall I gas up the Batmobile?”
Me: “Umm, yeah. About that…on second thought, tonight’s not so good for me. Cougartown is on. It’s a repeat, but it’s a particularly good one…”
Poor ol’ Gotham would burn to the ground.
And while I don’t believe there’s any real danger here, it still freaks me out a little that slightly elevated levels of radiation have been detected in Portland and elsewhere along the West Coast. Authorities keep saying they’re trace amounts, no more than you’d receive from an x-ray or from toasting a slice of bread or some other analogy that is supposed to make us feel better. There’s still extra radiation in the air, and while that might not be too bad, it certainly isn’t good. Hats off to those brave Japanese nuclear workers, I say. Get them all Oakley sunglasses when this ordeal is over.
I used to have a bit of a Hero Complex. In junior high (or what today’s kids call “middle school”) when I was living in Hawaii, a friend of mine was getting bullied, so I stepped in and told the aggressor – a large, thick-shouldered ogre of a kid – to knock it off. He did, alright – and focused his attention on me. For the next two years, I had to put up with this idiot threatening me. Fortunately, it never got physical. One time he showed up on my front door with a few friends. It was a summer afternoon, and both my parents were at work.
“I’m here to kick your ass,” he said.
“No, thanks,” I replied. “My schedule’s a bit full today. Maybe we can do this another time?”
We never did. More than twenty-five years later, I found him on Facebook. This was an exciting day for me. It isn’t often that you have a chance to reconnect with your old junior high school bully! I actually debated sending him a friend request – all in the spirit of letting bygones be bygones – but he lives in Seattle now, which is a little too close for comfort. I mean, he could have turned into a homicidal maniac or a serial killer, for all I know, and if that’s the case, we’re only separated by a two and a half hour drive on the interstate. I’d rather not take my chances.
Then, in my freshman year of high school (or what today’s kids call…oh, wait…it’s still “high school”), we were living in South Dakota. I was walking home from school one day and crossed paths with two kids who were pushing around a younger middle schooler. “Hey, knock it off,” I told them. “Pick on somebody your own size!” They walked away and then, a few days later, ambushed me as I was walking home. There were five or six of them this time, and they jumped me from behind a building. I took off running with all the speed and determination of Forrest Gump‘s mad dash for the end zone, but eventually ran out of steam and they caught up to me. A locked door was my downfall. Suddenly I was on the ground, and they were pummeling me. Kicking me in the ribs and the head. If not for a good samaritan passing by in his car who chased them off, I shudder to think what might have happened.
Ever since, my attitude has always been, let somebody else be the hero. I mean, I’m proud of myself for standing up for other people – one a friend, the other a complete stranger – but I paid the price. Ouch.
Let’s just say I hope they get those nuclear reactors under control very soon.