I am a person who does not like to be removed from human-made structures for extended periods of time.
So you may wonder why I would elect to fulfill my high school physical education requirement with the Outdoor Education module.
Odd as this may sound, it was the only gym unit that did not require shorts or running or sweating.
See, this was New York. Outdoor Education was held in an indoor classroom and involved only sitting in street clothes and talking about the outdoors.
Now, sitting and talking are areas in which I usually excel, but the topics discussed in this class were completely outside of my experience and utterly beyond my imagination.
One day, for example, we considered the type of food that would help you survive if you got lost in the wilderness.
Our instructor, Mr. Gage, suggested that Spam would be the ideal alternative. Spam? I had heard of Spam, but thought it was a kind of fake food, not something you would really eat. Like those inedible Christmas fruitcakes with the bright red and green chunks made from rubber or plastic or some other synthetic substance.
The whole conversation was just bizarre. My classmates listed the alleged benefits of Spam. It comes in a can. It has nutritional additives. It is chemically preserved. It is high in fat, calories, and sodium. These were the reasons they would eat Spam? These were the reasons I would not eat Spam! Besides, it was treyf!
But something was bothering me about the whole scenario. Something about the big picture just did not make sense. I raised my hand. “Mr. Gage,” I said, “I don’t understand how we could possibly get lost in the wilderness. I mean, what were we doing there in the first place?”
It was then I learned that people go to the wilderness voluntarily. To do something called backpacking. An activity which sounded even more dreadful than the camping I had seen on the television. I was sure they were kidding me.
Soon, it was time for the final exam. Had we been in Colorado, I am sure we would have been airdropped to the Rocky Mountains in the midst of a blizzard, left to survive with only a ballpoint pen and a pocket comb. This being New York, however, our final was multiple choice, administered on those Scantron forms where you fill in the bubbles with a No. 2 pencil.
Unfortunately, I did not survive even the first page. It was question #5 that led to my demise. A food question. Spam was not one of the four available responses. Upon encountering a patch of berries in the wild, I chose to “eat what the animals eat”. In doing so, I made for myself a very painful death. It turns out humans do not have the same digestive enzymes as other creatures of the forest.
Of course, I’ve never had the opportunity to apply these theoretical survival skills. I get organic berries from my local grocer and eat them without reservation. And I’ve never been lost in the wilderness. Like I told Mr. Gage, you would never risk getting lost in the wilderness if you just stay where you belong, well within the borders of our natural urban habitat.
© 2017 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.