The idea of being a rebel is always tempting. After all, laughing in the face of danger is just so cool. However, in reality, thrill-seeking souls often end up with a different kind of reward…a Darwin Award. Sometimes it is the little “just to be safe” thoughts that can save us from a crippling defeat—yes, we may not look as cool if we wear that helmet on our morning bike ride, but we will look a lot less cool wearing a hospital gown after that fateful fall. So, let’s buckle our seatbelts, as we take a trip through these stories of smart cookies who avoided pain with planned precaution.
1. The Nutty Server
I was an expediter at a restaurant. It was super busy and I was trying to get runners for food. I was about to send out a stack of dim sum when I looked at the ticket again with a note that said, "No peanuts on the tempura tofu." I had read it earlier and didn't sprinkle peanuts on it. Another server was about to run it to the table when I told him to wait and get the actual server for the table.
We were slammed and he was kind of angry, but I just had a bad gut feeling. He went to get the server who had taken the order. The actual server comes back and he's all frustrated when I ask him, "Does your 'no peanuts' guy not like peanuts or is he allergic to them?" The server responds with, "He's very allergic to them, that's why I put no peanuts on the ticket!" He was being short with me. I told him, "Well the freaking tempura tofu is fried in peanut oil!"
I didn't realize the head chef was behind me and heard the whole thing. The server didn't know we only used peanut oil. It was an Asian fusion, really nice upscale restaurant. Needless to say, she (the head chef) reamed this guy out. I was a half-second from sending that food out too... it would have been really, really bad.
2. An Eye for an Eye
At my job, when I’m working away, it's really easy to talk myself into doing something quickly without my safety glasses; but there’s also always this voice in my head yelling to put them on. I stopped grinding the thing I was working on, got my glasses, came back, and then this chunk flew up and cracked the right lens...
Spidey senses: 1, Murphy's law: 0.
3. A Ride Home
I was at a party when I was 16 years old. It was in a small farm town about 20-25 minutes from my actual town and everyone was out partying in somebody’s parents’ barn and having a real good time. I didn't realize that our designated driver had been drinking all night. When it was time to go, I couldn't even tell she was tipsy. But something wasn't right, so I didn't want to drive back with them...
For whatever reason, I decided to get the verbal tongue-lashing from my mom when she came to pick me up. Well, my friends in the first car were apparently veering across the road. They got picked up by law enforcement and all of them had to spend the night at the station. Glad I opted for my mom...
4. The Souvenir Pencil
When I was five years old, my parents took my sister and me to a planetarium show. Every kid got a souvenir pencil that had the distances of the planets from the sun written on it (Mercury, Venus, Earth, etc.). The guy running the planetarium show said something like, "Hang on to these pencils until seventh-grade kids, and you can use them to cheat on your astronomy tests."
He was joking, but I never forgot, and sure enough, it was the exact pencil I used to cheat on astronomy in seventh grade. I felt smart but also bad because I didn't feel good cheating and (almost) never cheated after that.
5. The Padlock
After enlisting in the Army, recruits get a list of everything they must bring to boot camp. On this list was a padlock. During "processing", the five or so days before the real training starts, recruits are given their equipment including duffel bags, and are told to put the things they brought with them in the duffel bag. After finally getting everything in the bag, I was left with just the padlock.
I had no idea what to do with it, but I noticed if I closed my duffel bag in a certain way, I could close the lock on the hook. So, we get to the training unit and off the "cattle trucks" while a few hundred drill sergeants are yelling and screaming, telling us to line up, which we do, with our duffel bags in front of us. The drill sergeants then proceed to check if the bags are locked, and if not, they grabbed them at the bottom and whirled them around flinging the entire contents on the ground.
Everyone in the entire company had their stuff dumped except for me and one other guy... because locking my duffel bag was the only thing I had thought of doing. Putting it in my pocket was not an option because they were very clear about not having any "civilian" items in our uniform pockets.
6. A Fuzzy Black Sock
I was about to put a new load of laundry into my washing machine in the dark, when I saw what looked to be a large sock still in the washing machine. I put my hand halfway into the washing machine then pulled my hand back up suddenly. I thought “Huh, I usually don't leave things in my washing machine.” I’m so glad I stopped in my tracks. I turned on the light, and it was a bat sitting in there...
I never touched him, I just put him in some Tupperware and brought him outside. Left the container open with a bag of Doritos and he was gone in the morning.
7. The Spare
I was going on a road trip. We packed everything in the trunk. Then I realized that I forgot to check the air in the spare tire. Faced with unpacking and repacking, I thought, "What are the odds? We've had the car for years, never had a flat, we probably won't have a flat now." Then I changed my mind and thought "screw that" and tossed the floor pump I use for my bicycle into the trunk, "just in case.”
Well, I got a flat in the middle of freaking nowhere. The spare was too flat to drive on. The floor pump saved me. It gets packed on every trip now.
8. The Warranty
I bought a used Subaru Baja that was five years old at the time for $12K. It had 75k miles on it. The salesman offered an extended warranty that covered the engine for $2,500 and would last three years/36k miles. That was kind of a lot, and I usually don't buy those. I don't know what got into me that day, but I said sure.
One month and 750 miles later after an oil change at a mechanic shop, oil started shooting into the pistons... I'm not good with cars, and oil went where it wasn't supposed to go. Completely ruined the engine and turbo. The dealer had to keep it for three weeks, the warranty company flew someone out to inspect the car, and eventually, they approved a replacement engine, turbo, and any other affected parts.
The total repairs cost almost $11k, and the warranty then applied to all the new parts too. The car drove like it was brand new! I later discovered the car had five previous owners before me, but I couldn't find any accident or serious repair history. This is probably the only time buying an extended warranty on something actually worked out in my favor.
9. The Box
I bought a really nice tablet a few years ago, a Wacom Intuos Cintiq (essentially a drawing tablet built into a laptop) for animation and the like. Sometimes when you buy nice things they come in nice boxes and for some reason, I didn't really want to throw this box away immediately. I put it in the storage area of my basement and forgot about it.
After only about a month, this $2,500 tablet stopped working. It wasn't dropped or damaged, and I'm still not sure how it broke. It would simply try to boot up and fail, crashing and demanding a restart. I called support and after several calls and many hours, we were unable to resolve the issue. They said I could send it back and get a new one if it wasn't physically damaged. They told me it NEEDED to be sent back in the original box. I now keep boxes for everything I buy until the warranty expires.
When I was 20 years old, I worked at a gas station. They had just changed the law to if the customer looked 40 and under, you had to ID them if they were buying smokes. I was by myself and a lady came in and ordered a pack of Camels. She looked roughly 45, so I didn't ask. However, I had this nagging feeling throughout the transaction that it would be a VERY good idea to ask. Thank god I followed my gut.
So, before I took her money I kind of laughed and said, "Mind if I see your ID really quick? I'm really sorry, you're clearly old enough but they changed the law recently on who we have to ID." She just looks at me and said, "I'm so glad you asked!" and flashed her work card at me. She was a freaking inspector. If I didn't ask her, I would have been detained and fined.
That was the day I learned to trust my gut. And that I also suck at telling people's ages. She was 35.
11. The Sopranos Epiphany
A couple of years ago, I restarted The Sopranos from season one. I think it's in the first season where the water heater leaks and floods Tony's basement. So, there are these scenes where he's wading around in a flooded basement, and I was imagining what a nightmare that would be. It reminded me that when I bought my house, the inspector told me I would need to replace the water heater within five years.
I then realized that was like 12 years prior, so I suddenly got nervous. I went and looked at the water heater, and it seemed fine but I couldn't shake the feeling. I also did not have the money to pay to have a new water heater installed. So, I decided to go ahead and buy a new water heater and then save up money to pay someone to install it.
The water heater arrived and I stored it in the laundry room. Just a few weeks after it arrived, I happened to look at the old water heater, and I noticed the catch pan under it had an inch of water in it. It was leaking! Oh no! Emergency! Except wait a minute, I already have a plan for this. Instead of saving up money to hire a plumber, I went to YouTube and learned how to install my own water heater.
It all worked out perfectly. All because The Sopranos made me anxious about the condition of my water heater, causing me to randomly purchase a water heater I had no immediate plan to install.
12. Always Be Prepared
I went hiking in the middle of the day with a friend and his girlfriend. I brought flashlights for each of us. Well, the hike took a lot longer than expected and my buddy's girlfriend sprained her foot at the end. It took us nearly three times as long to get back and it was dark with relatively rocky terrain. Those flashlights saved our bacon. I can't even fathom how long it would have taken stumbling in the dark otherwise...
13. A Trip to Iceland
I had originally booked a rental car for a trip to Iceland using my credit card points. Two days before, I canceled and booked it with my credit card, which provides rental vehicle coverage because it looked like the weather wasn't going to be great while we were there and I wanted the extra protection. While there, we got into an accident for which we were not at fault.
The car was almost a total loss and I had to pay $12k+ out of pocket to the company. It took a few months and a ton of paperwork, but the credit card company refunded all of it. I still think about how lucky it was that I changed the booking. I would have been ruined for a very long time otherwise.
14. The Hudson River Pilot
I used to be a banner tow pilot, and I was often tasked to fly banners over the NYC area, especially over the Hudson River. I would pick them up at an airport in NJ and make my way over from there. Typically, if you were to run into some kind of engine problem, you have a fair number of places you could theoretically land if you had engine trouble—but not so much over the NYC metro area.
So, I picked out a "trail of breadcrumbs", if you will, of specific places I could try to land my plane if I ever had to. On the one-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson (Captain Sullenberger, etc.), I was given the job to fly a banner over a boat on the Hudson that would be carrying the crew and some passengers from the flight.
On the way there, my engine failed while I was less than 1,000 feet above the ground. Sinking quickly, I needed to find a place to land right away. Fortunately, my best previously selected spot was just to my left—a landfill on Staten Island, and I was able to put the plane right on the top of it.
15. Wear Your Seatbelt
My friends and I were always trash-talking another friend because he would never wear his seatbelt while driving. One night, he and another friend drove me home. it was pretty late and we were all tired, and when they dropped me off, I told him, "Use the freaking seatbelt, you idiot." The next day, around lunchtime, I got a call that made my blood run cold.
My two friends had been in a car accident. The idiot fell asleep while driving my other friend's car. They hit a parked car, which hit the car in front of it and got stuck into a wall. The parked car acted as a ramp for their car, and they flipped over—sliding like 20 meters while upside down. For some reason, the idiot had his seatbelt on for the first time ever and he didn't get injured.
Both of them crawled outside the car without a single scratch. If I'm not wrong my friend in the passenger seat broke his finger. My friend learned his lesson and his seatbelt is always on now, even when he's in the passenger seat.
16. The Email
I was offered a job in Europe, where I was promised a bonus that was X% of my salary, paid twice a year. When the offer was sent, there was no mention of the bonus and when I questioned why, I was told, "Don't worry, it's in this email with my official company signature." I put that one into the saved folder, "just to be safe."
Fast forward to moving; on the first payout period, I was told I needed to be with the company for 90 days first before a bonus would be paid. Okay, I was annoyed, but I guess that makes sense. On the second bonus payment, they mentioned that the company hadn't had a great year and nobody would be getting bonuses. More annoyed, but if the company isn't doing great, what are you going to do? I should add this was in 2008.
The following year rolls around and the company announces that things have really taken off and they will pay out the previous bonus period, in addition to the current bonus period. The only problem is, I literally handed in my resignation that day. I inquire to find out if I'll be receiving my bonus from the previous bonus period, and they say, "Are you kidding? You just quit."
I call a lawyer. I dig up the email from the start of this post, hand that over, and the lawyer says it's a slam dunk case. She goes after both bonus payments from the first year, and both bonus payments from the current year, even though one of them hasn't happened yet. Company HQ calls me and tries to get me to drop it, and I refer them to my lawyer.
A week later, at my new job, the lawyer informs me that they've paid all four bonus payments, and she also went after her own fees, so it cost me nothing. Glad I saved that email. Cover your back, and do not let others push you around.
17. The Dipstick
I was undergoing pilot training and was pretty new to the whole thing; feeling the pressure to perform etc. I walked out to pre-flight a plane for a solo flight. You do this completely alone—the instructor was back at flying school doing something else. After doing my walk around it's time to check the oil. Cessna 172s have a dipstick that is attached to a cap that screws into the engine. You unscrew the cap and remove the dipstick along with it and check the oil. Except, after I unscrew the cap there doesn't seem to be a dipstick attached to it.
I have this thought, "Well, the engine is still warm from the dudes who just flew before me so they flew it like this... maybe they had a separate dipstick? They must have checked the oil some other way...." Then I have the, "Well, to be safe, I should actually pack this up and go ask someone at the flight school exactly how to check the oil in this case." Note: This takes quite a chunk of time out of my supposed flight and will cut my "lesson" for the day short by quite a margin, but I do it anyway.
Long story short: The dipstick had broken off during the previous flight that had landed just minutes before, and had slid straight into the engine, where the crank-case had been chomping away metal from the tip. That metal was now circulating in the engine. The aircraft was grounded. It was extremely dangerous to fly, and at massive cost had to be stripped down—the entire engine had to be disassembled.
They actually had to find every bit of metal missing from the dipstick and "re-assemble" the dipstick before the plane could be re-assembled and made flight worthy again. If, in a moment of stupidity, I'd taken off in that plane, I'd probably be dead.
18. The Potty Mouth
Many years ago, when I was a tech at a call center, I was on a call with the client’s IT guy to fix a corrupted database. Their IT guy shared screens with me so that I could work on the recovery. The IT guy renamed the files with curse words in them. Just to be safe, I had him say that it was he who named the files as such and not me. I didn’t know why I was doing it at the time, but I’m so glad I did.
I asked him to confirm this each time I had to touch the files. I took screenshots also. Little did I know, this call was monitored (voice and screen recording). A day later, I got called in by a manager asking me to explain a “situation” that came out of a recent call I was on—he had only seen a few screenshots that were made by the recording program. I told him to watch the whole video with the synced audio.
A few hours later, he called me into his office to apologize for speaking to me with such an “accusatory” tone. Moral of the story: always cover your butt! On the brighter side, after the incident, this manager was always super nice to me and backed me up whenever there was an issue.
19. Now We’re Cooking with Grease
I went shopping to prep for my long-distance girlfriend that was staying over, and I saw boxes of baking soda in the market. I thought, "Oh yeah, it's smart to keep baking soda around in the kitchen in case you have a grease fire." So, I grab a box. She's cooking breakfast the next morning while I'm in the shower when I hear her yelling for me.
I come out and the stove is on fire. Like a champ I yell, "I'm ready for this!" I grab the baking soda and put out the fire. Always keep baking soda in the fridge, kids.
20. Baby Insurance
My mother's co-worker convinced her to get the best possible insurance when pregnant because this co-worker had kids who were deprived of oxygen at birth. She said she could lower the insurance once the kids were five years old and seemed normal. It was a struggle, as my parents were both in college and working while raising my brother, so they were looking to cut costs wherever possible.
Well, I ended up being born with a birth defect that required a transplant before the age of five. Before the new doctor even told my mom what was wrong (after rushing me away via ambulance), they asked her if she had insurance. She was able to say, yes, gold star platinum, whatever. Many kids passed on even with the top-class care I received, so I surely wouldn't have made it without it. I'm turning 30 next year.
Thanks, random lady I've never met.
21. Dental Defraud
I saved a receipt from my dentist. They charged me, then delayed the procedure I paid for. When I asked for a refund, they changed my entire bill and told me I owed them another $300 when all they actually did was a cleaning and x-rays. I submitted both copies of the invoices to my dental insurance company and told them what happened.
Three weeks later the insurance company resolved the issue with the dentist and I got a refund. Despite the dentist attempting to defraud me, they still regularly call me asking me to come back in. Recently they changed their name and moved a block down the road to try and hide from the plethora of negative reviews on Yelp.
22. In Case of Emergency
I had a guest speaker who was in the trade centers when they were hit in 2001. He said that he took the stairs all the way down 74 floors because he didn't trust the elevators. He was in a meeting with 55 other people, and he was one of four to survive. He said as he was heading down the hall to escape, he turned around and noticed everyone cramming in the elevators from the meeting.
Only the people in the meeting that took the stairs survived.
23. The Security Guard
This was very minor, but once I was going out drinking in San Francisco with some friends. We loved going to this kind of dive bar in the Tenderloin, which could be a rough neighborhood. Anyway, I had just bought a new car and was worried about parking it in the Tenderloin, while all my friends assured me it'd probably be fine.
As we parked on the street about two blocks from the bar, a homeless guy came up to me and said "Man, you don't want to park that new car here! Somebody’s going to smash them windows and take your stereo! Your sunglasses!" On a whim, I just said, "Yeah, but we're kind of late. Want to keep an eye on it for me?" He pauses for a sec and goes, "Like a security guard? Yeah, man. I'll watch your car. You got $10?"
My friends, confused, started mumbling about just walking on, but I thought it couldn't hurt much, so I gave the guy $10. "Here's your $10, keep an eye on it, man. If it's still in good shape when I get back, I'll give you another $10." He replied: "Darn! $20? All I gotta do is sit here?" I said, "And make sure nobody smashes my window. There isn't anything inside anyway, it's new."
He said, "I got you, man. I got you!" Anyway, the night progresses, we drink and have a good time, and now we're all properly saucy except for my friend Mary, who was our DD. I gave her my keys and we start walking down the block. One by one we notice almost every parking spot has shattered glass next to it. Somebody went through the area and smashed each window to get into the cars.
I get this sinking feeling in my stomach. I'm already mentally prepared to have to shell out a few hundred bucks to replace the window of a car that wasn't even mine a week ago. But lo and behold, we get to the spot and my car is fine—and the homeless guy is bundled up in a sleeping bag and he sees me and goes, "HEEEEYYYYY! You’re back! You won't believe what I did for you! Check THIS out!" I couldn’t believe my eyes.
He shows me this huge freaking bruise on his face and pulls off his gloves and shows me his knuckles which are scraped up. "What happened?" I said. He replied: "Some guy, he came around here smashing windows and grabbing stuff, he gets to your car and I'm like, 'Yo, pass that one. That's MY RESPONSIBILITY' and he turned around pulled back on this big ol' brick he's got in his hand, and I JUMPED THAT GUY from behind—he hit me in the head with his darn brick but I knocked him good. Man, I changed that guy's MIND man. He was all strung out and he ran off down the block!"
My friends and I are staring at this guy incredulously. My car is fine, spotless. I reach into my pocket for $10 but I realize I don't have cash. "Dude, thanks so much! Give me a second I gotta get your cash." I say as I walk into the liquor store on the corner to use the ATM. As I'm checking out, I realize they've got 750s of Wild Turkey in there. I buy one for him. I give him the $10 and the bottle. "Thanks for keeping an eye on the car for me."
You would have thought this dude just won the lottery. "OOOHHHH!" he kept screaming. Then he kicked the pile of blankets and stuff on the side of the road and I realized he had a girl there sleeping and he goes, "WAKE UP LOOK WHAT I GOT!" and she rubs her eyes and looks confused at us, then at him, then at the bottle, then at us.
Wordlessly she reaches for the bottle. He hands it to her. He's still screaming and hollering like it's the best day of his life.
24. Final Destination
I was driving on the highway headed back to college and I see a flatbed semi coming in the opposite direction that looked to be carrying railroad ties—big square logs, basically. I think to myself, "Huh, it sure would be bad if one of those things fell off." I hold my gaze on the semi and you can guess what immediately fell off and started tumbling right down the center of my lane...
I'm convinced I wouldn't have been able to react to it properly if I hadn't JUST thought of that exact circumstance.
25. The Tropical Storm
A tropical storm was blowing through my city a few months ago, and we were projected to get some wind gusts and significant rain. Because our parking lot isn't large enough for all staff and our clients, a lot of us have to park on the street, which is lined with large, old trees. As I rolled up on the morning we were due to get the storm, I parked in my usual spot down the block.
Before I shut the car off though, I noticed that this particular spot was located directly across the street from one of the largest trees on the block. Thinking, "You know what, just to be safe..." I put the car in reverse and backed up about ten feet, safely out of the direct line of fire from any trees. In the middle of that afternoon, in the midst of the howling wind and driving rain, we heard a huge "THUD" down the street.
I went to investigate, and that same tree I'd been parked across the street from fell across the road and missed my car by about eight feet. At that moment, I was glad that I'd decided to play it safe—the car parked on the other side of the street directly across from where I'd initially been got absolutely destroyed. Crushed roof, windows blown out, just pulverized.
26. Head Bump
One day I got a hit in the head while surfing. It turned out to be a concussion and I went to the hospital with my mom; I was 17 at the time. We met with the doctor in A&E and he said it’s a concussion; we could do a CT scan, but there was probably no need. I was unsure so I just said yeah, I would like a scan. After the scan, I was told that they didn't see anything but the radiographer would be checking it in the morning.
The next day, I got a call that made my jaw drop. The doctor said that I needed an MRI and that they found a tumor in my brain. If they didn't catch it there, I would have lost my vision from the tumor and it would have been too late to do anything at that stage.
27. Extra-Curricular Benefits
I took one of those extra driving classes you always hear about to get the discount on your car insurance. I was in college and my premium was killing me. The one I signed up for was an 8-hour course that I knocked out in one day, and the focus was maintaining control of your vehicle in bad weather. I took it over spring break, which is still a pretty snowy/icy time of year around here.
The big test at the end to determine if you got the certificate was to pass the “moose test” though some places call it the elk test or the deer test. Either way, to pass the course you had to successfully swerve around some cones on an icy road and regain control of the car on the other side of the cones. So, my first day back at school from spring break, I’m driving myself and my roommate from the store back to our dorm in some bad conditions.
I try to turn left into our parking lot and my car just slides straight past it, and down a hill. I try to turn the wheel right to get into a different parking lot and get closer, but not quite where I need it to be. I’m heading straight for a telephone pole. My roommate is panicking but I looked at it and I realized this is just the moose test. I managed to swerve around the pole, narrowly missing a wall of parked cars next to it, and regained control on the other side, finally bringing my car to a stop in an empty section of the parking lot.
Then we walked back to the dorm. So, the moral of the story is, those extra driving classes you might take for the insurance discount may just save your life.
28. Double Down
I saved a receipt for a campus parking ticket I paid for during my freshman year of college. They do this thing where they double the ticket amount after a month of not paying. I paid it the week I got it, stuffed the receipt in my bag, and forgot about it. Apparently, whoever was in charge of clearing me didn’t, and I was told I had an unpaid, doubled parking ticket on my account after like three months when I tried to settle up tuition for the semester.
I disputed it and wore a smug look on my face as I directly reached in my bag and pulled the receipt out to show them. I mean otherwise, I would’ve had to essentially pay that ticket three times. Something tells me it’s not the first time that’s happened to students there.
29. The Hurricane
I booked a vacation for my wife's birthday in Cabo San Lucas months in advance. For some reason, as I was booking it, I decided to get the trip insurance. I had never done that before, but time this I thought I better do it. Our trip was to be in October and I booked it in June. During the beginning of September, a Hurricane struck Cabo and did a lot of damage. I contacted the resort and they said they were not very badly affected.
I left the reservation booked. The day before we were to fly to Cabo, I checked the flights and everything was good to go. We got to the airport and as we were checking in the attendant said, "Oh there's a problem with your connecting flight." Yeah, the problem was the connecting flight had been canceled over a month before.
Expedia had neglected to tell us that little bit of info. I was able to recoup all of the money we spent because of the insurance.
I stayed up late one night playing video games, but I left an unfinished can of soda out overnight. When I woke up the next morning, I picked it up, held it about an inch away from my mouth, and was about to drink it. Then I thought, “Wait a minute, I don’t want this hot soda,” so I walked over to the sink to pour out what was left.
As I poured it, a huge cockroach crawled out of the hole of the pop-top... I promptly high fived myself.
31. The Standpipe
I was tying in a standpipe to an existing (fire) sprinkler system a couple of weeks ago at work. The standpipe fed four hose valves going up the stairwell, and if you don't know anything about standpipes, there is usually a grooved cap at the bottom and top held on with couplings to dead-end the pipe with hose valves on each landing for the fire department.
I was nervous already because the new pipe was not installed by me, and I have trust issues with people in my field that I do not know personally. Something was bugging the heck out of me all day as I was combining these systems together. After fighting with this tie-in for almost 10 hours I thought to myself, "Something just doesn’t look right with this pipe."
Sure enough, whoever installed the caps at the top and bottom put them on backward, which would have blown apart and coated this entire four-floor antique storage unit with dirty water. The main valve was so far from the standpipe it would have taken at least five minutes for me to realize and make it back to shut the water off, and the street pressure was 110 psi.
That simple mistake from someone else could have cost a lot of people their valuables, me my job, and my company a ton of money in lawsuits.
32. Bear Bag
I was out solo hiking/camping. It was the end of a long day and I really didn't feel like taking the time to tie up a bear bag—the bag with all your food tied up in a tree far away from your camp. I said, "You know what, just to be safe...I'll go set one up." Cut to the middle of the night, I'm woken up to the sound of a black bear walking 30 feet away from my hammock and heading straight to where I tied up my food.
33. The Flirt
About 10 years ago when I was married, my wife's best friend kept on flirting with me. I had a really bad feeling about her. So, one time when she was being super aggressive, I recorded it on my cell phone. A few months later, she accused me of saying to her the very things that she said to me. One listen from my wife to my phone completely exonerated me and shut her down completely. She was trying to ruin my marriage because hers was terrible.
34. A Mother’s Wisdom
When I was 18 years old, I went on vacation to Mexico with some friends, around 1995. My mother gave me a copy of my birth certificate before I left because she was worried that they wouldn't let me back in the country. This was patently ridiculous, but I folded it up and stuck it in my wallet, completely forgetting about it.
Two years later, I was applying for an expedited passport for an emergency trip abroad. I had everything that I needed to go to the County Recorder's office, but there was some problem with one of my identity documents. Fortunately, I had a certified copy of my birth certificate in my wallet, and the passport request was successfully submitted.
35. Irish Roads
I took my first ever solo vacation when I was 24 to Ireland. When I got there, I was tired from the flight and confused by the car rental system, as I had never rented a car before. I accidentally overpaid for the total coverage Cadillac insurance package. When I got to the place I was staying, I called my dad to see why I had paid so much.
He called the car company, figured things out, and told me that the next day I could drive back to the airport and get my money back for a less crazy insurance package. At the last second, I figured I'd never driven in another country, much less switching to the opposite side of the road, so I decided to just keep the insurance.
Halfway through the trip, I made a boneheaded mistake, hit another car, and totaled my rental car. Didn't pay a penny.
36. The Other Side
I got divorced 11 years ago from a horrible woman when my son was only seven years old. Once I got my life together and settled in, I tried to get him to visit me as often as I could. Sadly, due to work, I had to live in a different state. Every single time I tried to make plans to fly him to see me or come see him, she would give me some horrible excuse about some medical thing he had, some event with school, or some emergency as to why he couldn't spend time with me.
Or even sometimes she would just tell me to screw off and straight up say no. She knew I didn't live in town and I wasn't just going to show up and see him, so that gave her some power. After the ninth or tenth time of that happening I said to myself, "You know what, just to be safe I should keep a record of all of this." So, I made sure I saved every text message as well as every email conversation between her and me.
Over the years, my son started to resent me thinking that I did not want to spend time with him. He became more distant and I was not able to communicate to him what was actually happening. At the age of 15 or 16, he stopped talking to me because he said that his depression was due to me not wanting to see him. I couldn't explain anything to him at all, so I emailed him to apologize and let him have his space.
Last year I was able to get through to him and convince him to let me come see him and spend the summer with me. I had the right to do so, and told him that he needed to tell his mother he wanted to spend the summer with me. She tried to come up with an excuse, but he was resilient in asking and told her it was his choice to spend his summer break with me.
She wanted to seem like a good person, so she said yes finally. I drove 1,100 miles to go pick him up and take the drive back with me to my state. I cleared it with child services, his mother, his grandparents, and everybody was okay with it. I was going to fly him back in two months when his break was over, a week before he started school again.
On the drive back he expressed to me how upset he was with me about not being around in his life and not wanting to see him. We had a difficult conversation and I just let him tell me everything he was feeling. It was hard to hear, but I wanted to know where his headspace and his heart was. So, when we stopped the first night at a hotel, I pulled out my laptop and told him I wanted to show him something.
I knew it would hurt, but he had to know how much I cared about him and how hard his mother made it for me to see him. So, I showed him every message and every email his mother had ever said to me about the lies she told that kept me from seeing him. I also showed him the documents from when I hired a lawyer to try to get custody of him and how difficult she made things.
I showed him the communications between her and I and how downright mean she used to get with me when we communicated—but that’s not the worst part. I also showed him the tweets from his now-stepdad that were basically calling him a loser and saying how much he didn't like him. I showed him a part of his family that he had no idea existed.
Immediately his attitude towards me changed. We spent the entire summer together and had the most amazing time rebuilding a relationship. He came to where I lived and saw the clean and responsible life that I lead, and the hard work that I do to make a living. He started to realize that life in the small town where he is at is very lacking and that his family there is toxic.
The entire summer he spent with me he had zero bouts with depression, and actually stopped taking his medication for it (his choice). He started to understand that his perceived depression was an environmental thing. As a thank you for coming to see me, I canceled his flight home and gave him my old pickup truck as an early 18th birthday present as his first vehicle, and drove it back to his home state with him when the summer was over.
He graduates from high school this year and is going to be moving here where I live to do college. Thank God I saved all those messages.
37. Damage Protection
When I was in grad school, my dad told me he wanted to get me a new laptop for Christmas and wanted me to review the specs. I convinced him to buy four years of accidental damage protection because I'm a klutz and even volunteered to pay for that myself, but he covered it anyway. I made sure it was properly registered under the protection plan and kept all the paperwork in a safe place with copies made just in case.
Guess who spilled tea on the laptop keyboard three years later? Guess who got their laptop repaired free of charge? Guess who doesn't have open drink containers around while working on her laptop anymore?
38. Grandpa’s Wisdom
I was 19 years old and home for the summer from college. I had a contraband bottle stashed in my bedroom under a pile of clothes and other stuff between my bed and the window. My grandfather appears in a dream and sits me down with this bottle to chew me out...not for having it, but for hiding it so poorly. I wake up, a bit disturbed by this dream, and throw the bottle in a duffle bag and toss that in the trunk of my car as I leave for work.
I get home that evening, and the pile it had been stashed under was moved as my mom had set up a table with a fan by the window to get air moving. It wouldn’t have been a fun summer had I been busted with that.
39. Wear Your Helmet
When I was 19, I used to ride with a local fixed gear group. I was young, very dumb and barely had enough money to start this new hobby to begin with. My boyfriend at the time (now husband), bought me a brand-new helmet and lights because it wasn’t an “expense” I could have covered just yet, but I really wanted to ride.
We argued over something I can’t remember now, but what I clearly remember is this. Me yelling: “UGH IM GOING FOR A RIDE!” Him yelling back: “FINE! YOU BETTER WEAR YOUR HELMET!” Frustrated, I shouted: “OKAY!” I took my usual route downtown, which is a few miles on an expressway and through an industrial area.
It was nearing sunset and I was about a mile away from my destination. A car crossed two solid lines and made a turn straight into me. I remember hanging onto the hood for about 15-20 feet before being thrown off, and opening my eyes seconds later while lying in the dirt. My vision was hazy but I saw them pause, back up, and drive away.
Long story short—and one expensive ambulance ride later—my bike was found 20 more feet away from where I was, the gauge earring I had was torn out, my bike was bent in multiple places and my helmet had four large cracks in it. I kept the helmet and bike to remind myself of how lucky I was. I married my boyfriend some years later. Best argument I didn’t win; saved my life.
40. Gear Up
I am an avid motorcyclist that advocates wearing gear. I had this friend that didn't really care about gear of any kind, saying it was too hot in the summer to wear it. I was finally able to convince him to get gloves and a helmet after a few years of riding without them. I didn’t know just how important that timing was.
Not an hour after he bought the helmet and the gloves, someone turned left in front of him and he went down. He was able to reduce his speed before the crash but he still went flying over the hood of a Camry at about 30 mph, landing hands and face first on asphalt. He had a nasty gash on his leg and some pretty bad road rash on his legs and arms, but his hands and head were totally fine.
The bike was a total loss; insurance paid for it, along with the helmet and gloves. Once he was shipshape to ride again, he had me help him pick out a complete suit. I ride in full leathers and a very nice (and pretty) carbon fiber helmet if I am touring. I have Kevlar-lined riding jeans for local riding. I will never get on a bike with anything less than that.
41. The Vacationer
Before going on an extended winter vacation, I turned off the water main valve for our house, just in case a plumbing issue developed while we were away. Turning off the water supply paid big dividends when we discovered a pipe close to an outside wall had frozen and burst during several nights of near-zero temps while we were gone.
If the water main valve hadn't been closed "just to be safe," the basement would've been flooded.
42. Riot Punch
In college, I was at a party in a dorm where everyone was drinking. As per usual, I had just brought Coke and chips. I noticed that everyone had red rings around their mouth from the punch they were sharing, so I decided to stick to the Coke I brought, as a ring would've been obvious, and I had no idea how much the punch was spiked.
The party gets broken up, and everyone gets citations and mandatory AA meetings. I finished what was left of my Coke can in front of the Ras, then threw out my can. I was asked, "You weren't drinking, only Coke, right?" I saw that as my easy out and quickly replied, "Yeah only Coke." and was dismissed from the round-up. I think I was one of two people to not get busted that night, the only other person actually didn't drink.
I'm pretty sure I was only given the out because I was friendly with the Ras, but I bet that the lack of red ring around my mouth helped as well.
Four students of mine won the first prize for a project they did and we all got a free trip to London. We had spent the day sightseeing and were exhausted, so we got ice cream and sat on a bench in a park to relax. A couple of minutes later I notice this couple walk by slowly, staring at us. My Spidey-senses go mental. I do not like these people for some reason.
She walks by and sits on the bench next to ours and he sits on the bench across from hers. They aren't talking, just looking at each other. And that is when I notice her reaching into her pockets. I jump up, grab my students, and run out of the park. My poor students are confused as heck and wondering what is wrong with me, when all of a sudden, we hear screaming.
It turns out she attacked a couple walking through the park, trying to rob them. It scares the ever-loving heck out of me, knowing had I not gotten my students out of there, we would have been attacked and robbed.
44. The Meds
I was in college and was having a bad time. I had started a new anti-depressant a week or so before but was also using sleep aids because without them, I had just been not sleeping at all. So, one night I’m lying in my dorm room after having taken my sleep aids, and sleepy me notices I have oddly shaped spots on my arm... and my legs... and my belly.
"What the heck. Why am I a leopard?" Sleepy me thinks. I want to roll over and lay down, but for some reason, the fact that I looked spotty bothered me. So, just to be safe, I stumbled out of bed to talk to the RA. I remember very little of that part. She took me to the hospital, and it turns out I am DEATHLY allergic to one of the ingredients in that new medication I was taking.
It just took a few days to build up in my system. By the time we got to the hospital my throat was closing and I could hardly breathe—but because of the sleep aid, this seemed like no big deal to me. I remember like five doctors/nurses around me. They had oxygen on my face and were rubbing my chest trying to help me breathe. I got like seven shots in the hip.
Eventually, they let me rest. When I woke up, they made it very clear that had I gone to sleep in my dorm, I would not have woken up again.
45. The Sleeping Bag
I was driving halfway across the country to Austin, Texas to see a friend for a week. I threw a sleeping bag in my car, just in case. The week went fine and I didn't really use it until my way back home. An ice storm blew in and I had to sleep in my car in a hotel parking lot. All the hotels were full and the roads were getting bad. I was tired enough I would have wrecked my car.
It was below 30 outside and the heat in my car was dead. I put on all the clothes I had and slept in that sleeping bag. If it weren't for that bag, I likely would have frozen. I wasn't comfortable but I made it through the night. Several people passed on or were severely injured due to wrecks that night.
46. The Joker
Whenever I drive to my wife's grandma's house, I always play this little joke on my wife, acting like I don't remember which street to turn down. I'll either turn a street early or "accidentally" overshoot and pass it up and have to turn around. A few years back, we had moved across the country but were driving back home visiting family for Christmas.
Grandma said we could stay with her, so when we got into town late that night, I pulled the “ol' goof-em-up” joking like I had forgotten the street, turning one block early. Well, I noticed that a car had made the same turn as me, and just for the briefest of moments, I thought, "Hmm, that's strange. I'll keep an eye on them."
So, I made another turn—an awkward one since I was basically doubling-back due to my joke—and the other car made the same turn as well. This definitely caught my attention. I essentially went in a big circle, and the other car followed me every step—right up until I'd completed the circle, at which point they turned and sped off into the night. There was no question; they had been following us, and they drove away when they knew I had noticed it.
I told my wife what was going on, and the next morning, she found a news article about another family nearby being carjacked that night by someone who followed them home, pulled up behind them in their driveway, and pointed a firearm at them. If I hadn't been playing a goof on my wife and made the split-second decision to pay attention to the car behind me, that would have been us.
47. The Pen
I used to live in Ohio, and one morning before work, I grabbed my work pen and as I was leaving the house, I thought, let me grab my safety goggles. I work in a big industrial timber yard. That particular morning, I was working on the saw machine, basically a 25-ton machine that splits wood logs into two parts. Anyway, sometimes some of the logs that we are cutting have something called voracious fiber, a term we use for when the logs sometime explode like a grenade, sending wooden splinter shrapnel at violent speeds.
I remember getting a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something wasn't right, but working before the holidays, everyone is stressed, so I chalked it up to seasonal stress. I placed the log onto the machine, began guiding it down the machine and it cut the log in half…I went into Starbucks later that day and ran into Chris Pratt, who was shooting a movie, and he was able to sign my Starbucks coffee cup. Thank God I had my work pen with me.
48. Until the Bell
I work primarily unsupervised and often finish my work 30 - 60 minutes before the end of the day. One day I was finished super early and had a lot to do outside work. I was about to leave when I got this funny feeling, so I stayed. Sure enough, 10 minutes before my scheduled finish, my boss's boss walks into my otherwise forgotten office.
For the record, I'm salaried and am usually in early. My boss wouldn't bat an eye as long as my work was honestly finished. His boss, on the other hand, would probably have fired me on the spot.
49. Skateboarder’s Nightmare
In 2006, I had leg pain and it lasted for like four months. I was refusing to get it checked for fear that I would have to stop skateboarding for any amount of time. I was 15 years old. I had a math test I didn’t study for come up one day, and I used it as an excuse to leave and got my leg checked instead. If I hadn’t have done that, I don’t know what would have happened.
That day, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer). 11 years later I’m still fighting it, but not a day passes where I don’t think how lucky I was to just pop over to the hospital. If I would’ve broken my leg (my femur was getting more brittle every day) the tumor would’ve broken and spread to my lungs—and there’s no way I would be sitting here typing this.