Death is a touchy subject, but still has a lighter side

Once I worked in a country where officials angrily denied rumors that the premier was dead by announcing that: “His health is normal for a man of his age.” So I pointed out in my column that the normal state of health for a 93-year-old was “dead”.

My editor was furious, but then the guy died anyway, so the discussion became moot.

Death is a touchy subject, but a powerful one that can even be used to make your children revise their clothing choices.

“If you die tonight, what you’re wearing is what your ghost has to wear forever. That’s how it works,” I say. (Teenager rushes back to bedroom to change.)

Your columnist was musing on the topic of death after reading a report about a woman arrested recently for drunk driving in Australia.

A breathalyzer test showed a blood alcohol level of 0.48, which is above the level at which normal humans die. Police shrugged and stayed with their diagnosis of drunk driving rather than doing the obvious thing of recognizing her as an undead harbinger of the coming zombie apocalypse.

Not that I’m worried. Zombies don’t really do anything except wander around looking for something to eat, which pretty much describes most of my friends, most of the time.

Or perhaps the undead driver was a journalist, many of whom are superhuman drinkers.

Last week, one particular colleague of mine donated blood, and I just hope whoever gets it likes cheap Chardonnay. In one of her few lucid moments, this lady shared her outrage over a story she had read which said that a UK man was recently charged with drunk driving despite the fact that he wasn’t driving, but sitting in the passenger seat advising a learner driver. Police said legal liability stands with the person giving instructions. Interesting.

I’m going to try this next time I’m stopped for speeding. “The kids in the back seat told me to go faster, officer. They’re naughty.”

But going back to zombies, did you know that humans can function well with partial brains? A reader sent me a news report about a Spanish man who played the saxophone while he was having brain surgery. There was also a patient a while ago in the US who played the guitar while having his gray matter rearranged. You can see the advantages. Patient: “I can’t remember the next verse.” Surgeon: “Let me jog your memory. There.”

The medical logic is that if patients are active during surgery, doctors get useful clues as to the exact functions of the bits of brain they are slashing out. Patient: “I think Trump would make a classy addition to the pantheon of world leaders.” Surgeon: “We must have taken out all his intelligence circuits, quick, put some back.”

If I ever have brain surgery I am going to ask if I can juggle live porcupines while riding a unicycle during the op. That way I’m sure of retaining saleable skills when it’s over.

Still, death is not the big thing it used to be. On the list of five most frightening things in the world, I reckon death has been edged out by: 5) “Virus detected”; 4) Phone hotline robots; 3) Tyra Banks; 2) People talking in the cinema; and 1) “No connection, consult your ISP.”

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