What could go wrong? —the four words most responsible for inertia, stagnation, and old age in people who are not chronologically old. Sure, I don’t look at a perfectly slanted roofline overlooking a swimming pool and automatically calculate my trajectory into the deep end like I used to (for one thing I don’t see as well, and “broken bones” is not a good color on me), but I have found that risk is what defines a life well-lived.
Some folks are wired to take bigger risks than others, like those guys who fly around the Alps in squirrel suits or have extramarital affairs with fitness instructors. But that doesn’t mean you’re not living on the edge when you mix plaid with paisley. Or try to save a marsupial.
My dear friend Sheryl is an animal lover. In fact, there’s very little Sheryl wouldn’t do for an animal. A lot of people will tell you they are animal lovers. Compared to Sheryl they are amateurs.
One day as Sheryl was driving on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles (the busiest expressway in America) she spotted what she thought to be a frightened opossum in the center lane. There are seven lanes, so we are talking lane 4, with three lanes of speeding traffic to either side.
Being a cautious driver, Sheryl immediately put on her car’s warning flashers as she slowed to a crawl. She opened the driver’s door and scooped up the little fella, causing 789,453 other vehicles to react in pinball pandemonium.
The trouble was, the possum was dead; stiff-as-a-board road kill. Sheryl was en route to my place for a dip in the pool as it was 117 degrees in the shade. Dear sweet Sheryl couldn’t, in conscience, just throw the decedent back onto the freeway, so she brought him to my house where my dogs attempted to rip her Lexus apart the instant she came down the driveway.
I suggested we place the critter in a solid steel trash compactor bag and seal it up, but Sheryl felt this was to desecrate God’s creation, and she insisted upon wrapping him in a towel and putting him in my garage until she was ready to leave, at which time she would take him to the Wildlife Way Station where, it was Sheryl’s feeling, they would give him a proper burial. (I will argue now, as I did then, that they don’t perform ritual animal burials at the Wildlife Way Station, but I can’t say for sure.)
Two hours later there were vultures circling overhead, and a stench like the end of the world emanating from my garage. I am ashamed to admit I threw Sheryl and her decomposing buddy out at that point, but I learned something about risk and reward that day.
I learned that no matter what thousands of other drivers think of you, regardless of whether your friend berates you because the garage needs to be fumigated, and aside from the fact that you may have died on the 405, some risks are so noble, and so loving, that they earn you a tiny little piece of immortality, and my undying love and admiration.
I like watching the Youtube videos of the dudes in the squirrel suits, but they have nothing on my friend Sheryl, who has also mixed plaid and paisley. She is badass.
What’s your badass risk and reward story? email me. And be sure to follow me at Huffington Post.