If the Grinch breaks into my house tonight and tries to steal Christmas, I’ll send him right back to Whoville with a lip two sizes too big. Picture it: I in my cap, having just risen from a long winter’s nap, decking the halls with that hapless felon through a variety of surprising and effective moves, such as an eye jab followed by a mule kick — while screaming.
This is the first year I’ve felt this way. Normally, holiday rituals bestow a welcome sense of brotherhood and cheer. But the new third edition of John “Lofty” Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere,” has changed me. Filled with almost 700 pages of clear instructions and explicit illustrations (and an accompanying app for iOS and Android ), this step-by-step survival bible has turned me into the domestic progeny of Katniss Everdeen and John Rambo.
I’m prepared for anything.
A retired 26-year veteran of Special Air Services (SAS), an elite unit of the British army, Wiseman (whose nickname, Lofty, in no way describes this book’s prose) might be proud to hear this.
“Survival training is the best insurance policy you can take out in an unstable world,” he writes. “If we are all grounded in the basic techniques of survival, and know what to do in an emergency, the world immediately becomes a safer place.”
I’m doing my part. If, for example, the brakes should fail en route to Mom’s house for Christmas dinner, I’m ready to do “several things at once”: remove my foot from the accelerator, activate my warning lights, pump the brakes, downshift through the gears, gradually apply the emergency brake and cease with the Taylor Swift.
“Learned that in driver’s ed years ago,” you say. “Is that all there is?” Glad you asked, friend, because that is not all there is.
After safely easing my now inoperable vehicle from highway speeds to a rolling stop on the side of some desolate road in the American hinterlands, I could take to the backcountry. There, I’d erect a cozy chalet from saplings and survive for at least several days on local flora and the bounty from an assortment of traps designed to “mangle,” “strangle,” “dangle” or “tangle” vermin.
I’m also extremely prepared for the unthinkable.
If, for example, I find myself abducted this holiday season, I know to “ ‘relax’ as [I am] being tied to a chair” and gagged.
If I need to self-defenestrate to escape fire, I will don a “motor-cycle crash helmet” — or towel — to prevent serious injury.
If a nuclear bomb detonates, I will begin digging — “FAST!” — as I’ve been instructed.
But perhaps this edition’s most valuable lessons arrive in its new “Urban Survival” section, which features tactics for countering espionage and dealing with urban animal attacks.
I now know, for instance, that if the need arises, I can get a bug detector disguised as, say, a stapler “quite cheaply online.” And if one day I meet Cujo in some dark alley, I will soothe him with my “ ‘good boy’ gentle voice.”
Early in the book, Wiseman briefly lists the physical and mental stresses that typically arrive during a survival situation, which include “fear and anxiety,” “thirst, hunger and fatigue,” “sleep deprivation” and “boredom.”
“Can you cope?” he asks.
Lofty, I can’t wait to try.
Wilwol is a writer in Washington.
SAS SURVIVAL HANDBOOK, THIRD EDITION
The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere
By John “Lofty” Wiseman
Morrow. 672 pp. Paperback, $21.99