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Updated 18 April 2013

You did WHAT?

There is a point in all horror movies or survival programmes when every viewer wants to scream, "NO, NO, don't do that!" Here's why we can't stop watching, says Susan Erasmus.

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There is a point in all horror movies or survival programmes when every viewer wants to scream, "NO, NO, don't do that!" Can you identify that moment asks Susan Erasmus.

We all have 20/20 hindsight. But often, strange choices lead to disasters. Am I blaming the victim, or do some people do really dof things?

Sometimes shit just happens: a new car tyre bursts on the highway, you pick up a nasty virus in a lift, someone steals your car or the neighbour's tree crashes onto your roof.

Not everything can be predicted or controlled, but there is a lot that can. And there seem to be so many people who merrily ignore common sense when it comes to making these decisions.

Take the hiker who had to be rescued off Table Mountain on Thursday morning after becoming lost and stuck on Wednesday afternoon. She had to be airlifted off the mountain after being spotted at 9am by a tour guide (unrelated to her group). I am glad that she's safe, but I trust that not one cent of my tax money was used for the airlifting operation. She should foot the bill in its entirety.

Before you think me callous and unfeeling, just check the following two sentences:

The woman said she had been hiking with a group around 16:00 on Wednesday when she told them she was going to venture out on her own. At about 18:00 she realised she couldn't get down on her own.


This is just wrong on so many levels:

•    4pm is late to be hiking on a huge mountain like Table Mountain (they were clearly nowhere near the bottom)
•    You don't venture off on your own when hiking – not ever, unless there is some life-threatening emergency.
•    This woman is in a strange country, on a strange mountain – why did she think she could manage on her own?
•    Why did no one alert authorities when she didn't return?

I am fond of watching a programme called "I Shouldn't be Alive" on DStv's Dicovery Channel. Like many reality programmes, it is the same story again and again:

Someone ventures out into the wild, to go fishing, to go and take photographs, to kayak down a river, to hike into a canyon/mountain/rugged wilderness. They get injured, or the car gets stuck, or the current washes them out into the ocean, as a result of which they almost die. Now and then someone does, but their story only gets told if there is someone who was with them who is still alive, who can sob on camera.

Without fail, there is a point where every single one of these people (except the ones in plane crashes) does something exceedingly stupid:

Venturing out into the unknown without water, or without a decent map, or without telling anyone where they're going or for how long, leaving their cellphone in the car, not heeding warning signs about danger, going hunting in a snowstorm, being dressed in light summer gear only, venturing off on their own, not bothering to read the weather report before setting off – the list carries on.

Do yourself a favour and watch some of these programmes and try and identify the moment. It's when an alarm bell goes off at the back of your head and a little voice says "I wouldn't do that if I were you". It makes one feel awfully superior. It's a cheap thrill, but it's worth it.

(Spoiler alert) And – other than in real life, they all get rescued in the end.

Of course, I know these programmes are put together to make you think you would never have done something quite so stupid. I can't vouch for myself. I have done some pretty dof things in my life. I was just lucky I didn't drift out to sea, or got stuck on a cliff with a shattered shin bone. Or worse.

But this is the point of cautionary tales: to warn you, to give you info to prevent you from doing stupid things and to make you feel infinitely superior. What more could we possibly ask for from reality TV?

Susan Erasmus is the deputy editor of Health24. Read more of her columns .

 

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