Ray Bradbury once said, ‘Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.’ I hear ya, Ray, old boy, but sometimes that landmine that does the exploding? Sometimes it’s a simple news headline that does the trick.
If you cast your mind’s eye back to my first post for Pajiba, I made an aspirational claim to one day become your very own, resident John Oliver (because we’re both white males with dark hair and have British accents. It’s foolproof, don’t worry about it). Either way, today is the day I come closest to it thus far. And probably the closest I ever will.
As I’m sure many of you are aware, Oliver has a recurring segment called How Is This Still A Thing?! where he takes apart outdated rituals, modes of thinking, and other ridiculously archaic but somehow extant practices.
Here’s a good one:
Well, what happened to me today is I woke up, glanced at the headlines like usual, and saw one staring me right in the face that could elicit only one possible reaction from me: ‘How Is This Only Just Now A Thing?!’
How is this only just a thing?! It’s Mount freakin’ Everest! How are they only just now thinking, ‘Well, uh, what if… Well, what if not, like, just anyone should be allowed to climb this thing? I mean it is quite high up.’ What’d they have, an open door policy before? It’s not like it’s a gentle slope to the peak. It sounds like it’s harder to get into some London pubs on a Friday night than it is to have a go at Everest. Sure, the universally inclusive side of me has sympathy for those people wishing to climb despite any involuntary reasons that might set them back (and the cynical, mercenary side of me recognizes how many millions the climbers bring to the government of Nepal).
It does actually turn out that just over 4,000 people have scaled the summit of the world’s highest peak since Norgay and Hilary first pulled it off in ‘53, and currently about 600 people give it a shot every year. So it’s not exactly this, but still.
To be fair, the Nepalese authorities do say that the biggest problem group out of those mentioned is the inexperienced climbers. As the article says: ‘Whereas once Everest only attracted the world’s best and most experienced mountaineers, recent years have seen aspiring summiteers who are using basic equipment such as an ice axe and crampons for the first time. Totally reliant on their paid guides for their safety, and incapable of helping any other climbers who might be in trouble, such people are often a liability, veteran mountaineers have frequently argued.’
So it’s not like there’s a rash of toddlers or old geezers with pickaxes descending on the basecamp each year, but as a Nepalese tourism department chief said, “We don’t think we should issue permits to people who cannot see or walk or who don’t have arms.” Well…rather bluntly put, although maybe he has a point?
Still, I return to my original question: how is this only just now a thing?!
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just because mountaineering is one of those things that I just never really learned anything about. Maybe that’s it. Mountaineering — apart from a few key, iconic facts that everyone knows — is a world essentially completely unknown to me, and because of that perhaps I’d just assumed the existence of certain truisms and established norms that are actually way off the mark.
This did get me thinking, however, that there are really so many — and I mean so many — areas in life that, after getting to a certain age and never really taking an interest in them, you’ll just kind of assume you know enough about, and you’ll leave it at that. Kind of like putting a bit of duct tape on a cracked plastic bin. You know you really should get back to it at some point and actually do something about it; but it’s held tight up until now, so why expend precious energy?
Still, the whole ‘holy shit, Mount Everest doesn’t really have any entry criteria yet?!’ experience has left me a little bit paranoid, so I’ve decided to steel myself and become shock resistant. I’m officially pre-empting shit like this being news in the near future:
‘Sexual Intercourse During Deep Sea Diving Expeditions Now Being Discouraged’
‘Head Chef At Posh Restaurant Admits Those “Giant Plate/Tiny Meal” Combos Just Elaborate Prank’
‘Drivers Warned That While Parking On A Motorway May Seem A Good Idea, Car Parks Actually Work Better’