Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part V. RESCUE
It was a minor miracle: Katie was actually driving me to the UPS Store, where I needed to get fingerprinted for my EMT license. She was self-conscious behind the wheel, hesitant about controlling an object much heavier and more powerful than her, but she had done it. On her third try, she’d passed her driving test and received a license.
“I feel like my entire life has changed,” she gushed. In the last week she’d re-enrolled in school and driven herself to half a dozen job interviews. “Now, instead of having to depend on everyone, I can depend on myself. It’s like freedom.” She paused to make a wide, sloppy turn onto Ventura Boulevard, then continued. “It’s weird, though. When someone wants me to meet them somewhere, my first reaction is to get stressed out and think, Fuck, I can’t.”
“So what do you do to get over that?”
“I just get in the car and drive,” she said, as if the solution had been that simple all along.
“But why are you able to do that now when you couldn’t before?”
“Because now that I’ve had more practice driving, I’m confident,” she answered as she careened over a speed bump and landed with a thump in the parking lot. “I trust myself now.”
Funny, I thought—that’s exactly how I felt after practicing the survival skills I’d learned. Though, hopefully, I was a better survivalist than she was a driver.
At the UPS Store, I watched as a college student wearing white gloves rolled my fingers, one by one, onto the scanner of a computer. I watched as my fingerprints appeared, one by one, on the screen. And I watched as he clicked on the submit button. Within seconds, my fingerprints were on file with the United States Department of Justice forever. They now had identifying information I couldn’t simply change with a new document.
And all in exchange for this:
“You’re on their records now,” the student said afterward. Even he knew I’d just done something irreversible.
I guess I’d made a choice that afternoon.
I’d spent days debating whether to take this step or not. On one hand, it meant sacrificing the privacy I valued so much. But without an EMT license, I wouldn’t be able to treat patients for C.E.M.P. or work for local ambulance companies. Ultimately, I decided it seemed wrong not to get the license just because of the slim chance that, in some Orwellian future, the government might come after me. In Kurt Saxon’s words, “Paranoia doesn’t pay.”
For perhaps the first time, my fight instinct had beaten my flight instinct.
Besides, I now had the skills to sneak across the border anyway. I’d even talked to my new law enforcement friends and learned that the best place to make my getaway was across the Rio Grande near McAllen, Texas, which currently wasn’t patrolled by boat between midnight and eight A.M.
Paranoia may not pay, but it does sometimes require payment. And that payment comes in the form of reassurance.
As for the privacy I had to sacrifice, like Katie overcoming her driving phobia, I learned that doing what I feared didn’t make my concerns any less valid. But it did destroy the immobilizing power they held over me. So, since my prints were now on file, there was no longer any harm in applying for the concealed-weapons permit I’d studied for at Gunsite:
Or taking a shooting test to get a permit to carry a firearm openly in California:
Or taking a written test to get licensed as a security guard:
If anyone was in trouble, they were definitely going to want me around now. I was licensed to survive.
“When I was a teenager, I used to think I’d rather die than grow old.” I told Katie as she drove home from the UPS Store. “One of my heroes was a poet who pledged to kill himself when he turned thirty. Now I’m obsessed with living as long as possible. I don’t know what happened to me.”
“Maybe,” Katie said as she swerved onto Laurel Canyon Boulevard, narrowly missing a car making a right-hand turn, “you just needed enough experience to show you that life is too beautiful to want it to end.”