Johns's World: International Man of Danger

02:18AM Apr 26, 2014
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There are several people who read my column regularly. A few more stumble across it, expecting
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useful content. But unlike my fellow diligent writers, I made sure "useful" wasn’t in my contract. So I can frequently blither on about my nearly interesting life, in hopes of reaching 4,350 characters.

My point, as I recall, is some readers might have actually fallen for my clever misportrayal of my true lifestyle. Yes, I do have one, thank you very much. Past writings, however amusing, have fostered in some minds a belief that I’m little more than a gracelessly aging, hopelessly nerdy, quasi-successful farmer.

Appearances deceive, gentle reader.

My secret is out. That image is a total façade that I built to hide my secret identity: Phipps—International Man of Danger! How exciting is that? Look, I’m only using my last name like all the big celebrities—(Larry) Sting, (Cheryl) Madonna, (Bobby) Batman.

Hard as it is to believe, the mild-mannered columnist you have come to tolerate is in true life a reckless adventurer who has flirted with calamity on several continents and both high and low seas.

But with my ratings what they are and things being slow while waiting for spring to get a flight out of O’Hare airport, I’ve decided it’s time to drop the curtain, rip back the mask and disrobe the pretense to reveal enough of my awesome adventures to test whether a book deal might be feasible.

I could have chosen merely to be acclaimed as a Domestic Man of Danger, routinely facing hazards here in the 50 states, Puerto Rico and, of course, Guam. Somehow it doesn’t have the ring to it. But "perils is perils," as they say.

My parents paved the way for my glamorous career by exposing me to jeopardy at every chance. I rode bikes without helmets. I have fallen though a haymow floor onto the backs of startled steers. My parents urged me to "hurry up with the scissors."

I built my own electronic gadgets, from radios to walkie-talkies and one device that did nothing but randomly flash seven lights, using soldering irons and 110-volt current. I built tree houses entirely with used nails. I rode on sleds pulled by pickups.

I continued to show hints of derring-do as a young adult. I cleaned my gutters during thunderstorms—on an aluminum ladder, even after previously being knocked to the ground by a smidgen of static electricity. 

I’ve repaired broken road tiles without calling the utility locator. I’ve filed my taxes late. Sometimes I don’t floss. I drive I-65 in Indiana. I’ve done danger, dude.

International appeal. But it is overseas that my reputation as Risktaker Extraordinaire has truly congealed. For example, I have ridden in an Italian taxi through the center of Rome during rush hour, which extends from September through the following August. I barely cried at all.

But it was in the land of my ancestry I truly showed my talent for Transcontinental Coolness Under Fire. As an upstanding young naval officer back in the days of Wooden Ships and Iron Men, I was loitering with my shipmates in the wardroom after tying our sub up in Portland, England. The captain walked in to announce we were invited for drinks at the Officer’s Club. He turned to get a cup of coffee and my fellow officers magically disappeared, so when he turned back, he grimaced sourly and ordered, "Ensign, fall in." I asked when we would leave. "Now," he responded. It was 0945. In the morning, for you civilians.

Only an International Man of Danger would go drinking with Brits, I learned that day. These are people who used to hand out a pint of rum to sailors every day. While uncertain for a few days after, I did fully recover. Or at least I thought so until recently, when a radiologist remarked on the unusual scarring on my liver. "It looks just like Stonehenge."

That’s not all. I’ve snickered at hazards on several continents, giggled in the face of peril in more than 30 foreign lands (and Canada) and chuckled at adversity in cities I could not pronounce. As a result, the future holds no fear for me, aside from encounters with the U.S. medical system and strategic planning committees. 

I am … Phipps, International Man of Danger—truly a legend in my own mind. (Movie rights are available—I see "Howard Wolowitz" playing me.)