Do not take a selfie with a rattlesnake

July 30, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

Did you hear the one about the not very bright yoga girl who jumped down into the DC Metro subway tracks to snap a sassy handstand pose, oblivious to the extremely electrified, extremely deadly third rail, mere inches away?

How about the one about Disneyland – along with just about every other theme park and major tourist attraction worldwide – banning obnoxious selfie sticks? Because people are sort of dumb? Because some people might think it clever to bring a long metal rod onto, say, a rollercoaster, and right when it’s careening around a curve at 45MPH, out comes the stick and whoops, dropped it, and suddenly the gears jam and the coaster contorts and 50 people are hurled, screaming and WTF, into the other Magic Kingdom? Now that would be a selfie.

The casualties, you can be assured, are mounting. Text-walking, head down and oblivious, straight into a tree, telephone pole, open manhole? Happens every 3.2 seconds, somewhere in America. Following the GPS so blindly that you run the car over a cliff, or straight into the ocean, out into the deep desert, never to be heard from again? Too many times to count.

What, this? No, no. This is perfectly fine. The exact good kind of selfie. To be encouraged. Carry on.

What, this? No, no. This is perfectly fine. The exact good kind of selfie. To be encouraged. Carry on.

And of course, “texting while driving” is fast approaching “juggling live grenades” as Most Embarrassing Misuse of Karma.

But that might soon be surpassed. It might just be selfies, more than any other recent human compulsion, affliction, disease, weapon or Republican presidential candidate, that spells our imminent – and, to many, much-deserved – doom.

And why? Because we are, you might say, obsessed with taking photos. Addicted to the point of mental illness, to near-hysteria, to the point where there is no moment of human experience – not birth, not extreme sport, drunken vacation stunt, exalted beauty, dazzling sunset, car crash, hurricane, disaster, gunshot or deep eye gaze with a new lover, that we do not say, “I gotta get a picture of this.”

Here’s the real question: Have we hit a tipping point yet? Will selfies soon join the list, along with guns and heart disease, of preventable tragedies that thin out the American herd the most?

We might be getting close. Behold, yet another tale (it’s happened a few times already) of a hapless Mississippi woman and her daughter who, upon encountering a giant, huffing, one-ton bison in Yellowstone National Park, did not think “Let us now get a bit further away from this ginormous, prehistoric animal that can run 40MPH an gore us like watermelons,” but who instead apparently chanted the new American mantra: “OMG, let’s get a selfie!”

Worst Invention of the Decade?

Worst Invention of the Decade?

Things did not, as you can see from the video below, go well.

But while the American bison is very large and very dangerous, it is not, so far as we know, poisonous. Its bite is not as deathly paralyzing as that of, say, a rattlesnake, such as the one encountered by one Todd Fassler of San Diego not long ago.

Reminder to all readers: What is the proper response when encountering a rattlesnake in the wild? That’s right: Back away slowly, as quickly as possible.

What not to do? That’s right: Pick up the rattlesnake and try for a selfie, as Fessler reportedly attempted to do.

Fessler is, if the NY Post is to be believed, damn lucky to be alive. His hospital bill? Just north of $150,000, which tells you as much about the abysmal American health care system as it does about Dumbest Selfies in the World.

You’re familiar with those dumb warning labels everyone loves to mock? “Surface might be hot” on an iron, “May cause drowsiness” on a box of sleeping pills, “Do not use while sleeping” on a hairdryer?

It might be, sadly enough, smartphones’ turn. “Do take selfies with feral wildlife. Do not turn your back on a snorting bison. Rattlesnakes hate your stupid Instagram feed, bro. Taking ‘daredevil’ selfies atop skyscrapers and precarious peaks is for morons and very stupid Russian males.”

More importantly: “Taking a selfie of a moment and experiencing that moment fully are two very different things. Choose wisely.”

And, last but not least: “This phone, its camera and all its apps, will completely cease to function inside a coffin.”

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Mark Morford

About Mark Morford