What do those three things have in common? People who’ve recently had pacemakers installed should apparently avoid all of them.

The scene: a 4th of July party. The characters: me and a guy who had a near-death experience a few weeks ago. Although he’s only 35 and in perfect health, his heart stopped without warning, and he barely survived the ordeal. The medical community was stumped as to what made his ticker sputter, and he emerged from the hospital with a pacemaker, a gigantic hospital bill and a chilling sense of his own mortality. If you’re a normal person, of course, you approach someone in this situation with sympathy, concern and heartfelt encouragement. But if you’re a dark, wicked soul like me…


This was the first time I’d seen or spoken to the guy since the operation, which was about five weeks ago. And he’s always had a good self-deprecating sense of humor, so I figured, well… well, here’s what happened…

ME: So I heard you’ve been through… well, kind of a rough patch, huh?

PACEMAKER GUY: Well, I was dead, if that’s what you mean.

ME: You were actually dead?

PG: Yeah, my heart stopped for __ minutes. (Note to self: pay better attention to the details people are going to ask you about when you’re recounting the story later on.) If it hadn’t happened when I was at my doctor’s office, they wouldn’t have been able to resuscitate me.

ME: So you died and came back… You know that technically you’re a zombie now, right?


(Silence and a cold, wounded expression.)

Thankfully, I stopped myself before extending my arm and chanting, “Braaaaaaaains! Braaaaaaaaaains!”, which was where I’d been headed. And I also avoided the temptation to say, “Well, it looks like they forgot to resuscitate your sense of humor!” That would not have been good.

It turns out he’s still pretty shaken up about it, reevaluating his life, seeing a therapist, going through the whole “Fearless” experience — which I guess is what happens, you know, when you die and all.

Please forgive me. I’m new to this whole “common decency” thing.

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