One ordinary American has volunteered to participate in a very unique experiment. He’ll be stranded in small town America with the task of getting out alive.
He will travel six of the harshest miles on the planet in an effort to make it back to Civilization. (A game on his home computer he sometimes plays when he’s not busy with Minecraft and/or World of Warcraft and/or many other forms of crafting.)
It’s a punishing test and will take at least 2-1/2 hours over the period of an entire month. He’ll battle hunger, fatigue, personal embarrassment, slippery footwear and an unforgiving assortment of assholes in vehicles that will make getting out alive nearly impossible.
To give him a fighting chance he’s been equipped with basic resources and three minutes of survival training.
His only lifeline to the outside world is a GPS beacon. If he can’t hack it on the streets, he’ll push the button summoning no one on Earth who gives a shit.
This is not a contest. There is no million-dollar prize waiting for him at the end of the journey. The naive fool has no idea how long it will take, or how far he must travel. He must rely on his own inner will if he has any chance to get… Out Of The Chair.
DAY ONE: 8:00 AM
The participant is staring in the face a grueling three-mile hike across the streets of a small American town. He has volunteered to give up cushy fossil-fuel transportation and get his ass out of his La-Z-Boy coach potato chair for a single day.
Supplies for the journey:
- One pair of briefs
- One pair of socks
- One pair of Crocs (secured with velcro straps)
- One pair of shorts
- Swiss Army wristwatch
- Wedding ring
- Earring (left)
- Blue jeans
- Leather belt
- Long sleeve button-up shirt
- iPod 4 Touch with headphones
- iPod charger cable
- iPod travel charger
- GPS Beacon
- Two Klean Kanteens of potable water
- One ConAgra pudding cup
- Thermos with 16 oz. of hot coffee
- 1 tablespoon of International Delight Coffeehouse Inspirations Caramel Macchiato cream
- $1.20 in spare change
The three-mile trek from DROP-OFF to SHELTER will wind through busy urban streets with snarling traffic, bumper-to-bumper dogs, punishing vehicle exhaust, tempting eateries and dangerous river crossings. (Technically known as a BRIDGE.)
Tom has been advised that SHELTER offers no potable water. The only water sources at SHELTER are a toilet and a disease-ridden bathroom sink. Tom is forced to hike in his own supply of water, pushing the weight limit in his pack.
CONFESSIONAL: “Yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this experiment. As a part time scientist and urban ethicist I’m excited to find out what I’m made of.”
Tom adjusts his backpack and heads out the front door, stepping into the unknown world of suburban America. His home is one of 50 look-a-likes crammed onto postage-sized lots on a 20-acre parcel of land that used to be a farm that belonged to Old Man Higgins. He has about a quarter-mile to travel to his first landmark, an arterial street that will lead to the first and only major right-hand turn of his journey.
DAY ONE: 8:15 AM
An iPod playing a collection of Alan Parsons Project songs is a welcome diversion from the monotonous journey so far. Realization is beginning to sweep through the participant as a useless glance at his Swiss Army wristwatch reminds him he would normally already have arrived at SHELTER. He momentarily panics but then feels smuggly reassured as he passes a gas station/car wash, thinking about the money he’s saving by walking.
DAY ONE: 8:20 AM
During training Tom was shown by urban survival experts how to secure both straps of his backpack at the same time. So far, though, Tom has chosen to slip only one strap over his right shoulder and hold the strap in place with his hand. Although he was confident when he started, Tom is already feeling the effects of his 11-pound pack and his arm is starting to cramp from the exertion. He stops to adjust the pack and distribute the weight evenly by using both straps. This introduces a new problem, however. The pack pulls on his shirt exposing his belly to the harsh elements and passerby. With few options available, Tom is forced to press on.
He diverts from the main road and takes an ominous path labeled “Bike Lane” not exactly sure where it might lead.
DAY ONE: 8:30 AM
Although advised to get proper footwear for walking, Tom decided to make do with Crocs on hand. His black footwear with shorts and white socks have already been ridiculed before even starting on his journey. About one-third of the way to his first SHELTER Tom is now limping noticeably from several blisters on his unprepared right foot. His left foot, already in pain before leaving DROP-OFF, is also causing a limp. The result of this double-limp is that he actually appears to be walking normally.
His shoes aren’t really Crocs. They are black velcro-secured old man shoes that he received used for free, and they are several sizes too large for his feet.
Tom is also beginning to realize that he overestimated his rate of travel. Only one mile into his journey and he’s already behind schedule and has fiddled with his GPS beacon more than once.
DAY ONE: 8:45 AM
Tom has made a huge mistake. Only 45 minutes in the journey and his right foot is already blistering badly. More than half way to SHELTER, the sidewalk terrain is proving more treacherous than he ever suspected.
A sidewalk is a series of broken, uneven driveways that are sloped dramatically to disperse water runoff. Rarely, the sloped portions are interspersed with the flat sections that most people tend to think of as sidewalks. The human body wasn’t designed to traverse such uneven terrain, and Tom’s right foot, combined with inappropriate footwear, is taking the brunt of the unforgiving surface. One misstep here and Tom could easily go down and his experiment would be over. Jutting concrete, bizarre surface angles, curbs and other obstacles make this ordinary surface more deadly than even the Alaskan tundra or the savannahs of Venezuela.
Inexperienced in urban hiking, Tom’s strategy was to walk along a one-way street to SHELTER, effectively keeping vehicular traffic at his back. Although the speed limit is 25 mph, Tom has also learned that the noise from the roadway is so loud he literally can’t hear the iPod ear buds rendering the most critical piece of his survival gear utterly useless. Worse, the return trip to the DROP-OFF point will employ a more circuitous route to keep traffic at his back, which will keep even pressure on his right foot.
DAY ONE: 9:10 AM
Tom arrives at SHELTER ten minutes late, the mid-way point in his journey. He will now be able to sit in a chair, drink coffee, replenishing much needed caffeine nutrients into his body, although he’s reeling from the punishment endured so far. Tom will spend nine hours here which adds unexpected layers of physical and mental challenge to the experiment. He’ll have to endure the punishment served up by this harsh environment if he is to make it… Out Of The Chair.
DAY ONE: 5:30 PM
It’s been a nine-hour period of rest at SHELTER and Tom is more exhausted than ever. But the time has come for the three-mile journey back to the DROP-OFF point and there’s only about three hours of daylight left. Tom has to hurry as he’ll be in a world of hurt if he has to improvise a sidewalk shelter.
Tom, as an average American who sits on his ass and does nothing, requires about 800 calories a day to sustain his body. So far today he’s only had 3,500 calories, far less than he’s used to, so his body is already reacting in unpredictable ways. The hike is putting extra pressure on him, though, burning about 250 extra calories per hour. That’s the equivalent of a single bite of an average American snack.
With his feet screaming in pain, Tom sets out on the return course he has plotted on the map.
CONFESSIONAL: My fucking feet fucking hurt. There’s no way I’m gonna make it. I’m not even sure why I’m bothering to try. The bastards that thought up this sick idea are fucked in the head. I’m not thinking clearly, but I’m not even sure I ever “volunteered” (as they put it) for this shit.
DAY ONE: 5:45 PM
Although Tom is exhausted and his feet hurt, his backpack is much lighter for the return trip. One bottle was consumed at SHELTER and the other bottle he left behind to reduce his burden. It’s a calculated gamble that he’ll make it back to his chair before needing to quench his thirst.
DAY ONE: 6:00 PM
Tom has finally had enough. He gathers everyone in his group to make a tearful announcement. “I love you guys so much,” he tells them. “I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks. I’m not a quitter, but this isn’t worth my health. I have to get the hell out of here.”
Fumbling with his pack, Tom retrieves his GPS beacon and “pushes the button,” a phrase the hikers have coined to refer to the act of asking for extraction by helicopter. Tom is looking forward to a hot meal and a hot shower, hopefully both at the same time.
Unfortunately the “GPS beacon” only plays shitty AM talk radio so Tom is forced to continue his journey.
DAY ONE: 6:07 PM
Tom’s world has been reduced to all of his brain focused on that next painful step. His left foot, already injured before the experiment, remains blissfully free of blisters but is still in intense pain. In his mind Tom imagines a slippery pool of intense viscosity where his right foot used to be. Tom refuses to stop, remove his velcro shoe and take a look to assess the damage.
It is at this moment that the song One Foot In Front Of The Other from the children’s Christmas classic Santa Claus Is Coming To Town gets stuck in his head, where it will remain for days. Tom is starting to drift in and out of reality.
His pace has slowed to a crawl, which would literally be doing if it wasn’t for his sensitive knees.
DAY ONE: 6:30 PM
The end is in sight. Tom is back on the arterial that will lead to the final street in about a third of a mile. His wife pulls along side and signals that she’s willing to give him a ride the rest of the way. Bravely, Tom shake his head and gestures for her to leave him alone. At this point he’s been reduced to a fierce competitor facing down demons every inch of the way.
WIFE CONFESSIONAL: Holy shit! I laughed my ass off when I saw him. You should have seen him hunched over, jumping in pain with each step. So pitiful! I’ll cherish that memory for a long, long time.
DAY ONE: 6:50 PM
Back at the DROP-OFF point Tom smashes his GPS beacon.
CONFESSIONAL: You can take this experiment and shove it up your ass. Did I mention my feet hurt? And I’m not going to ever … ever! … mention that other “personal problem” on camera, so don’t ask. Interview over.