Vanity of vanities

Fun story.


Saw this lone tree growing out of the rock on the shore of this lake up in the Sierras. Thought to myself, “I’m gonna jump out of this boat and swim over to that rock and have The Wife take my picture standing by that tree. That’ll be a cool photo.” So I talked to The Wife about it while I worked up the courage to jump into the chilly water. But there was a stiff breeze on the lake that day, and my boat’s anchor didn’t quite reach bottom. So while I was talking, we were drifting – away from the rock. Faster than I really realized.

So in I jump and off I go.

Here’s the thing about lakes in the Sierras. They’re up high – this one was somewhere around 7,000 feet. The air up there is a bit thin. You see where this is going. I’m in lousy shape to begin with, and now I’m swimming farther than I planned in a cold lake at high elevation. About halfway along, I start to think, “I’m not going to make it.” I look back at the boat. It has continued to drift away from the rock – and so also, away from me. It’s a long way off. My breathing is rapid and heavy – I can’t seem to get enough air into my lungs. Not even enough to call for help.

My thought: “Well, this is a stupid way to die. Trying to get a cool photograph of myself. Stupid.”

Eventually, I managed to alter my course and head for the marshy (and closer) shore to the right of the rock. I made it, sort of, and sat there in the muck, gasping for air, for what felt like a long time. Then I hauled myself up onto the rock and got my picture taken. (By this point, The Wife had fired up the boat’s motor and moved in closer.)


  1. Churchill's Cold Eye says

    The man next to the tree is overweight.

  2. Maybe the tree is just thin.

    That must have been really fun for your wife! But is is a cool picture.


  3. “Well, this is a stupid way to die.” should be the title of your next book.

  4. You wonder how many people go out of that world with that very thought.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      The Wife asked, “You didn’t maybe think at any point, ‘Help me, Jesus?'”

      Nope. Caught up in marveling at my own stupidity. Vanity to the last.

      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

        The Wife asked, “You didn’t maybe think at any point, ‘Help me, Jesus?’”

        She said it with that sly little smile, didn’t she?

        You know the one.

      • Jonathan Webb says

        And he definitely didn’t think, “Save me and I’ll give up drinking and I mean it this time.”

  5. Just have to ask, were you swimming with your scapular?

  6. Glad you’re okay, Matthew.

    My great uncle was in his seventies when he hit his head going down a water slide in Las Vegas. This was a few years ago. He wife had cautioned him against it. He said he’d be fine. He was fine the whole way home and then fell asleep that night peacefully in his chair. He never came to bed. When she woke up and went to go check on him, he was dead. Some kind of slow, internal bleeding.

    Awesome way to die.

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