People die in strange ways sometimes, if anyone has ever seen an episode of 1000 Ways to Die or read the Darwin award entries then I’m sure you understand. Now, this post isn’t another one of those about death in general, or even my death in particular, but instead is about how weird the real world is in comparison to a fictional one.
Imagine if Saruman was brought down by a hangnail instead of a surprisingly bitter Wormtongue (It was him, right? I haven’t read LOTR since 2000 or so), that just wouldn’t have the same emotional impact. It wouldn’t feel that satisfying, which of course, is why people enjoy fiction: Justice is served. No one is a slave to happenstance. Nope, people are squelched due to their ambitions blinding them to consequences of their actions. There is the occasional ironic cumuppins, but even those had their seeds sown earlier.
|Guess which one is Robert.|
Which is why I hate hearing the story of Robert Wadlow. As a kid I was quite fearful of being short. I was relatively undersized and that was made worse by being a tad young when compared to my classmates (I started college at 17 – work backwards from there and you should see I was usually the youngest kid in every class I was ever in growing up.)
I was never bullied as a kid, not at all, but I was certainly afraid of it. My favorite heroes were The Hulk, Superman, Thor… big time badasses that couldn’t be bullied. I was obsessed with big people in real life too. - body builders and giants.
Robert Wadlow was chief among the giants. Of course, I was unaware when I was really young that his untreated medical condition that caused him to grow so large didn’t make him any stronger. Many giants in fact suffer from profound weakness that makes doing much of anything physically difficult.
In my head, big meant strong. Big meant mighty. Big meant that you were unstoppable. Turns out being that big meant being unable to stand unassisted. It meant wearing leg braces. It also meant that the brace rubbing against his skin would lead to an infection… and he would die at the age of 22 from it.
I often wondered just how big he would have been if he hadn’t died when he did. He was still growing when he finally passed away. So tall that despite being skinny as a rail he still weighed nearly 500 pounds.
|Don't you have a big boy elevator?|
Nothing about that death meant much of anything. Except that you can still see wax figures of him in Ripley’s museums and the occasional TLC documentary where his incredible size come up.
Oh, how tall was he? When he finally died, he was within a Jersey Shore spiked hairdo of being nine feet tall. Nine feet. The human form, when scaled up that way, doesn’t work so well. Movies and comics might make it seem like it’s nothing but awesome, but once someone gets over six and a half feet tall, the heart has to do a lot of work, the muscles give diminishing returns, and a person has to struggle to overcome their own weight. It isn’t pretty.
|Then again, he ain't tiny|
That means folks like Shaquille O’Neal are rare, or, truth be told, unheard of. This was a man of enormous size, that had the mobility and musculature of a much smaller man. He outweighed most of his competition by 50 to 70 pounds when he was young, and by even more as he aged – people his height just aren't built like him - it wasn't that he was so tall, it was that he was so damned strong. He didn't suffer from a malady like Robert Wadlow did, he was just a normal person grown too big. That being said, Shaq was still 2 feet shorter than Robert Wadlow. It makes me wonder how big a human can really get and still be as physically imposing as Shaquille.
|More typical 7 foot plus man|
Regardless, the largest man in recorded history died from something as simple as a staph infection. Awful.
Well, like all good stories, it eventually comes back around to something about me. Mondays are days that the gods have cursed, if there really is a hell, I’m pretty sure it feels a lot like Monday morning just after my alarm goes off.
Yesterday, I awoke, cursed the fates that have forced me to actually have to work for a living - well, not work work, just have a job – and began getting ready. I washed clothes this weekend and had freshly folded and neatly stacked t-shirts to wear. I pulled the collar over my head and put my right hand through the sleeve… and right into the gaping maw of hell itself!
Er, or I might have banged my hand against the door frame to the closet, whatever, the effect was the same: Blinding pain and a newly crippled hand.
Even now, the evening after the incident, it hurts. Blood has pooled and clotted in a massive way under the nail of my pinky to the point that typing is a struggle, holding a cup is hard, and cleaning the inside of my ear canal is now impossible (the pinky's most important function). I’m not sure my personal story is over just yet. But it feels like it might be. Done in by a pinky. How sad.