Jesse Champlin
We've all heard the dramatic warnings and horror stories about sudden cramps, undertow, and riptides. We grow up with tales of alcohol-fueled boating accidents, rafting disasters, and ill-fated Baptists at waterparks. Just mention drowning at the most festive of parties and watch the frowns appear.




Clearly, there's something about drowning that just doesn't sit right with most people. Popular wisdom says death by fluid inhalation is something to be avoided at all costs.

A death by drowning is supposed to be frightening. Movies invariably show unhappy victims sinking wide-eyed beneath the waves, thrashing in vain for a breath. Comic books whisper of legions of vengeful pirate zombies at the bottom of every inlet and harbor, knives held between slimy teeth, hands free to clutch and drag the guilty down. Many who've been rescued and resuscitated complain of panic and terror as they sank below the waves. Overprotective parents keep an eye on poolside children, "just in case." Life preservers hang on ship railings, grim, ever-present reminders of what "might" happen.

But wait one minute! Have you ever noticed that all these negative portrayals are coming from people who HAVEN'T drowned? Ask anyone unlucky enough to die who died another way, and you might hear some remarkably different responses.

"Drowning? Not a bad way to go," says the woman who hiked off a cliff in the dark.

"Drowning sounds real nice in comparison," says the fellow unintentionally electrocuted by a senile old neighbor.

"Drowning? Quiet and peaceful... I wouldn't say no," says the toddler stung to death by Africanized honeybees.

The numbers suggest another reason for the negative press. Drowning prevention is a multi-billion dollar industry. Scuba supply shops depend on repeat, non-drowning customers. Boat repair shops owe their income to keeping watercraft afloat. Manufacturers have successfully lobbied for laws making lifejackets mandatory on everything from powerboats to cruise ships. Toy stores sell water wings for children. The list is endless. Bridges. Fences around pools. Floating airplane cushions. When anti-drowning special interest groups dictate public safety policy, good luck finding a public official brave enough to voice an unbiased view.

But let's look past the hype, at the FACTS. Is drowning really all that bad? How does it compare with drier, land-based deaths? What do we REALLY know about drowning?

FACT: Drowning leaves a great looking corpse. Drowned bodies look nearly perfect once they've been toweled off.

FACT: Dollar for dollar, drowning is your best value. Only self-strangulation in bed comes close to providing a lower cost demise. Guns? Nice, if you've can afford $300-500 for an average handgun. Prescription pills? Skyrocketing drug prices put an intentional overdose out of reach for many. Feel like driving off a cliff? Go right ahead, if you happen to have $20,000, about average for a car these days. When you add the record gas prices you'll pay en route, it's all too easy to die a pauper!

FACT: Drowning is easy. No fiddling with dosages, knots, or ammunition. No instruction book. Simply submerge your mouth and nose, wait a minute, and let your body do the rest! It's child's play!

FACT: Drowning is more popular than safety experts let on. Often, a drowning death will be mislabeled as choking. Official accounts say the great Jimi Hendrix "choked" on his own vomit, but vomit's a liquid, and choking on a liquid is the same as drowning!

FACT: The same body of water can drown a nearly unlimited number of people! Try that with poison! And you'll never need to reload a lake or sharpen a pond.

FACT: Virtually no other death offers as much flexibility in the details. Water's traditional, but remember, if it's liquid, you can drown in it! You can successfully inhale milk, wine, green tea, or even your favorite cocktail! Nothing at hand? You can even drown in your own blood! How's that for convenient?

The method of one's death, voluntary or not, is a very personal matter, and should never be taken lightly. Unfortunately, facts sometimes take a backseat to industry pressure and misinformation. There's no shortage of people ready to tell you what's right and what's wrong. Keep this article on hand next time someone shudders and says, "Drowning sounds terrible." You might just change their life. And death!