This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 24 December 2011.
I feel very lucky to be living in the twenty-first century, rather than say, 2.5 million years ago. At that point in time (the Palaeolithic era), humans were still very primitive, living in small groups as hunters and gatherers, scouring the plains for any available source of food. It was apparently during these times that we developed what I think is a somewhat useless skill – the vasovagal reflex; which is really just a fancy name for fainting. According to researchers, if combat between small bands of humans broke out, women and children protected themselves by falling to the ground and playing dead, essentially fainting. Another theory has it that we developed the ‘ability’ to faint as a way of dealing with the many hungry and deadly animals which prowled the earth in those days – if you fainted and pretended to be dead you might stand a greater chance of not being eaten (which seems a bit silly, as you would still be a tasty meal for a hungry carnivore, regardless of the fact that you had just passed out).
Whatever the reason, over the years we humans have honed our ability to faint to a fine art, even if there’s no chance of us being eaten by a T-Rex. And unfortunately I include myself in that description. It’s a shame there isn’t a World Championship of Fainting, as I’m confident I could win gold for Australia. My most recent example, prompted by a stomach complaint, would certainly have come as close to perfection as Nadia Comaneci’s 10 out of 10 on the uneven bars at the 1976 Summer Olympics. It was a fairly spectacular effort, with all the hallmarks of a great faint – sweating, shivering, mumbling and kryptonite-like weakness.
Although a small part of my brain was trying to figure out whether or not I was dying (as you do every time you faint), while my wife stood there asking me what was I doing kneeling under the dressing table at one in the morning, my real concern was that this might be something serious and it would mean we would have to cancel our upcoming overseas trip, and even worse, I hadn’t yet bought any travel insurance! (now you probably see where this is going). Cancelling the overseas flights without travel insurance would have left us significantly out of pocket. Insurance is a dull topic to discuss, but travel insurance, health insurance, life insurance, income protection insurance and of course home, car and contents insurance – you always need it the most, just when you don’t have it. Merry Christmas everyone!