Sometimes life takes a catastrophic turn for the worse. A shark bites you, your parachute fails to open, your baby gets born on a turnpike exit ramp. Watching these predicaments unfold in movies or up close and personal on television, we shudder, grimace, and relax, realizing that our chances of encountering these situations are as likely as being struck by lightning. Recently, though, certain survival handbooks have been published that capitalize on our communal fear of being caught unprepared for life's horrific challenges. But as edifying - and silly - as these books are, they invariably fail to address certain dire situations closer to home - specifically, those you might encounter during a Maine summer. Here's just what you need to know to handle five of the worst-case scenarios the Pine Tree State could throw at you.How to Survive a Charging Moose
1. Don't approach too close.
Moose are not usually aggressive, but they are wild animals and can be unpredictable, especially when they become stressed. Never attempt to feed or pet a moose. Give moose an extra wide berth if you have a dog with you since moose view canines (wolves) as their mortal enemies. Never, under any circumstances, get between a mother moose and her calf.
2. Be especially careful during the rut.
Bull moose become more aggressive during the fall mating season, which occurs during late September into October.
3. Watch for warning signs of attack.
A moose signals aggression by licking its lips. If its ears are laid back or the long hairs are raised on its hump, a charge may be imminent.
4. Back away slowly, then run.
Moose charges are often "bluff" charges - warnings to get back - but you should always assume the threat is real. Unlike bears, mountain lions, or dogs, moose won't chase you very far if you do run; they're not predators whose attack instincts are triggered by fleeing prey.
5. Look for the nearest tree, boulder, building, or vehicle to duck behind.
Moose can plow right through saplings and even some medium-sized trees.
6. If the moose hits you, curl up in a ball.
Hopefully, the moose will keep running once it's knocked you down, but if it begins to stomp its feet, you're best off protecting your head with your hands and holding still. Stay still until the moose moves away, then seek medical attention if necessary.How to Find a Restroom in an Emergency
1. Don't hold out for a McDonald's.
Across the country, the proliferation of fast-food restaurants has made it simple to find a public restroom in most built-up areas. But Maine, being largely rural, has fewer of these commercialized strips. Consider other kinds of restaurants. Those with indoor dining (as opposed to take-out counters) are required by state law to have at least one restroom.
2. If you have a choice of gas stations, go with an Irving.
While Maine doesn't have a McDonald's on every corner, it does have more than seventy Irving Mainway gas station-convenience stores, and they all have restrooms that are among the cleanest around. Plus, you usually don't need to ask the attendant for a key.
3. Look for a hospital, town office, or public library.
Nearly all federal, state, and municipal buildings have bathroom facilities open to the public. (Post offices seem to be an exception.) All Maine hospitals have public restrooms, usually near the front entrance. It's not a law, just common sense.
4. Watch for school ball fields or construction sites.
Very often these locations will have a freestanding port-a-potty; it might or might not be locked off hours, but it's worth checking if you're desperate.
5. In extremis, use the woods.
As long as you're not trespassing on posted property or blatantly abusing someone's yard, garden, or orchard, you're usually fine, provided you do what you can to clean up after yourself. Just remember the old adage "leaves of three let me be" - poison ivy is common along many Maine roadsides.How to Avoid Seasickness while Whale Watching
1. Before leaving shore, anticipate the possibility of becoming sick.
Seasickness is easier to avoid than it is to cure. If you're prone to motion sickness, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the various over-the-counter and prescription medications available, as well as the effectiveness of acupressure bands and other homeopathic remedies.
2. Avoid overindulging the night or morning before your trip.
Alcohol, citrus juices, and fatty and spicy foods all seem to exacerbate mal de mer, so skip them before venturing out onto the water. On the other hand, don't go to sea on a totally empty stomach either. Oatmeal, bagels, or crusty bread make a good breakfast.
3. A good night's sleep beforehand also seems to help.
4. Drink water or ginger ale.
Ginger of any kind, especially taken twelve or more hours before your trip, seems to alleviate seasickness. Nibbling on crackers can help settle an upset stomach.
5. Find the part of the boat with the least motion.
For most ferries and whale- or puffin-watching boats this is usually in the center at the rear (or aft) on a lower deck. Avoid cramped spaces or seats where you can smell the engine's diesel fumes.
6. Focus on a fixed object on the horizon.
Seasickness is caused when the body, eyes, and inner ear are sending different messages to the brain, resulting in a loss of balance and feelings of confusion and queasiness. Focusing on a stationary point on the land helps the brain orient itself.
7. Stash your book.
Reading seems to bring on seasickness in many individuals, so leave the guidebook in your tote.
8. Breathe deeply.
And try to enjoy the prospect of seeing some of the largest and most mysterious creatures on the planet.How to Remove a North Woods Leech
1. Avoid shallow, protected waters with adjacent logs, aquatic plants, or stones.
If you are a good swimmer, move out to deeper water, where leeches are scarce.
2. Move away from the crowd.
Leeches, like sharks, are attracted to water disturbance around docks and swimming areas. They're also most active on the hottest days of summer, alas.
3. Hold the garlic.
Vampires might hate it, but The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association recently published an experimental study showing that garlic seems to have an attractive force on leeches. No one will say outright that eating a garlicky lunch makes you a tastier sanck for a leech, but if you're truly paranoid about bloodsuckers, skip that slice of pepperoni pizza.
4. If you do find a leech on you, don't panic.
Leeches have enzymes in their saliva that act as anesthetics and anti-coagulants, allowing blood to flow freely. A feeding Maine leech might look disgusting or scary, but it won't take enough blood from you to notice. Nor is it poisonous. And truth be told, the little cut it makes in the skin is rarely painful. Keep in mind that leeches have been used for millennia by doctors to bleed patients.
5. Lift it off.
A leech attaches itself to the skin through simple suction; it should come off if peeled, without leaving anything behind - unlike a tick or honeybee. If, for whatever reason, you cannot peel the leech off (some squeamish types are reluctant to touch a bloodsucker), apply salt to it, and it will let go and die. The wound is likely to continue bleeding because of the leech's anti-coagulant, but the bleeding should stop if the area is washed. As with mosquitoes, leech bites don't typically become infected, but it never hurts to clean any wound with an antiseptic.
How to Get Rid of Overbearing HouseGuests
- Don't make your guests too comfortable. If you've had guests who have overstayed their welcome in the past (a common problem in a state as beautiful as Maine where every resident seems to become a part-time innkeeper for the summer), it might be because you've made it too easy for them to linger. You don't have to turn your spare room into a monk's cell or army barracks, but you might think of removing the cable television, for instance. Busy wallpaper also seems to do the trick.
- Don't change the towels. You're not a bed-and-breakfast owner so don't act like one.
- Abandon your guests periodically. If you give up your life to entertain your guests, they will assume you have nothing else to do and that you savor the opportunity to become a personal tour guide. Stick to your usual schedule.
- Help your guests make reservations elsewhere. Suggest a motel or inn as their next stop farther down the coast. Offer to call on their behalf to inquire about vacancies.
- Feed them anything but lobster. Many, if not most, visitors to Maine come with a craving for lobster. Satisfy that craving for your guests, and you will find them only coming back for more. Announce instead that tomorrow you will be serving that old Maine delicacy - tripe. (Of course, savvy Maine hosts have long made it a tradition that the guests always pay for lobsters - which after a couple meals does begin to add up.)
- If all else fails, forgive them. Who wouldn't want to stay a little longer in Maine, a state where even the worst-case scenarios aren't all that bad?