It always irritates me that women in movies scream helplessly whenever things go wrong.
As if that will help.
I grew up with a big sister.
I’ve seen her do things most men couldn’t do.
But I’ve never once heard her scream.
I find women like her much more impressive.
Much more what you want around when things go wrong.
Let me give you two examples.
After doing A levels, Gordon Smith’s daughter, Annie, went to teach English in Sri Lanka.
She went to a remote village that had no phones, no electricity, no sanitation.
Eventually Annie came home and went to university in Manchester.
A few months later, she started coughing in the middle of the night.
She had something in her throat and couldn’t shift it.
She got up and went to the toilet.
She was trying to cough something up, but it wouldn’t come out.
She couldn’t cough it free, so she put her fingers in her mouth.
She reached down her throat and grabbed it.
Then she pulled it free.
It was a fat, wriggling creature an inch or so long.
Somewhere between a slug and a worm.
Instead of screaming, flinging it down the toilet and running away, Annie did something much more useful.
She got a tin and put it in it.
Then the next day, she took the tin to the hospital.
She showed them the worm, dried up by now.
They asked her where she’d been recently.
When Annie said Sri Lanka, they asked her if she’s eaten any eggs.
She thought she had.
They said what she had was a worm that was often contracted from eggs.
It was barely visible at first, but over several months grew to be much larger.
They said she probably had four or five live worms growing inside her.
They prescribed some medicine that would kill the worms so her body could expel them.
All handled very sensibly and calmly, with the minimum of fuss.
Because Annie didn’t think screaming would be useful.
If Annie had screamed and flushed the worm down the toilet, they wouldn’t have known any of that.
And the other worms would still have been growing inside her.
Very similar to when I broke my arm.
I was cycling with my daughter on a jungle island just off the coast of Singapore.
I was teaching her to ride a bike with no hands.
Or more accurately I wasn’t.
Because I rode full speed off the dirt road, straight down a bank, and straight into a boulder.
I stood up, dazed, head ringing, blood on my T shirt, and looked at my bent arm hanging limply down.
My daughter looked at the state I was in, but she didn’t scream.
She said “Give me the paperback book out of your back pocket Dad.”
And she wrapped it like a flexible splint round my arm.
Then she said “Give me your belt Dad.”
And, using the notches, she tightened it round the paperback book.
Then she lead me back to A&E on the mainland.
There the doctor asked who’d done the splint, was it someone with medical training?
The nurse agreed, she said she hadn’t seen one like it before but she was impressed.
They agreed the flexible splint had been the best way to treat the break, and saved a lot of pain later.
All because my daughter hadn’t thought screaming would be useful.
That’s the sort of people I want around me.
People who slot straight into coping mode.
People who don’t let their emotions override their reason.
People whose initial reaction to any crisis is “Let’s sort it out first and worry about it later.”
That’s the sort of people I like to work with.