Actor Paul Walker, the star of "Fast & Furious," a movie series about fiery car crashes, just died in a fiery car crash. Death, always, sucks. But an ironic death? Even worse.
I hope to die doing something totally unremarkable. Dusting the bookshelves. Walking the dog. Soaking in the tub.
Soaking in the tub is, in fact, how my Grandpa went. At age 89, he got up one morning, kissed his wife, drew a hot bath, then got in and died. After a long, full life, his heart just stopped.
Now that's a good death.
I aspire to good. But I'll settle for dull. And it better not be ironic. Being dead is bad enough. I don't want to be a punch line too.
Jimi Hesseldon, the tycoon who owned the Segway company. Died when he lost control of the Segway he was riding on and accidentally steered it over a cliff. Not only was it ironic, it was way too cartoon-ey. The poor man died a Wylie Coyote death.
And not just that. The way he went is also the perfect example of a Stupid Millionaire's Death. A SMD is when you die doing something that nobody with any sense would do, and that only a person with way too much disposable income could ever afford to do.
Any death resulting from diving off a yacht, for instance, is a SMD. If you die while skiing, it isn't necessarily a SMD. But if you die while helicopter skiing, it undoubtedly is.
A classic example of a SMD? John Denver. He died flying an "experimental aircraft" into the Pacific Ocean. To me, the words "experimental aircraft" are synonymous with "death wish." A good old tried and true 737 wasn't fast enough for him?
When an ordinary person gets hit by a car, jumps off a bridge, or has the bad luck to be involved in a fatal train derailment, it's tragic. When the uber-wealthy gent who owns Segway takes one for a spin around the cliff-side paths on his mammoth country estate and manages to go over a cliff on it? That's a SMD.
The guy was a philanthropist. He used some of his wealth to make the world a better place. He'd just donated 1,000 Segways to wounded American troops. He sounds like a pretty cool dude.
But what will he be remembered for? The ridiculous way he went out.
And Paul Walker? If, after making a film about too-fast cars, you die in a too-fast car crash?
But if you die because your pal has lost control of the pricey sports car ($350,000!) in which the two of you are speeding through the city -- an insanely pricey car that is also notoriously difficult to control at high speeds?
Sorry, but that's a SMD.
(The one silver lining? He didn't take any innocent bystanders with him.)
Everyone has to die. But when I go, I want everyone to weep, not chuckle.
(This essay first appeared on The Broad Street Review.
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