Leaving the Red Shirts at Home
author of All I Really Need to Know
I Learned from Watching Star Trek
Anyone with even a passing interest in Star Trek should know this rule: Never, ever, ever wear a red shirt-not under any circumstances. Don’t do it.
Pick any episode. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, a series of regular like Uhura and some guy you’ve never seen before are standing on the transporter pad. If the guy is wearing a red shirt, he will not live past the first commercial. Somewhere on the planet below the certain death awaits.
I’ve watched these guys in red shirts get shot, be blown up, be disintegrated, have all of their blood drained, have every cell in their body explode and otherwise meet the most painful and horrible deaths imaginable.
The endings aren’t even especially heroic. First a guy beams down, then he’s dead. At least it’s usually quick. Nine times out of ten, the poor fellow doesn’t have a clue what hit him. Within seconds, Bones examines the fallen crewman with a tricorder, turns to the captain and says, “He’s dead, Jim.” By the next scene it’s as if the guy never existed. There’s no wake, no funeral and most of the time his name is never spoken again.
I bought red swim trunks once. I took them with me on a scuba diving trip to the Cayman Islands. While wearing those trunks ninety-five feet underwater on the north wall of the ten-thousand-foot-deep Cayman Trench, my regulator came apart. For those of you unfamiliar with scuba, the regulator is the thing that you breathe with. No regulator, no air. Under ninety-five feet of water this is more than an inconvenience. I managed my way up to the surface. Once safely back in my hotel room, I threw the red swimsuit away.
You would think I had learned my lesson. Wrong, security-detail breath. I bought a red short-sleeved shirt last summer. Next morning I unfolded the shirt and took out the pins. Ouch! A small trickle of blood. No big deal.
Work was relatively unremarkable that day, and I hopped into my car for the commute home. A car, I later realized, is a twentieth-century version of a transporter pad. On the ride home—WHAM. I ran into a van. My front end crumbled. The van sustained no damage.
Although I wasn’t killed, there was several hundred dollars damage to my car, and I did receive a $125 fine from the United States Park Police (one of Washington’s many police forces.) I tossed out the red shirt that night.
I do not own red socks or a red jacket or a red sweater or anything else that is completely red. It’s a wonder I’m not afraid of Santa Claus. I do find red-haired women attractive but I don’t recall ever dating one. That’s probably for the best.
Listen, wear red if you want to, but I’ll pass.