On October 5, Edward Archbold, 32, won a live roach-eating contest at a pet store north of Miami, Florida. After his win, Mr. Archbold felt ill, began vomiting, and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Other participants in the contest did not fall ill and did not die, suggesting that his death might have been unrelated to the large number of live cockroaches he consumed. Or at least that, for the larger percentage of us, the consumption of a lot of cockroaches is not necessarily dangerous.
If one is so inclined, one can go Gawker and watch Edward Archbold win his live roach-eating contest. I have watched it twice. In it, Mr. Archbold does not at any point appear any more sick than you would expect one to appear while consuming a large number of cockroaches.
It seems strange to me that I am unable to find a specific phobia for those who fear an undignified or silly death. That no one has coined a term for it. (Deadgod? A little help?) I imagine it’s common. I know I used to suffer from it—the worry that I might slip and fall in a tub, say. An unromantic death. A death caused by a moment of stupidity. A death associated with an embarrassing situation.
I don’t really mean to mock Mr. Archbold here. I’m sure his death sent out a wave of sadness through the web of his connections to other people in the world. People currently mourn for him. People will, for a while, mourn for him. But his death is inextricably, and maybe causally*, linked to a live roach-eating contest.
I said I used to suffer from a fear of an undignified death. I think I am turned around on it, though.
Though I realize the danger of putting this out into the world is that my public statement might give the universe ideas, or at least focus its attention on me in a way it hasn’t been focused in the past, I think I have come to terms with, and perhaps sort of get a kick out of, the idea that I might die an undignified death. That I might die due to my own stupidity. For the most part, I live an undignified life. Often, I am incredibly stupid. Why shouldn’t my death fall in line?
Let’s make a pact. Everyone raise their right hand and repeat after me:
“I promise that in the event of the undignified death of a friend, a family member, or a stranger, I will acknowledge the comedy of it with a chuckle, but also the likelihood that I will suffer a similar fate, and therefore, I will see the great, solid expanse of dignity acting as the foundation for all seemingly undignified deaths, and will ultimately respect the individuals who die under less than idealized circumstances.”
* Apparently a person with a shellfish allergy shouldn’t eat cockroaches, as they contain the same allergen. A cause of death has not yet been determined here, but this has been raised as a possibility.