Rope A Dope

I watched a show the other night on ABC called “Prisoners of the Snow,” a true saga of a rugby team stranded in the Andes in sub-zero weather when their plane crashed into the side of a mountain in 1972. Also in the news, the miraculous 40-day survival of four young children stranded in the Amazon jungle.

Imagine finding yourself with no food or water in the hot jungle, or caught in an avalanche, freezing to death beneath a mountain of snow. Many of these brave people survived, but it might have been easier if they were all wearing something called the Para-cord Survival Bracelet. (Also helpful: a cell phone, your GPS, warm blankets, three month’s supply of food, a Coleman stove and Netflix)

This product was the hottest thing about 15 years ago and they are advertising it once again. Technically, it’s called a 550 Cord. This is confusing because that’s the name of the Levi’s I wear. The bracelet is 90 feet of intricately woven thread crafted into a nifty piece of rope jewelry. The material was first used in WWII by paratroopers. The manufacturer describes it as having a “32-strand woven nylon outer sheath with an inner core of seven 2-ply yarns.”  I know, I know, that sounds a lot like Charmin.

Here are three uses suggested by the manufacturer:

1.    Replace a broken zipper pull:  Nothing would be more embarrassing than being rescued after 12 days on a deserted island and being caught with your fly open.

2.    Detain a person:  When you are shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere and help finally comes, isn’t that the first thing you’d think about: Who do I need to tie up?

3.    Fishing Line: “Our white cord will rarely catch fish in clear water,” admits the bracelet company, “but you may have a chance in murky water if you have stink bait and a hook.” Not a problem. A lot of hikers who forgot to bring even one protein bar have a jar of chicken guts and beef liver in their backpack.

The manufacturer is concerned that people will not want to use the rope in an emergency because making it back into a bracelet is harder than solving the Rubik’s Cube with your feet. They are probably right. That’s why auto safety systems do not allow you to disengage the airbag apparatus on your own. “Push the airbag off button, Agnes. We’re going to hit that truck head on, but I have no idea how to stuff that thing back into the steering wheel.”

The makers of the Paracord Survival Bracelet will give you a free one if you use their product in a legitimate emergency. Simply send them the story of how you used the rope along with a photograph demonstrating the life-threatening predicament you were in.

Dear Survival Bracelet Maker,

My wife and I were recently cleaning the gutters on our roof when the ladder tipped over. As I helped her repel down the side of our house using your nifty piece of jewelry, I tried to get my cell phone out of my pocket to send a picture, thus qualifying for a free replacement. I was too slow but I am attaching a photo of her on the ground with two broken legs.

Personally, I think this bracelet is a waste of money at $39.95. Better not safe, than sorry.

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@