Really, it would be the only way to solve the problem.
First and foremost, if we were trapped in a sinking pod of some kind in the Ocean and the water was rising and there was only one of those handy-dandy oxygen tank thingies with the mouthpiece doodad I would first like to point out that it was pretty ironic that this also happened to Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The Abyss and for years I’ve been saying that this would have to be the worst possible way to die and how strange that now, here we were, in the middle of our ocean exploration, to find ourselves in this situation.
You would probably mutter something that I wouldn’t be able to understand since you’re shorter than me and the water was already up to your lips and you were, not surprisingly, more concerned with who was going to get to use that breathing apparatus since it represented life. But I… Yes, I would have my wits about me since I had played the Ed Harris moment in my head a thousand times and knew that I wouldn’t just let the girl be the one to die and make me look like a wimp, no sir. I wouldn’t die first, either, since I was the man. You can’t leave these things up to guts and glory. You’ve got to have a sure fire plan in the works in case you find yourself trapped in some kind of ocean pod deep below the surface of the sea and the water is rushing in and there’s only one of those breathing things.
Two words. Twenty questions.
You would get to go first since the water was going to engulf you before it was going to engulf me. Remember, you’d have to pick an animal, a vegetable or a mineral for your secret item that I would have twenty questions to guess. See, and the good thing is, even if the water was over your head at this point, you would only have to nod yes or no as I made my guesses. I would make my way through the guesses one by one, eventually deciding that my final answer would be “oxygen”. Silly you, having been so self-consumed with wanting some for yourself, your mind would simply go to that item as part of the game. I know how you would have thought to yourself that there’s no way I’d guess “oxygen” since it was the one thing we were playing for but since we’ve spent the last eight months exploring the depths of the sea, I’ve gotten to know you much better than you think. I know how that mind of yours works.
“Oxygen,” I’d say. And I’d be right.
Then, it’d be my turn. I wouldn’t have much time to think about whether I was going for an animal, vegetable or mineral but would probably end up choosing “hamster” as my secret word. I’d figure that here, deep in the ocean, minutes away from drowning, the last thing you’d think of would be a furry miniature animal that often were kept as pets. And you know what, I’d probably win, too.
The moment you exhausted your last of twenty questions, having not won, I know the look you’d flash me. It’d be some kind of look that said, “I can’t believe after all we’ve been through that you’d be so cavalier as to let me drown here in the middle of the ocean just because I couldn’t guess ‘hamster’. The least you could do is let me try again and this time we have to put some rules in effect so you don’t go and pick something so random.”
We’d probably argue for another forty or fifty seconds as the water reached high above our heads and we were holding our breath. In fact, we’d be arguing with sign language only, and it would quickly devolve into some kind of slow-motion fight of sorts. I would remind you, by flashing both sets of open hands twice (representing the number 20) that I had indeed won our game of 20 Questions and that the oxygen tank was rightfully mine. “Hamster,” I would remind you. “Hamster was the animal you never guessed.”
When I returned to the surface, to the floating research compound, I would tell everyone how you had been brave. How you had stood strong against the terror we had both experienced that afternoon. How, as the water rose higher and higher, the two of us came to a decision about who should try and go for help with the oxygen tank. I would tell them how you pointed to me, sure that I was the better swimmer and that I could be the one to try for that brass ring.
I probably wouldn’t mention the game of 20 Questions though.
And not for the reason I’m sure you expect. No, it wouldn’t be because others might find it a heartless way of deciding who should get the oxygen tank. No, it wouldn’t be because it is such a random game from the 50’s that really, isn’t even considered a real game anymore. It would be to protect myself from another situation such as this. As the research program would continue for another twelve months after our moment in the depths, the chances of getting trapped once again would be quite possible. And for me to mention the 20 Questions, which would invariably end up with me having to tell everyone that you lost on the word “hamster”, well, there goes my 20 Questions winning word.
I’d have to think up a wholly different word to try and beat the next person I could possibly be trapped with in a sinking pod in the middle of the ocean. And well, that would suck. “Hamster” is one of the best words for that game ever.
So for now, if it’s okay with you, I’d prefer to keep “hamster” to myself. As for drowning in a pod in the middle of the ocean… Hell, it ain’t nearly as bad as getting shot. So, you know, think of it that way and it’ll probably get your mind off the whole 20 Questions thing.