“I’m a survivor of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815,” I told the woman who met me at the edge of the beach. “Have you come here to rescue us from the island?”
Not exactly, she told me. The woman explained that she was part of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Rapid Deployment Team that was dispatched to the island to respond to the ferry accident the day before. Hundreds were feared dead, including British citizens. She said she hadn’t heard anything about a plane crash, and seemed dubious of my tale.
I assured her the plane crash was real. Our flight had left Sydney for Los Angeles, but the pilots were forced to turn back after losing radio contact several hours after takeoff. We were roughly 1,000 miles off course when our plane hit violent turbulence and broke apart in midair, crashing onto this deserted island. I, along with the rest of the survivors from the midsection of the plane, had been living on the beach for approximately 46 days, but dates and chronology had become fuzzy ever since the sky turned purple. My camp was two hours down the beach – we still had time to make it there and notify the others before nightfall.
The woman calmly assured me that my friends would be taken care of – and then admitted me for a psychiatric evaluation. Flashback to three months earlier: I am living a relatively domesticated life in Granada, Nicaragua, where my girlfriend and I are quickly plowing through the DVDs of the first and second seasons of our favorite television series, “Lost.”
One day at work, a man tells me he is looking for volunteers to act as survivors in a simulated plane crash on OmetepeIsland, a mysterious volcanic outcropping in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.
The disaster simulation, I was told, would be training for a U.S.-based British Rapid Deployment Team to respond to future disasters in the hemisphere.
But all I could think of was my “Lost” fantasy. And like many of the coincidences in the show, the synchronicity between my imagination and reality was too strong to ignore.
I signed up for the adventure and found it had all the ingredients for me to live out my my fantasy of being a character on “Lost:” a picturesque tropical island full of intrigue; a disastrous crash scenario; and a group of mostly young and attractive actors to play the roles of the other survivors. I was determined to become their leader.
At the last minute, the crash scenario was changed from a plane to a ferry. But it didn’t matter. My fantasy was already in motion and I wasn’t going to let the details get in the way.
GroundTruth, the British consulting firm leading and directing the disaster training, was nice enough tohumor my daydream by writing me into the script as a ferry survivor who suffers post-traumatic stress and confusesthe plot of “Lost” with his own disaster experience. Close enough, I was ready to act.
However, I quickly discovered two things: 1) I’m not a good actor; and 2) fantasies are a lot cooler when they remain as fantasies.
In the “Lost” scenario of my imagination, I was a dashing and brave hero who the other survivors naturally turned to for leadership on the boar hunt. But when I tried to act it out, my performance was mostly flat and unconvincing – I was easily caught in the contradictions of my adlib, and my clumsy attempts at sexy self-confidence came across as sun-stroked and strange.
I also found out that acting – at least in my case – has a lot more to do with sitting around drinking beers out of character than it does with acting. Plus, there were no polar bear hunts, discovery of hidden hatches, mysterious monster attacks, or tactical infiltrations of “The Others’” camp.
At the end of the three-day scenario, the British Rapid Deployment Team came away with invaluable disaster-response training in the tropics, and the other Nicaraguan actors got an interesting experience to include on their resumes. But perhaps the biggest winner is “Lost” star Matthew Fox, who can now rest assured that his role as Dr. Jack Shephard is safe. At least from my thespian grasps.
Tim Rogers is a fan of “Lost” and editor of The Nica Times.