The physiologists who specialize in thirst seem never to have experienced it. This surprises me. You would think that someone interested in thirst would want to stop drinking for a while. It is easy to arrange, and can be done safely. But the physiologists pursue knowledge, not experience. They use words based in Greek, which soften the subject. For instance, they would describe the Sahara — the burning sand, the fierce, relentless sky — as dipsogenic, meaning”thirst-provoking.” In discussing Lag Lag’s case, they might say he progressed from eudipsia, meaning “ordinary thirst,” through bouts of hyperdipsia, meaning”temporary intense thirst,” to polydipsia, by which they mean “sustained,excessive thirst.” We can define it more precisely: since poly means “many,”polydipsia means “the kind of thirst that drives you to drink anything. ” There are specialized terms for such behavior, including uriposia, “the drinking of urine,” and hemoposia, “the drinking of blood.” For word enthusiasts, this is heady stuff. Nonetheless, the lexicon has not kept up with technology. Blame the ancients for not driving cars. I have tried, and cannot coin a suitable word for “the drinking of radiator coolant.”

This is what Lag Lag and his assistant started drinking. They had been under the truck for several weeks. They wrote good-bye letters to their families and stuck them up in the cab. The assistant cried. Lag Lag was annoyed and said,”When you die, you die.” He was a good Muslim. He lay calm.

Finally, the two of them having drunk most of the coolant, Lag Lag had an inspiration. He drained oil from the engine and poured it into the fuel tank.The assistant had given up hope, and wanted no part in the experiment. Lag Lag figured the oil would combine with the dregs of diesel fuel, and the mixture might ignite. He climbed into the cab, cycled the glow plug, and pressed the starter. The engine turned over and rumbled to life. The astonished assistant scrambled aboard. Spewing dense blue smoke, the truck rolled forward. After some miles they came to a track. With no idea where they were, or where the track led, they followed it. Allah was with them. A refrigerated van appeared,with water, meats, and vegetables. It was driven by a friend. They broke the seal on the back, built a fire, drank, and feasted. As the specialists say, they rehydrated.

William Langewiesche, The World in Its Extreme (specifically, part two)