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Bad Things Coming, We Are Safe October 9, 2009

Posted by monty in Uncategorized.
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In his book I Drink for a Reason, David Cross writes a chapter about how he’d be the worst survivor ever.  No matter what the catastrophe, he’d be the one crying in the corner, praying for death.  Similarly, on Patton Oswalt’s latest album, My Weakness Is Strong, he laments how, without his meds, he’d be too depressed to fight back against the hordes of raiders in our unavoidably post-apocalyptic future.  I mention Cross and Oswalt because the thought of surviving some world-ending event has been on my mind since seeing Zombieland last weekend.

This might surprise those of you who know me, but I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that I’d do quite well following the apocalypse.  This is why:

1) I can handle solitude. At the time of this writing, I’ve lived by myself for nearly fifteen years. More importantly, the older I get, the more uncomfortable I become in social situations.  I see a future as a shut-in – like Harold Smith in Twin Peaks – as a very real possibility.  So the thought of being on my own after the end of the world doesn’t fill me with dread.  If anything, I’ll probably enjoy the fact that, when I’m out foraging for food or trying to siphon the last drops of gas out of a car for my own souped-up, bad-ass ramming machine, I won’t have to make small talk with anyone.  I’ll simply stick my two cats in a backpack and roam the wasteland. I’ll become a legend, spoken of in whispers.  The Lonely Cat-Guy.  The Feline Stalker. It’ll give me the mysterious cachet I’ve always wanted.

2) I can run fast, and for long distances. My wimpy, asthmatic lungs notwithstanding, being an on-again, off-again runner for the last ten years has given me speed and stamina.  I’m not in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in, but I figure the necessary reduction in calories following the apocalypse will get me down to my ideal weight in no time.

Now, if the apocalypse involves zombies, the world of film has taught us we have two options.  If I’m faced with George Romero’s shambling, staggering zombies, I’ll be set for life.  Those things can barely walk, let alone run.  As long as I watch my back, exercise caution in opening doors, and always have at least two exits to any room I’m in, I figure I’ll have nothing to worry about.  Things get a little dicier if I’m faced with the sprinting, Olympic-ready zombies of 28 Days Later or Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. I’m not sure why death redlines their capacity for aerobic activity (which is a contradiction anyway, since zombies don’t need oxygen), but this scenario would certainly necessitate more caution.  If there’s anything I’ve picked up from those movies, though, it’s that sprinting zombies A) are easily distracted and B) aren’t the most perseverant things in the world.  As long as I can outrun them for a few minutes and/or have some distractions ready (dropping my backpack of cats will work in a pinch – sorry, Nigel and Maggie), I should be able to lose them.

Things get slightly more difficult if the apocalypse doesn’t involve the undead.  For some reason, your garden-variety post-apocalyptic hooligans often travel in packs, they usually have at least one speedy vehicle, and, in the absence of guns, they always seem armed with distance weapons – crossbows, slings, and other weapons that launch pointy things – like the apocalypse suddenly turned the world into a giant game of Dungeons & Dragons. I clearly couldn’t outrun a car, which means I would have to be supernaturally alert to the sound of engines, and always have my own vehicle handy for when the power of my legs just won’t suffice.  Otherwise, I have extraordinary powers of dodging and weaving – as long as I don’t pop a hamstring, I should be able to run faster than my pursuers and avoid any projectiles they hurl my way.

3) I have no desire to be a hero. The plots of post-apocalyptic movies all revolve around the rise of one character to heroic heights.  At some point, survival is supplanted by a desire to do something for The Greater Good.™  I have no such aspirations now, and I’m sure I wouldn’t suddenly get ambitious if the world as we knew it came to an end.  In fact, my guess is that in such a situation I’d become even more selfish than I already am (see my previous plan to feed my cats to ravenous zombies).  I’ll leave the post-apocalytpic heroics to the Mel Gibsons of the world and practice good ol’ Emersonian self-reliance.  It’s not that I wouldn’t want to help other people, but seriously – what’s the point of surviving the apocalypse just so you can die trying to save some ungrateful bastard?  My solipsism will save me while the rest of the survivors are being noshed on by zombies.

4) I’m industrious and clever. I have no practical, real-world basis for this belief.  However, I tend to think these abilities are lying mostly dormant within me, just waiting for an opportunity like the end of the world to bring them forth.  Why do I believe this?  Because there are flashes of MacGyver-like ingenuity in my past.  Just last week I used a rolled-up magazine as a doorstop in my office.  I once fixed a car’s hose with a Band-Aid.  And years ago I used a piece of fishing line to create a hinge for a broken pair of eyeglasses (the fact that the glasses never fit me properly after that is immaterial).  Being forced into a situation where I had to be resourceful to survive would cause my cleverness to blossom like a flower.  In no time at all I’d be making weapons out of the unlikeliest of things.  Old page-a-day calendars, drink coasters, tape measures, the tokens from a game of Monopoly – Edison would weep with envy if he could see what I did with them.

5) I want to live. This is the big one.  It seems like in movies and books about the apocalypse, a good number of people just give up.  But I’m a sucker for new and unfamiliar experiences (which is at odds with my anti-social nature, I know; I’m a complicated dude), and is there anything newer and more unfamiliar than having to dodge zombies through the detritus of a ruined city?  Life wouldn’t become boring and pointless just because most of the population got snuffed out.  If anything, it would become more purposeful.  I live comfortably now, and a part of me has always been a little disappointed by that.  I think that’s why I like camping, hiking, rock climbing.  It brings me a little closer to a life without all the other distractions I love.  And the harder things get, the more belligerent I become.  I wouldn’t be the most pleasant person to be around following the end of the world, but I’d be a good bet for survival.

Although there’s probably just as strong a chance I’d be the guy to run screaming from a building and get run down by a car within the first five minutes of the apocalypse.  Odds are 50-50 at best.


Current listening:

Foo nothing

Foo Fighters – There Is Nothing Left to Lose