Sunday, January 24th, 2010 • 4 Comments on Only the Strong Survive
My formative years were strongly influenced by apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies (and books). Seriously. Even before the Terminator came along when I was in high school, I’d already seen a bunch of movies that convinced me I needed to be tough like Linda Hamilton in the event the machines (or aliens or zombies or mutant cockroaches) came for me. I learned a lot by watching Planet of the Apes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, Damnation Alley, Night of the Living Dead and Logan’s Run. I paid attention. I took mental notes. When The Bad Things came, I’d be ready.
The apocalyptic movies taught me a few practical things:
Rule #1: Always be able to take care of myself. Duh. In a post-apocalyptic world of radiated mutants, there won’t be anyone to take care of me. Self-reliance is of the utmost important.
Rule #2: Trust no one. Anyone I trust (and love) could—at any moment—become infected, invaded or decide I was a hinderance to their own survival. Best not to risk it.
Rule #3: Be prepared for anything. Fire, flood, spaceship landing in the backyard, rabid dog, closet monster, deadly spores, flesh-eating children—any of it could happen at any minute. I was always a little fuzzy on how to be prepared for all contingencies, even those that are unimaginable, but I will say that if a two-headed alien with octopus arms had appeared out of the shower drain, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Rule #4: Be ready and willing to travel light and only pack what you need. I’m an excellent packer because of post-apocalyptic movies. You don’t want to get caught without the necessities when the reign of terror is upon us.
Time passed, my preoccupation with 70s apocalyptic movies gave way to a preoccupation with 80s teen angst movies and I didn’t dwell too much on having to survive during or after the apocalypse. But you don’t grow up watching movies about a chaotic, dangerous alien-infested world without it affecting how you view events later in life. (And having it constantly hammered into my brain as a child that I might end up an orphan on the street probably skewed my world view a bit, too. But that’s another story.) I subconsciously fit all the events of my life into the apocalyptic framework that is my alternate reality. For instance:
—Being diagnosed with adult onset asthma in my twenties. Bad news. In the post-apocalyptic world, medicine will be hard to find and I might die. (Don’t ask me how many months’ worth of refills I have in my bathroom cabinet.)
—Getting a dog. That’s good. Dogs are great at sniffing out aliens and zombies and warning you of approaching danger, whether it’s a poisonous cloud of gas or your post-apocalyptically paranoid neighbor. Of course, they might become infected with something and turn on you, so best to get a dog you think you can take in a fight.
—Owning a truck (or having a spouse that owns a truck, in my case). Excellent. When it all hits the fan, I will need a vehicle that is big enough to hold all of the necessities I’ve so carefully packed. (If it’s armor-plated, all the better.)
—Living on the coast in a navy town. Very bad. If it’s nuclear war that brings about the apocalypse, I won’t survive the first strike. (Think War Games.) Major bummer.
—Being married to someone in the military. Strategic. The government (and therefore the military) is often the first to know when something bad is going to happen. Of course, they’re often the ones to cause it, but let’s not nitpick.
—Having friends in different parts of the country. Also strategic. If the Storm Cloud of Death moves slowly enough, I’ll be able to migrate across the country. Unless it comes from the west, in which case I guess people will be migrating here and we’ll all drown in the Atlantic. The best thing is to live in the midwest and keep your options open. (In retrospect, perhaps this is why attending the University of Missouri seemed like such a good idea when I was 18.)
See what I mean? Those movies made an impact.
A couple of people joked that I was preparing for having a baby as if it was the apocalypse. I’m not embarrassed to admit that’s partially true. I stock-piled frozen meals and paper products like I was planning a six-month sit-in. I don’t regret it. Trust me, there are certain things you don’t want to be without when life gets hard. Comfort food and toilet paper are two of them. If you have cats, you can add cat litter to that list. You do not want to be stuck in a house with cats when you run out of cat litter. Trust me. (Of course, if I was really preparing for the apocalypse, I’d stockpile guns, knives, homemade weapons, gasoline, kerosene, batteries, duct tape and bottled water. The fact that I have not shows I’ve
So, I went into this motherhood experience as prepared as I could be. It’s not quite the apocalypse, but it certainly is one of those major life changes that makes you see things differently. Suddenly, there is someone else relying on me for his survival. Someone I have to take care of and think about when the mutants are knocking on the door looking for food. Someone to slow me down when the giant scorpions are chasing me. Someone to cry and give away my hiding place to the aliens. Having a child is probably the worst possible thing you could do when it comes to surviving the apocalypse.
Unless you’re Sarah Connor and your son is going to save humanity. Then I guess it’s pretty cool.
(Note to Patrick: Yes, I have high expectations of you. Sorry, kid.)