In The Event Of Apocalypse... by Alan Decker

In The Event Of Apocalypse…

My car broke down this week, which got me thinking about survival.  That may seem like a bit of a leave, but bear with me here for a second.

I wasn’t exactly anywhere dangerous when the car stopped working.  I’d just dropped my daughter off at the day care center where she goes before school, and when I came back out, my car wouldn’t start.  Lights came on, but the engine didn’t make even the slightest attempt to turn over.  It turned out to be a bad starter, which I had replaced, and life went on.

For a few minutes as I sat in my inert vehicle, though, I realized how dependent I am on it to complete the most basic tasks in my life.  My house was a less than five minute drive away, but that would take an hour or more to cover on foot.  Getting to my job thirty miles away was completely out of the question.  Without the car, I couldn’t function.  Since it’s what you do in those situations, I opened the hood.  Now I understand the principles of how the internal combustion engine works, but outside of knowing where to put the various important fluids, I have zero practical knowledge of the engine.  Nothing was smoking or leaking, and all of the wires appeared to be connected properly.  With that astoundingly useless bit of knowledge attained, I had reached the end of my troubleshooting capabilities.  From there I could do nothing but wait for the intervention of someone who actually knew what he was doing, aka my mechanic.

Confronted with my dead car, I was helpless.  Without the conveniences of modern existence that I take for granted, I’d find myself in that position fairly often.  Sure I can use a hammer to put a picture up on the wall, but I wouldn’t trust any sort of structure that I designed and built myself.  I was a Boy Scout (for all of about 6 months), and I remember how to best stack kindling for a fire, but I doubt that I could start said fire without a match or a lighter.  I can hit a target with a pistol or a rifle on a range, but that’s a far cry from being able to take down a moving animal that I need to eat.  And even if I did, I don’t know the first thing about gutting, cleaning, or preparing it.

In short, if something catastrophic were to occur and wipe out our access to the technologies that I rely on every day, I would be in deep deep trouble.  I certainly couldn’t survive on my own, and any group that I joined up with would quickly realize that I was more of a liability than an asset (Unless they resorted to cannibalism, in which case I’m sure they would find me of use…tasty, tasty use).  I work in Information Technology by day and write in my spare time.  I don’t see either of these skills as being in high demand once the world descends into a Mad Max reenactment society.

But even if I could somehow find a way to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, there remains a very basic question: Would I want to?  To answer that question honestly, I have to remove my children from the equation.  Because if some catastrophe happened, keeping them alive and safe would be my top priority.  Full Stop.  

If it was just me, though, I really don’t think that I’d have much interest in sticking around.  As I made pretty obvious earlier, I’m not running around with a survival skill set, and I don’t have the mind set for it either.  I can’t convince myself that survival is worth it for its own sake when faced with a post-apocalyptic world.  It’s one thing if you survive a car crash in the wilderness and have to struggle and fight to make it out alive.  That I completely get because I’d be trying to get back to the life and loved ones I knew.  But if there is no going back to the world I knew because it has ceased to exist due to apocalypse, what would be the point?  

None of that is meant to be depressing or fatalistic.  It’s more…realistic.  I am a product of my upbringing and my environment, which means that I am a 21st Century Digital Boy.  My idea of roughing it is staying in a low-end motel.  I believe in the immortal words of Sheldon Cooper, who said, “If outside is so good, why has mankind spent thousands of years trying to perfect inside?”

Frankly, if civilization ends, the Doomsday Preppers and their ilk are welcome to whatever world is left.  I just hope whatever apocalypse happens takes me with it… preferably while I’m planted on my sofa and too preoccupied watching “Doctor Who” to notice.

- Alan Decker