At a party a few weeks ago a guy I’d just met offered to shoot me. And I thanked him for it.
Here’s what happened: I went to a party in a Beverly Hills home that said “white cocktail dress” on the invitation. I went to drop something off for the party’s producer – wearing a bright yellow dress and hipster glasses – and ended up staying. It was a Saturday night and the yard was lit up with lights that morphed slowly from pink to purple to blue and back. I busied myself with Instagramming the way the lights reflected off the pool and all the people dressed in white, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.
I was startled by a guy who came over and asked me if I wearing a kimono. I wasn’t but I was glad to have someone to talk to and we somehow got into a discussing regarding a theoretical post-apocalyptic scenario. (I brought it up.) I said that I hoped to die quickly because as a skinny writer/marketer who hates cooking, I have zero survival skills and would surely die anyway. The guy, whose name was Eric, offered to find me and shoot me in the event of an apocalpyse. We exchanged numbers.
It was a lighthearted conversation but it surprised me to notice how often similar thoughts crop up in conversation, and in my mind. I consider myself a relatively sane, ordinary urbanite, quite adept at separating reality from imagination. That’s for geeks (zombies or aliens), right-wing nuts (government crackdown), and conspiracy theorists (nuclear/biological warfare). I can’t deny that however lighthearted my own conjectures, there’s an underlying element of real anxiety.
It comes from the frenetic pace of wireless living, of being on my computer for 10+ hours a day, of working in online marketing, learning guitar off YouTube, and cooking with my browser open to Pinterest, of recording every email, tweet, message, todo list and grocery list in the nebulous cloud. I live in a two dimensional parallel universe. I play Boggle and Scrabble (Ruzzle and Words with Friends) by swiping a screen, I have files and documents and folders that I never touch. When I say ‘hard copy’ I mean on a hard drive as opposed to the cloud.
Yesterday I was in a minor car accident. A woman cut me off and I slammed into her driver’s door. We pulled off the road into an alley that was dark even with the car’s lights on. Nicole seemed sweet, fifty or so, with an African accent and a young voice. My phone was dead (of course!) and she couldn’t get the flashlight on her smartphone to work. She rummaged around her trunk for a battery-operated flashlight.
“It’s always like this. I have a flashlight in case of emergency but it’s been here for ten years. The batteries never work when you need them,” she said. She was going through every pocket of a blue duffel bag.
“Since the last earthquake I never leave home without an emergency readiness pack,” she continued. It dawned on me that the entire bag was for that purpose, and she confirmed it.
“I have a change of clothes, sweatpants, first-aid kit, water, and some packaged food in case I have the dog with me.” The dog was watching us from inside the car.
I don’t even own anything that runs on batteries. AA batteries I mean.
Almost everything I do is two steps away from the natural, physical, smelly, wild, uncontrollable world.
I can’t start a fire with flint stones or connect two wires together to fix a lamp.
I can’t ride a horse or translate any of my car’s frequent complaints.
I can’t navigate by the stars or read a topographical map.
I can’t grow wheat, and barely know how to bake bread.
If I was truly worried, I would take wilderness survival courses, first-aid training, learn how to shoot, and follow DIY YouTube videos in my spare time. But first of all, the gap between the way we exist today and an existence that revolves around food, shelter and security is so wide, an attempt to bridge it appears useless. Second, it’s a mind thing, how I look at the world.
The thought that all of it can disappear one day – technology, government, law, currency, transportation, media, production and economy, medicine – makes it all the more tenuous today.
If the world ended and only I was left, we’d have to quite literally reinvent the wheel. The only thing left of centuries of civilization and progress would be that I’d know what was once possible. I’d find some obscure tribe that somehow survived and become their half-crazed oracle, talking about a civilization that could fly, that could be in India and California at the same time, that could cut open a man, exchange his heart for another, and he’d live to breathe and smile and hug his family. I’d be there Shaman or their Satan.
See there I go, conjecturing again.